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Azara Golston Milkmoon Transcript

 The cake wizard of milkmoon kitchen, azara golston

Kerry Diamond: Hey Bombesquad, welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the podcast that's all about women and food. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond, coming to you from my apartment in Brooklyn, New York. It's rare that a cake artist can claim a certain style all her own, but that's the case when it comes to the Milkmoon Kitchen Cakes by Azara Golston. Slice into one, if you dare, and it's a festival of layers, geometric shapes, and bright colors.

When you see one of her Milkmoon Kitchen cakes, the first question that comes to mind is how does she do it? Well, Azara is here to tell us how. She also confirms that she is the creator of the fault line cake. I know, I know, I'm getting into cake nerd territory here. But you've probably seen fault line cakes on Instagram, and if you're like me, at some point you wondered where the trend began.

Azara has had a lot of ups and downs this year, like so many of us. She landed a dream job at a lovely custom cake shop here in Brooklyn and sadly lost the job because of COVID. But she also recently became a new mom to a beautiful baby boy. Azara is a unique talent, and I was so thrilled to interview her. I have a feeling we're going to be hearing and seeing a lot more from Azara Golston in the months and years ahead. Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting today's show. I'm always happy when I see that block of Kerrygold butter in my fridge.

Some housekeeping. Cherry Bombe launched a special IG live miniseries last week as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. It's Radio Cereza Bomba and it's hosted by our friend, Vera Rios, who is a Peruvian anthropologist studying toward her MA in food studies at NYU. The show happens to be our very first Spanish language program and you can catch it on Tuesdays at 2:00 PM EST on IG live. Vera has some terrific guests lined up, and if you missed the show, you can catch it later on IGTV. Before we get to Azara, here's a word from Kerrygold.

Kerrygold Announcer: Kerrygold is delicious all natural butter and cheese made with milk from Irish grass-fed cows. Our farming families pass their craft and knowledge from generation to generation.

Kerrygold Farmer: I'm fifth generation. Goes back over 250 years.

Kerrygold Announcer: This traditional approach is the reason for the rich taste of Kerrygold. Enjoy delicious new sliced or shredded Kerrygold cheddar cheese, available in mild or savory flavors at a retailer near you. Find your nearest store at

Kerry Diamond: Now for my chat with Azara Golston of Milkmoon Kitchen.

Azara, you've been baking and decorating cakes since you were 13 years old. I'd love to know how your interest in that began.

Azara Golston: I have and continue to have a pretty wicked sweet tooth, ever since I was a really little kid and so I was always in the kitchen with my mom when she was baking or with my Omi, my paternal grandmother, when she was baking and eventually I just got to the point where my mom finally relented and allowed me to start making things like chocolate chip cookies on my own when I was pretty young, probably around like eight or nine. I got bitten by the baking bug, which happens to so many of us.

Then eventually I was in high school and a friend of mine really loved to cook and so we got together and we decided to make dinner for our families and we got really ambitious and decided that we were going to do a buche de noel for dessert for some reason. It wasn't Christmas. It was really terrible. I'm pretty sure the cake itself, it cracked when we tried to roll it and we had no idea what we were doing with the buttercream, it was awful. It was really ugly, but I got very excited about this idea of using cake as a way to create art and express yourself. So I was like, "This is interesting. There's so much attention being paid to presentation, what it looks like."

So I started checking out the cake decorating books at the library, started saving up my allowances and asking for cookbooks for my birthdays. Pretty early on I came across Margaret Braun's book, Cakewalk, and it completely blew my mind. She is an incredible artist. You'd probably immediately recognize her style because it's often imitated, but she was an art historian and she started doing cake decorating and there's so much of that influence of art history and architecture in her work. I just found it very cool that someone was taking such a unique and just interesting and personal approach to cake decorating. So from there I was just all in and I've been cake decorating, either on the side as a hobby kind of thing or professionally since then.

Kerry Diamond: That's amazing. I don't think I knew what a buche de noel was until I was, I don't know, in my 30s and the fact that you're a teenager experimenting with that as your first cake is pretty funny.

Azara Golston: Yeah. Well it didn't go great, but it did start a thing for me.

Kerry Diamond: What was your first paid gig as a baker?

