Bloodied brains and guts, wormy wounds and raw Thanksgiving turkeys. British baker Sarah Hardy's cakes and chocolates look like no other.
While other children liked to play with dolls, Sarah at age eight liked to "mess around with bones". Today, the London-based artist and mother of two is redefining gore with sugary sweet treats that look like props from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Sarah's work borders on the macabre. As a child, Sarah was always interested in human anatomy and gore, an interest that stayed with her well into her days as an art student. Even as an artist working with clay, wax and other inedible material, Sarah admits that her sculptures were always "a bit creepy".
But becoming a baker specialising in gore wasn't always the plan. "Initially, I was just trying to make pretty wedding cakes so I could make some money while the kids were small," Sarah tells News18.
But when she started baking for her kids, a new realm of possibilities opened up. The nerd in Sarah that had always geeked out on "all things museum" led her to what is now her primary profession - creating morbid, edible sweetmeats for children and adults!
"The weird stuff was to express myself more genuinely! But it turns out people, though not everyone, like the odd too," Sarah quips.
In her Instagram bio, Sarah says she is trying to create a "museum of chocolate". And that's exactly where she derives most of her inspiration. "I’m inspired by things that will surprise and delight. My interests include studying anatomy, fossils, medical, natural history," she says. Basically everything inside a natural history museum.
Some of her most popular products include chocolate brains and edible human hearts. Her famous raw turkey cake has become a mini-celebrity in its own right and has even been featured on the media. In fact, they are so popular that Sarah now gives baking tutorials on her website.
The British artist seems to be tapping into a long line of research into why humans like looking at gory things that many might label as "disturbing". After all, horror is one of the most lucrative genres of art and also one of the toughest to succeed it, be it film or literature and now food.
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CHOCOLATE BRAINS: Think I shall sell them as right or left hemispheres and you can get both if you want to create a whole brain... And look out for a limited edition Zombie one for Halloween! . . . #neuro #neuroscience #neurology #medicalart #brainsurgery #doctors #medicalart #sciart #instart #anatomyart #anatomicalart #anatomygift #medicalstudent #brain #brainbox #exampass #humanbrain #sculpture #horrorsfx #fxartists #thehorrorgallery #sfx #zombie #zombiesfx #ChefsOfInstagram #sculptedcake #fauxfood #foodillusions #trick #illusion
"Anything that you totally would NOT like to eat get turned into something yummy is great. And the cakes do taste amazing even if some don’t get cut for weeks because clients don’t want to ruin it," Sarah says.
While some have argued that the human tendency to stare at gore is reflective of a violent or disturbed mindset, researchers at University of Central Florida and Indiana University found that the real reason humans are interested in horrific things is simply because it attracts their attention and manages to hold on to it more than ordinary things. That's why people watch and re-watch horror films despite feeling scared. Before she became a baker, Sarah herself wanted to try her hand at crafting sets and make up for horror films.
"It's why people love Halloween and horror films so much," Sarah says, adding she who would have probably ended up making sets or make up for horror films if not baking.
Though gross and even revolting to some, Sarah's creations are not lightly researched. One of the more nightmare-inducing of her creations would definitely have to be the "maggot cupcakes". The meticulously crafted marzipan cakes were originally created as an inside joke for an event at the Victorian Barts Pathology Museum London and represents "maggot therapy" (yes, an actual medical process, Google it) in which larval fly maggots are introduced to wounds to encourage healing.
Sarah's edibles may seem like a niche but the fact is that morbidity thrives in all of us, sometimes as curiosity, sometimes as fear, sometimes as wonder of the unknown. And with her gore cakes, Sarah may have found that sweet spot between a bone and a bloody place.