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15 Mintues With: How self-taught cake artist Julie McAllister creates incredible, edible works of art

15 Mintues With: How self-taught cake artist Julie McAllister creates incredible, edible works of art
May 2024

The Mount Pleasant resident recently competed on the third season of Netflix's Is It Cake?

CM: How did you get into this niche line of baking?
I am a lifelong hobby baker. I’d been feeling a pull toward transitioning from advertising toward a culinary path in grad school. After graduating, I worked out a deal with a local bakery in Washington DC, where I’d come in from 5 to 9 a.m. before going to my ad job. It gave me skills on the technical side of things and that creative culinary outlet.

CM: What inspired you to move here?
Charleston is this Southern culinary hub. No matter your industry, I think it’s impossible to not be inspired by the city. There’s so much nature, history, and beautiful architecture. In my first six months here, I decided to start my own cake business and exclusively focused on hyperrealistic cakes. I began to get more opportunities with brands, big events, and celebrities. It started on the weekends, then I added nights, and now I’m full time. 

CM: You’ve created everything from a Lowcountry boil groom’s cake to a Draper James handbag replica for Reese Witherspoon’s birthday. What’s been a favorite project?
Anything with florals is definitely up there. Once, I made a hanging magnolia wreath cake with over 100 sugar flowers. It usually makes me happy to see my cakes cut into, but with that one, I was a little sad! What tickles me the most is when someone asks, “Where’s the cake?” Watching a customer cut in and seeing their immense joy is my favorite.

CM: How long does it take to make and decorate each cake? 
It depends so much on the design because I very rarely make the same cake twice. It’s somewhere around 15 hours on the low end (something like a plate of oysters on ice), while more intricate desserts, like a cake with sugar flowers, can easily take 50 hours or more. I pride myself on the quality of my cake recipes and making everything completely from scratch, because at the end of the day, what’s the point if it doesn’t taste amazing? My most popular flavor combination is pistachio cake topped with chocolate hazelnut buttercream.

CM: What does a normal day look like for you?
The past year has shifted a lot for me. I still make cakes for people and events, but I’ve also started traveling around the South leading workshops as well. That’s presented this world of opportunity I never knew was possible, but that I’m loving. At most, I make around 40 cakes in a year, but it’s decreasing as I’m getting these incredible opportunities and also film the occasional show.

CM: Tell us about competing on the latest season of the Netflix baking show Is It Cake?, which released all eight episodes on March 29. 
When somebody reached out about casting for Season 3, I very happily accepted. It’s essentially the Olympics of my industry and a huge honor to be a part of it! Speaking from my previous experience on Holiday Wars, you can plan as much as you want beforehand but never really know what will happen until you get on the show. The most important thing is to enjoy the experience, because it’s such a once-in-a-lifetime chance.



Cake photographs by (onion bag, mint julep, & picnic basket) Cameron Wilder, (sugar flowers, magnolia wreath, & orange crate) Abby Murphy Stewart, & (citrus tree) Chia Chong & courtesy of (cast iron pan, boots, turkey, Master’s hat, & sandwiches) Julie McAllister 

Fave Things photographs by (Julie McAllister) Abby Murphy Stewart, (Welton’s pastries) Lizzy Rollins, & (Charleston Symphony Orchestra) Alyona Photography & courtesy of (beach, coffee, & bike) Julie McAllister