Azara Golston: So my first proper gig was actually an internship that I had in my junior year of high school where I had the opportunity to work in a pastry kitchen, which was really cool. But the first time I got paid was later on that year I started making cakes and other kinds of treats and little bites and stuff for my friends' parents when they were throwing parties. I ended up in my junior and senior years doing that and word got out and people started coming to me when they wanted to have a birthday cake or they were looking for a little pastry hors d'oeuvres type things for an evening party they were having, and that was super fun.

Kerry Diamond: We'll talk more about your career and professional trajectory later in the show, but I really want to get into the nitty gritty of how you make these cakes, because you can barely believe what you see. When you look at Instagram and you see these cakes, you're just like, "How in the world did she make those?" And then you go to your YouTube channel and watch the videos and I'm still blown away. Your skill with those paring knives, the way you use cake as a material. You push and prod it and bend it, these layers of cake are like Play-Doh.

Azara Golston: A lot of it is just about the recipes that I've been slowly developing over the years. I started out on this path when I got really into making very, very fine layers in my cakes because my cake decorating interest was one side of my culinary world, but the other side was an interest in pastry and fine pastry and there are so many like gateau that have those very, very fine layers. Normally what you'd do is you would bake a sheet pan of cake and then use a circular cutter to punch out your cake layers, but I got really into for some reason baking up tall cakes in like a six inch round pan and then slicing them very finely, getting anywhere from like four to six layers out of one baked cake.

To be able to do that, your cake has to have a certain kind of consistency, so in those cakes where I'm aiming to make those really fine base layers, it's all butter, I make sure the cake is super cold when I cut it. It can't be too squishy, it can't have too much egg in it or it will start to tear in ways that won't lend itself to being able to be stacked nicely later and to be neat and clean. But then there are those layers that have to be super flexible because they're making that kind of V-shape inside the cake. I need to basically be able to fold the cake into a cone.

Kerry Diamond: If you're listening to this and thinking, "You have to what?", you have to watch this. Because you're not using a mold. You've essentially cut the shape.

Azara Golston: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I took some inspiration from paper craft just because of understanding how to cut a circle and fold it over onto itself to make that cone shape came from that. That cake has to be ultra flexible and so I actually use a different recipe and it's based on a very flexible spongecake recipe with tons of eggs because it just needs to be able to bend without breaking, and usually that cake I need to work with it when it's more room temperature because it can't be too stiff and it's got to be oil based instead of butter based because that will give it additional flexibility.

So a lot of it is also just nerdiness. I read cookbooks, I own over 400 cookbooks, I'm obsessed with them. I picked up a lot of technique, a lot of theory, a lot of this and that from reading. A bunch of my collection is random culinary school instructional books and stuff like that. I love the science and I love tinkering with recipes and that kind of thing. So yeah, really at the end of the day it's all about those recipes.

Kerry Diamond: I noticed on your blog, Azara, that you refer to yourself as a nerd quite often.

Azara Golston: Yes I do. I'm a huge nerd. I read a ton and love to learn and anything I do, I kind of dive as far into it as I possibly can and I was actually considering a career in the academic world and decided against that at a certain point when I started to feel like I was speaking a different language from other people around me and that when I was working on these theses and stuff, where I was using all this theoretical language, it was only for a very small audience and that felt really lame. I wanted to be able to have whatever my career was be something that was more open and where I could touch more people and have conversations with more people.

Kerry Diamond: What were you thinking of pursuing?

Azara Golston: Anthropology, the study of human culture, specifically food anthropology. In undergrad, I spent my junior year abroad living in India, in south India. And part of that was so that I could do bharatanatyam, which is a classical south Indian dance form and carnatic music, which is classical south Indian music but I also did this pretty extensive anthropology project where I was looking at sweets in south India and the politics around how sweets get used, which actually turned out to be really fascinating and complicated.

I really loved that experience. I loved going out and talking to women in their kitchens about what they were making and why and going out to sweet shops and talking to the folks who were running those and making the sweets there and trying to understand what was going on there. I thought there was a good chance. Both of my parents are academics so I thought there was a good chance I was going to head in that direction. But then I basically decided that that wasn't the right choice for me. I needed to be more hands on.

Kerry Diamond: Wow, but how fascinating. I mean what an interesting project that you worked on.

Azara Golston: Yeah. It was really fun and I love traveling in general and meeting people and stuff, so yeah, I was very lucky to be able to do that.

