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Graphic design student marries art skills with baking, business

By Jamie Rogers

Her first attempt at making a cake at age 14 went awry before it even hit the oven, Bria Bryant said.

She ran out of baking flour and thought pancake mix would work just as well.

It didn’t.

“My mom was like, ‘Don’t ever try that again,’” Bryant said.

Now a 22-year-old senior majoring in graphic design at George Mason University, Bryant is back at it because she wants to use confections as a conduit of artistic expression.

This spring she began baking professionally by starting a home-based business called Killa Cakes―Death by Flavor, marrying her love of the arts with baking. The first cakes she baked were for her fellow students in the School of Art, which houses George Mason’s graphic design program.

Natasha Boddie, the school communications and outreach specialist, was one of Bryant’s first customers.

“She designed my daughter’s third birthday cake,” Boddie said. “Every bite was truly ‘death by flavor.’ I provided input and Bria made it happen.”

Bryant’s favorite cake is one she baked as a gift for her art aesthetics class. It seemed like the right thing to do, she said. After all, she and her classmates had spent the semester debating if her cakes should be considered art. In the art world, the culinary arts are often not considered art, because food is a need, Bryant said. Some say true art is something that has no value and is a “want.”

“Now I completely disagree—no one needs cake,” she said. “I think what I do is artwork; I see it first as artwork and then as baking.”

With other art mediums, “there’s nothing else to take away, besides it being visual,” Bryant said. “I want to take it a step further and have it involve all your senses. Your full body can experience it.”

She makes everything from scratch, often topping it all off with pops of color and her favorite go-to materials: white chocolate shards, chocolate ganache, “drips” and lots of sprinkles.

“I want my cakes to be visual pieces of art, but also enjoyable,” Bryant said.

Baking and decorating offer her creative freedom that graphic design does not, because graphic design is consumer-first, she explained. Granted, when baking she does do what the customer wants, but adds her own special touch.

“I mean, if you want a Batman cake I will make you a Batman cake. But I don’t know if it’ll be as Batman-y as you think it will be,” Bryant said.

This fall semester, her final one at Mason, Bryant said she’s taking a class on packaging design, which highlights ways to cut down on waste.

It’ll help her conceptualize new packaging for her cakes. Ideally she wants something that can be repurposed by the customer. She’s also considering the idea of edible packaging, but admits that at the moment that idea is a bit (pardon the pun) pie-in-the-sky.