These masterly cakes, made by Wendy Kromer, have romantic seaworthy roots: They are styled after "sailors' valentines" -- keepsake boxes, decorated with intricate shell patterns, that nineteenth-century mariners gave as gifts to their beloveds. The originals inspired our mosaics of gum-paste shells, arranged in concentric circles, rosettes, and monograms.
How Shells Are Made
For scallops, Kromer pressed gum paste into silicone molds, then painted the shells with pink luster dust to add sheen.
Clam shells begin as tiny spheres that are hollowed out with a rounded tool and tinted pink or ivory; the "flowers" are held together with royal icing.
For rice shells, gum paste is rolled into logs and cut; Kromer used a toothpick to make the grooves. The shells are then "painted" ivory.