Kerry Diamond: Well academia's loss is our gain. I want to go back to just the making of some of these cakes, because I'm still just so blown away by it. There's really an element of fearlessness in making them, because they are... you might not think of them as that complicated but to the rest of us, they're incredibly complicated. How do you even approach one of these cakes, because there's so much room for error?

Azara Golston: I'm a pretty serious planner. I love strategy. Basically what I do is I sit down and I build a schematic. I start out by generally brainstorming what I'm trying to accomplish and then I will draw almost sort of like a blueprint of what I want the inside of the cake to look like, and then from there I can basically build out an idea of how I'm going to make that work.

The most challenging part is thinking three dimensionally, because when I'm looking at the two dimensional image that I want to get when I cut into the cake and expose the inside, I have to be careful because basically you have to think about that image then becoming three dimensional in a way that any way you cut the cake, that image is going to show up in the middle. What I mean by that is when I'm trying to make like a V-shape on the inside of a cake, that's why I'm taking that round of cake and I'm folding it into a cone, because when you cut a cone in half then what you're looking at on the surface is a V-shape. It's kind of like reverse engineering that process starting with the two dimensional shape that I'd like to get.

It took me a little while to wrap my head around it, but once I got the hang of it, it's pretty easy for me to do now. At the end of the day, it's really just about making sure that I'm confident in the schematics that I've drawn up. And I'm going to be honest with you, it's not very often that I cut into a cake and it doesn't look pretty much like what I had intended. I'm pretty meticulous about it.

Kerry Diamond: I'm happy to hear that. Another thing that surprised me is I thought you would have tons of tools to make these cakes, and when you watch your videos, it's pretty surprising how few tools you use to make these. Can you walk us through what your essentials are?

Azara Golston: Big essentials when I'm building a cake are going to be... I have this one bread knife, serrated bread knife that I've had for forever where the handle is falling off and stuff, but it's my absolute favorite. So a good sharp bread knife for cutting those thin layers really cleanly. And then I use a miniature palette knife or like icing spatula to put down most of my buttercream just because my cakes are all six inches around. They're pretty small, and I don't need anything bigger than that usually. And then as we get into the more sort of fancy stuff, I use a paring knife, super sharp paring knife, for cutting any pieces of cake out. Yeah, mostly just that. And then if I'm folding a piece of spongecake into a cone, I'll usually use scissors over a knife just because it's cleaner to cut into the circle so that I can fold it over.

Kerry Diamond: I saw that. I was like, "Oh wow, she's cutting a cake layer with a pair of scissors."

Azara Golston: Yeah. It's just the most convenient thing. I use scissors in the kitchen constantly though, constantly. I'm actually surprised that we don't do it more often because it's so much easier and a lot of times more efficient than cutting something with a knife against a cutting board or something like that. I love using scissors.

Kerry Diamond: I'm going to have to get your brand recommendations later so we can share with everybody, because I'm always on the hunt for a good pair of kitchen scissors or shears.

Azara Golston: Oh sure. I'm going to be real with you. I usually just use like regular...

Kerry Diamond: Anything.

Azara Golston: Just random scissors that I also use for cutting paper. I'll just wash them first. I'm really low tech over here.

Kerry Diamond: I also, because your cakes are so vertical, thought that you would have some kind of stand that you put them in, but you don't.

Azara Golston: No, no. They're freestanding. A lot of that is about temperature, making sure that the cakes stay cold while I'm cutting them, which is interesting because you don't necessarily want to eat cake cold, you want it to come to room temperature. For the sake of keeping everything very clean, I like to cut the cakes cold. The other part of it too is that the buttercream that I use is meringue based buttercream. I use Italian meringue buttercream, although Swiss meringue buttercream would work really well too.

Kerry Diamond: Will you tell everyone the difference? I'm pretty basic, I'm an American buttercream fan. So tell everyone the difference between those two.

Azara Golston: Italian meringue buttercream is made when you boil a sugar syrup and use that to slowly pour into egg whites that you're beating to create a very stable meringue, and then you're beating butter into that meringue once it cools down. Swiss meringue buttercream, rather than boiling a sugar syrup, you are using a double boiler to basically melt sugar into your egg whites at a very low temperature and then once the sugar is dissolved into the egg whites, you use that to create a meringue, and then you're beating butter into that.

