Dessert Dioramas: The Whimsical Confections of Italian Pastry Chef Matteo Stucchi

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While we may roll our eyes at the notion of taking pictures of food, some creative minds have taken the art of Instagram-ready edibles to a level well beyond a poorly lit bowl of Miso Ramen. In fact, some creative cooks are using the format to make legitimate art. Just take a look at these playful scenes, constructed by Matteo Stucchi (aka I dolci di Gulliver). An immensely talented chef based in Monza, Italy, Stucchi’s methods for making these charming sweets differs from what normally constitutes edible whimsy. While many US-based pastry chefs make cakes with elaborate set-pieces made out of fondant (a largely flavorless sugar paste that makes most of those cakes seem, while fun to look at, rather unappetizing), Stucchi makes absolutely delectable-looking desserts and builds his scenes around them.

By using miniature figurines, he shows us another world where, for example, cream-filled horn pastries are assembled by tiny construction workers, a tiny man can catch a butterfly (with palmier wings). Tiny rock climbers can even scale the coarse side of well-baked biscotti. Adding to the humor is the way the images play with scale, evoking at times the French stop-motion TV show (and spin-off movie) A Town Called Panic (just check out this clip of a mini figurine consuming an adult-human sized breakfast for an example).

The photos are also well-taken with what is presumably a high-resolution camera, so you can appreciate the textures of flaky, buttery egg-washed crust and rich, creamy custard. Again, while TV shows like Cake Boss will feature elaborate designs that seem intended to distract from what look like mediocre-tasting (and overly expensive) cakes, the scenes at play here only flatter the desserts. The figurines may be fun, but they’re also functional, drawing the eye to these details and making the pastry all the more appealing.

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Here, as you can see, cream is being piped into a cream-puff by some kind of oil-tanker as a construction crew looks on and supervises. One can imagine that, somewhere looming out of frame, there’s another large construction-site machine set to perfectly powder the pastry’s top. Little details, like the tiny traffic cones, are really what sell this one.

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Here are the aforementioned cream horns (a pastry that, with its rather innuendo-friendly name, became the subject of one of the Great British Baking Show’s bawdiest hours). These images give you a fiction (that the pastry is constructed by mini figurine people), but also allow for a genuine look into how cream-horns are made (by wrapping the pastry around a cone before baking for their perfect shape).

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Okay, those almond fingernails are kind of gross, so it’ maybe a stretch to say all of the images make the desserts look appetizing. Fingernail clippers, as a rule, should never come near food in a picture, even if they’ve only been used on almond-based fingernails. But I suppose that is the intent here, in what is sort-of a horror themed construction. And it’s kind of cute that, even when facing a terrifying hand in a box, these little guys are steadfastly doing their municipal jobs.

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Just a day at the fishing hole here. Also, look at how you can see a reflection in cookie’s filling (dulce de leche) on the right.

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Not pastry, but I, for one, am happy to see these well-adorned chocolate dipped strawberries tie the knot once and for all.

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