For the eighth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Locavore, the newest restaurant at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2014."
Brooke Thiele dabbled in cake making, but it wasn’t until she dropped out of college and took classes at The Wilton School of Chicago that she started taking the confectionary arts seriously. And not so seriously, too.
Thiele learned a lot about cakes and baking at Wilton, and then she returned to college. Eventually, she graduated from School of the Art Institute in Chicago and, later, from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) with a masters in film.
All the while, she was crafting cakes for friends and family on the side. At first, she says, her baked goods weren’t particularly attractive.
"I made this horribly ugly cake in a flower pot for a friend’s birthday," says Thiele. "I look back on my early cakes and think they’re awful. But I kept baking more and more cakes."
Thiele’s skills improved, so much so that she placed in a national cake-decorating contest for a wedding cake she created with an octopus crawling up the side of the three-layered confection.
She also made a spider-crawling-out-of-a-clock cake, a Super Mario Brothers-themed wedding cake, a hot dog-shaped cake for a vegetarian friend and her own wedding cake when she married her husband, who – arguably ironically – is allergic to sugar.
Thiele, who was on the Brew City Bruisers roller derby team for numerous years, also created a fetus-shaped cake for a fellow derby girl.
"She was having a baby shower, but didn’t want a traditional baby shower cake," she says. "So I made one of a fetus. It was pretty gross (looking). She loved it."
Thiele also made a penis cake for a bachelor party. The cake, made with whiskey, was dubbed "whiskey dick" and was later featured in a Buzzfeed post.
"I agreed to do it because I never made a penis cake before and I figured everyone has to have one penis cake under their belt. Literally," she says.
The cake was such a success that the leftovers were brought to the wedding the next day and the groom told her it was the talk – and the taste – of the wedding.
For the past few years, Thiele, who works as an adjunct animation professor at UWM, mixed her cake making into her film making.
As a longtime deer hunter, Thiele created an installation for a Present Music art show called "Serving Still Hunting," for which she baked a red velvet cake in the form of a life-sized deer carcass. She also baked 1,000 tiny cakes and hung them from trees, so guests could pick and eat them.
The next year, also for a Present Music art show, Thiele collaborated with friend and fellow artist, Lilly Czarnecki, and created "Eat Sweet Repeat." This time, she baked 3,000 mini vanilla cupcakes, stacked them into a "wall" and projected footage of the cupcake baking process onto the cakes.
Guests were invited to eat any of the cupcakes from the wall which deliciously made the cake wall transform visually throughout the course of the evening.
Last year, Thiele created "Spring of Swallows," which was again a mix of food and visual art and projected imagery.
What about food – specifically cake – inspires Thiele?
"It’s the same reason why people enjoy cooking or baking for people," she says. "It makes people happy. And it feels good to see people stuff their faces."
Thiele says she also likes the temporariness of edible art.
"People have to destroy my pieces and I love it. It’s cleansing to get rid of it because I’m tired of looking at it anyway," she says.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.