Artist/pastry-chef Victoria Yee Howe is in the final days of a residency in the kitchen of Arabica Lounge in Seattle, where she has been creating avant-garde dessert specials two times a week, as well as planning a grand closing party of multisensory stimulation.*

IMAGE: Six bruises, six cakes; art and photo by Victoria Yee-Howe.

In addition to pyramid-power jellies and pie pops, Yee-Howe made six bruise cakes, each topped with a different hematomatic record of blunt trauma past. “I have always taken photos of different cuts or scrapes I have had, accidental or consensual or whatever,” she explained to PBS’s Art: 21 blog. For this project, Yee-Howe created photo transfers (images printed on rice paper with edible ink) of bruises caused by six past lovers, mining her photographic archive to share her skin’s ephemeral records of damage in equally fleeting form.

IMAGE: Cake ruin; art and photo by Victoria Yee-Howe.

The bruises are impressive (I speak as someone who is never without one due to a combination of vascular genetics and lack of coordination); the layer cake (strawberry-puree batter layers sandwiched with blueberry jam, based on the classic Southern Pink Lady recipe) equally so. Combined, they foreground the relationship between a body and the food it consumes, hinting uncomfortably at the delayed legacies of today’s indulgences and the blurred line between pleasure and pain.

IMAGE: Cake slicing at its most violent; art and photo by Victoria Yee-Howe.

A purple-black bruise blooming on the frosted surface of a perfect pink layer cake is perhaps the ideal embodiment of domesticity’s violent subcurrents, from sexist stereotypes and inadvertent emotional manipulation to outright physical abuse. Yee-Howe exploits that ambiguity (were these bruises accidental, consensual, or “whatever”?), explaining that her delicious and disturbing cakes aim to “play with people’s conceptions of what is desirable and edible and maybe even make them a little uncomfortable with their hunger.”

IMAGE: Stick a fork in it; art and photo by Victoria Yee-Howe.

Thanks to Rocio for the Art:21 link. For more on the cultural freight of cake, see Doom Cakes.

* “Senses, an interactive multimedia prix fixe evening” of “total engagement, stimulation, satisfaction, and sense submission” takes place at 8pm on December 29 at Arabica Lounge — I’d love to hear about it if you go.