So they're very similar, but in my experience, I found that Italian meringue buttercream winds up being a little bit fluffier because I feel like the meringue that's made with a boiled sugar syrup ends up being a little bit more stable. So when you are beating the butter into it, it ends up maintaining more of those fluffy air bubbles, and that's just been in my experience. With both of those, when you refrigerate them or freeze them, but I usually just refrigerate, they become rock hard. They're really, really, really hard and so not super pleasant to eat, but a lot easier to do things like trim them down so that you can get super, super sharp edges on your cakes which I'm a really big fan of.

Kerry Diamond: That's another amazing part of your videos, where you slice, again with your trademark fearlessness. You slice the outside of the layers, the frosting, and the cake and it's just beautiful because you reveal these incredible colors. Walk us through that process when you, I guess you're sort of shaving the outside of the cake essentially.

Azara Golston: Yeah. I trim my cakes just because I like to have that really clean look on the inside. It's not necessary, not everybody does it, but I don't like to have that caramelization, that coloring on the outside, because there's so much focus on what the inside of the cake looks like for me. You can do that a couple of ways. I worked at a cake shop where we trimmed the cake before we layered it with buttercream. I prefer to layer everything up and then trim it all at the same time just because for me that creates the absolute cleanest possible line when you finally cut the cake because you've just trimmed it altogether and it's all super perfect.

Yeah, and I love that part. It's so fun and it's one of those unexpectedly fun things, where you wouldn't necessarily think about it. I wasn't recording that part of the process for a long time. I was just enjoying it on my own, being like this is so cool. But eventually I was like, "Oh, wait. This is actually a really fun moment to start to reveal the colors on the inside and to see all those cool layers."

Kerry Diamond: Well on behalf of your fans, thank you for sharing. I do love that part. What do you use to cut them?

Azara Golston: Just that exact same bread knife.

Kerry Diamond: The same knife exactly. Like I said, you don't have a lot of tools. How about for the frosting of the cake, what do you use for that?

Azara Golston: Yeah. It sort of depends on what I'm trying to accomplish. I don't really use fondant or anything. I have professional experience with it, but in my own practice I like to stick with buttercream or ganache if I am feeling like it. But usually I will use a piping bag that I've just sort of clipped the top off of. I don't really use a circular tip or anything because there's no point. And I fill that with buttercream and then I spin the cake as I pipe buttercream onto the sides and slowly build up up the side of the cake essentially.

What this does is it just for me, because the cakes are so tall, it's more efficient to pipe the buttercream up the side like that and then use a big cake scraper to smooth the buttercream down than it would be if I was using a larger palette knife scooping the buttercream onto the sides and then smoothing it as I went with the knife. That's easier to do on a shorter cake, but on a bigger cake it really starts to hurt your arm and you have to twist all different ways to make it work. The piping technique just is a lot easier for me. Usually that's if I want a solid base, like a single color base or something like that. If I'm trying to do a fault line look, I will still come in with that piping bag, but be a little bit more careful when I'm scraping, maybe use different colors which is super fun. There's all kinds of different stuff you can do.

Kerry Diamond: And then for decorating the outside, because you do all different things. You've done basket weave, you've done a cactus, you do flowers, you did that amazing one, I'm not quite sure what the technique is called. It's almost like dots.

Azara Golston: Pointillism. It's the exact same as the art term is how I've seen people referring to it. Yeah, that one was crazy. That took forever and my hand was killing me by the end of it.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my gosh. What are your tools for those techniques?

Azara Golston: Mostly piping tips, different piping tips. With the flowers, just the classic rose piping tip, the carnation piping tip. For the pointillism, a really, really tiny round and just piping tiny dots over and over again. I worked on a cake recently for, which is this sort of food entity that I develop recipes for sometimes and then I'll do cake decorating tutorials and stuff through them sometimes and I use tweezers to place sprinkles in a very specific pattern. Anything that's kind of meticulous or overly fussy, I'm a really big fan of generally speaking.

Kerry Diamond: That's crazy. I need to see a picture of that cake. Azara, you mentioned the fault line cakes. Now, I think I was talking to Nikki Pensabene, who some of our listeners might know. She's ByPensa on Instagram. We love Nikki.

Azara Golston: She's so great.

Kerry Diamond: I think I asked her who came up with the idea for fault line cakes and she said it was you.

Azara Golston: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kerry Diamond: We're talking to the inventor of fault line cake.

Azara Golston: Basically a while ago, actually right when I was just starting my Instagram, I was working on a cake and I got partly through that whole process I was talking about where I'm piping buttercream up the side of the cake, and I realized that I didn't have enough buttercream to fully coat the entire cake and so I kind of had this moment of being like, "Okay, I don't have time to make more buttercream. How can I work with this? What do I do?" And I decided to leave a gap because I really, really loved the way the layers look.

I was like, "You know what? Why can't that sort of fine layering be part of the decoration, because it's a cool thing of peering into the cake." I had done naked cakes before and I like that look, but I thought this peek-a-boo sort of thing would be kind of fun. I did the cake that way. I left this kind of organic gap right in the middle of the cake and I scraped it down and found that the gap stayed exactly how I piped it and put it up there and I really liked it.

So I did a couple of other cakes like that too, and at that point I didn't have a lot of followers, I wasn't making any kind of an impact in the cake world, but at the same time, word may have gotten out because I think the people who were following me were pretty much exclusively cake decorators at that time, other cake folk. When we in the cake world see something new and fun, we definitely want to explore it and mess around with it and so I started seeing other people doing it too and it was really cool to look out there and be like, "Wow, this actually looks like it's starting to become a thing."

And then at a certain point people started coming to me and being like, "We've been doing some research, we've been poking around, we think you started this trend." I was like, "I think I might have. I think I might have started the trend." I don't know that I popularized it. I think there are much larger platforms that did tutorials that made it what it is at this point in terms of being like a standard part of the cake decorating repertoire, but I think I might have started it.

Kerry Diamond: Azara, I'm so blown away, because so many times with cake trends, or just really any food trend, you're always like, "Where did this start and who is really responsible for it?" So I don't know, I think it's super exciting that you started this. Who named it fault line?

Azara Golston: I don't know. I didn't.

Kerry Diamond: Wow. I guess it looks like a fault line.

Azara Golston: Yeah. It's a really cool idea. I was like, "That's awesome. I'm definitely using that."

Kerry Diamond: You must be amazed how it's taken off.

Azara Golston: Yeah. I am. I think that of all of the kind of new things that I've started doing with cake, it's definitely the most approachable. It's the most achievable just with whatever kind of buttercream you're using, it doesn't have to be anything specific. The technique is, once you get the hang of it, very straightforward. I think that's probably why of everything that I've started messing around with, that one is the one that took hold. It's also closer to traditional cake decorating. It's working on the outside of the cake.

Granted for me, it came out of laziness and being like, "I don't have time to make more buttercream," and just sort of throwing something together. But it ended up giving people something to work with when they wanted to... there are people who have these exposed sections of their cake that are filled with macarons and painted images and stuff like that, and it's super cool. So yeah, very versatile and very approachable.

Kerry Diamond: Well people have taken the fault line concept and run with it and now you've got the fault line but they fill the space that you would leave open with roses and the geode cake. I feel like the geode cake maybe even evolved from the fault line cake.

Azara Golston: Well the geode cake actually existed before the fault line cake.

Kerry Diamond: It did?

Azara Golston: And the reason why is because I know the person who invented the geode cake.

Kerry Diamond: Who invented the geode cake?

Azara Golston: Rachael Teufel. She does Intricate Icings in Colorado and she was an instructor with Craftsy when I was an acquisitions editor there and Craftsy was based in Denver. So, she was one of our awesome go-to instructors and super wonderful and she developed the geode cake and eventually she taught a class with us on that geode cake.

Kerry Diamond: I love figuring out where all the trends started. I'd love to know who was the first to do the naked cake.

Azara Golston: I think you're going to have to go back in history for that one. I think that's something that people have probably been doing for a long time but just sort of became popular for some reason at some point. I will say obviously Christina Tosi took it to the next level where, and she was a huge inspiration for me by the way in terms of embracing the layers of a cake and really getting excited about what that looks like. I would even say that she inspired me to feel confident about putting that first fault line cake up, because of that very organic... I mean her cakes look like you took a core of the earth and you pulled it out and you're looking at the different layers of sediment and rock and stuff. I think that's so, so cool and that kind of really organic approach was something that definitely played a role in me feeling good about posting that first fault line cake.

Kerry Diamond: Oh that's so cool. We love Christina. Obviously, you've had cakes that have not been iced for years and decades and centuries, but the idea of celebrating the layers the way the naked cakes did, I feel like that was definitely a modern technique of sort.

Azara Golston: Definitely. Yeah, definitely a reflection of that embrace of the organic as a moving away of ultra fondanted, ultra symmetrical cakes that were en vogue in the '80s, '90s, and then you really get into some stuff that starts to loosen up a little bit as you move into the 2000s. It's really cool to see how the trends in the cake world are also reflections of the broader design world and they're all so deeply interconnected, so anything that you see trending as far as even fashion and web design, all kinds of stuff, you'll see that reflected in how cake design develops.

Kerry Diamond: So this begs one of the questions that I was planning on asking you later, but how the hell do you not have a book?

Azara Golston: I don't know. I guess part of it is that I always have a full-time job at any given time so my Milkmoon Cake stuff is always on the side and because I am not super consistent with it, because I've never really had the time to be, I think as far as platform development and all that sort of stuff, it's just slow going for me, and any of the growth and audience I've seen and that sort of thing has oftentimes just been kind of lucky as opposed to any real regular concerted effort on my part, which is obviously something that I would love to change at some point, but not exactly sure when that's going to happen.

A lot of the times I'm just flying under the radar, especially for book publishers. A lot of times what you're doing when you're looking for someone to write a book with you is you're looking for someone who has a ton of connections in the cake world and there's a lot of networking that goes on and you find them that way, or you're looking at the size of their platform and thinking about what their audience might be like. None of those are really part of my reality so far.

Kerry Diamond: When it comes to your obvious skill and your knowledge and just all this cake anthropology you're rattling off for all of us, I see a lifetime of books in your future.

Azara Golston: That would be awesome. I mean, I'm obsessed with cookbooks. I read them like you would read a novella, so I feel like I'd probably be really good at it, hopefully at some point.

Kerry Diamond: Well if any agents are listening or any book publishers, you all need to DM Azara.

Azara Golston: I'm here. I'm waiting.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, a few more cake technique questions. The amazing colors that you get, how do you achieve those?

Azara Golston: I use AmeriColor gel colors fairly liberally, and then I just have worked pretty hard to tweak my cake bases to the point where the ones that I use the most often to add color to are fairly white when I add the coloring to them, it's fairly true as opposed to a cake that might be a little more yellow and would kind of mess with the color that's being added to it. But it's pretty much exclusively AmeriColor gel paste that I use. I'm definitely interested in exploring the world of natural dyes that you make yourself, just because, again, with anything kind of extra fussy or finicky I get really excited about it, so the idea of making my own dyes seems really cool to me, also time consuming, obviously.

I think there are now more and more powders and things that you can use that create brighter natural colors than you would have been able to otherwise. At the same time, I'm just so attracted to those bold colors that I don't foresee giving up gel colors any time soon. I definitely understand the argument. I've had people comment on my Instagram and that sort of thing being like, "These are dangerous, you shouldn't feed them to children," and that sort of thing.

Generally speaking, my cakes aren't being fed to children anyways. They usually would go to my husband's job and so everybody there could have some. But at the same time, I do understand that feeling of you don't want to be putting too much of these bright colorings in your body because it's chemicals. At the same time, I feel like a little bit of anything is totally fine and they're food safe and they're fun. I really don't have that much of a problem with it.

Kerry Diamond: You're not recommending these for your three daily meals?

Azara Golston: I wouldn't recommend cake in general for your three daily meals. I've done it. It hasn't worked out super great.

Kerry Diamond: So tell us about some of the cakes you're proudest of.

Azara Golston: I made a cake a while ago that was a Rick and Morty themed cake with one of the characters on top and when you sliced into the middle of the cake... so Rick and Morty, for anyone who doesn't know, it's a cartoon. I love cartoons. Probably part of my obsession with bright colors now that I think about it comes from how obsessed I am with cartoons. It's a very cerebral sci-fi cartoon that has made a really big splash in the past few years and one of the things is the characters will create these sort of portals, these green glowy portals and use that to travel through.

I decided to make an inter-dimensional portal cake so when you cut into the middle of it, it has that green glowy portal on the inside and it came out really well. It was one of those things where I was just like, "Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I had pictured." When I think about it compared to some of my other cakes, the execution was relatively simple. This was a while ago when I was just starting to figure stuff out, but it was just so much what I wanted it to be that I was really excited about that.

More recently, that pointillism cake that you were mentioning before, I built a lit candle into the inside of it, not an actual lit candle, but the image of a lit candle. That's something I should work on though, that sounds really exciting. I did that one to thank all of the first responders and everyone working in health care who were responding to the COVID crisis and I was really proud of that one, both from an emotional and philosophical standpoint but then also execution wise.

It was really difficult to put that cake together and I thought I pulled it off really well and was very proud of that, both on the inside and the outside, which is a new thing for me because generally speaking, on the outside of the cake I'm pretty... since I've taken all the time to build the cake together on the outside I'm sort of like, "Okay, I don't really have time to do anything too intricate." And for this one I really wanted to go all out and make sure that it was really a proper thank you.

Kerry Diamond: What percentage of the cakes on your Instagram are commissions versus just things you do for yourself?

Azara Golston: Very few are commissions. I do some tutorials and stuff for and Food Network, but those are not super frequent and for the most part I'm just making stuff for myself.

Kerry Diamond: My next birthday, anyone who's listening, I want a Milkmoon Cake. You also made us this gorgeous Cherry Bombe cake.

Azara Golston: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Again, I think that was one you just did for kicks and for yourself and to celebrate our Jubilee conference, which is really sweet. But you did it because you couldn't go to Jubilee that year.

Azara Golston: Yeah. I did not plan very well and I ended up not being able to get a ticket, but the next year I saved up and I was able to come.

Kerry Diamond: Hopefully, Azara, you will be involved in a future Jubilee when we get to actually have gatherings again.

Azara Golston: That would be so fun.

Kerry Diamond: I know. I'm really sad about the whole state of events, and I know you are too because it's impacted your income. You were doing cakes professionally for a bakery.

Azara Golston: Yes. Yes I was. I was at Nine Cakes in Brooklyn.

Kerry Diamond: Oh I love Nine Cakes.

Azara Golston: I know. It was amazing. It was the coolest job ever. I came in to replace Rose McAdoo who was doing all the baking for Nine Cakes before she basically picked everything up and moved to Antarctica to live at the McMurdo Research Base out there. She's amazing. Her handle is Whisk Me Away Cakes. Basically she is baking out in Antarctica. It's incredibly cool and a lot of her focus is on spreading awareness about the projects that are going on out there and the environmental stuff that's going on and she is basically just... she's been diving fully into all the science that she has access to there. There are lectures that happen all the time and she's been going to those and really getting interested in life in extreme temperatures and geological surveys and stuff like that. It's incredibly cool.

So she left to go and be amazing at the ends of the earth and she and I had met recently at a foodie gathering kind of thing and she reached out to me just being like, "Hey, I'm leaving this job and I think that you would actually probably really like it." I had a desk job at the time, which is most of my work experience is doing desk jobs, and I was kind of like, "You know what? I'm going to go for it." It was really amazing. Betsy Thorleifson is the owner of Nine Cakes and she is the most incredible boss on the planet. All my coworkers there were, and are, continue to be so super amazing. We're all still in very close contact and yeah, it was really great. Then COVID happened and the wedding industry completely fell apart in New York City. We ended up getting laid off as basically every single wedding cake order that we had dried up for the whole rest of the year. It happened in a matter of a few days. It was pretty unbelievable.

Kerry Diamond: Wow. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. We had Marcy Blum on the show a few weeks ago and she's a major wedding planner and party planner and just knowing what all our friends in the event business are going through and the ripple effect, I think that's what people forget, the AV people, the folks you rent everything from, the catering companies who work behind the scenes, the bakers-

Azara Golston: The florists.

Kerry Diamond: The florists. Ugh. I'm just praying, and I know a lot of you are too, that things can return to normal and all the talents we love out there and all the companies and all the people who work so hard can have their livelihoods restored soon. We didn't talk about the Cherry Bombe cake. So you did a gorgeous cake for us inspired by Cherry Bombe, thank you, but also inspired by spumoni.

Azara Golston: Yeah. Spumoni is one of my all time favorite ice cream flavors. I grew up in Berkeley in California and on special weekends, my family would go out to San Francisco and go to Little Italy and have these really awesome Italian meals and at the end, oftentimes one of the desserts that they offered was spumoni and it's got candied fruit in it and stuff and so I think probably not a go-to choice for a lot of little kids. It's also got pistachio ice cream. It's usually pistachio, chocolate, and then like a candy cherry kind of ice cream, although I've seen other manifestations of it, but I was really into it as a kid and I super loved it.

It's a very nostalgic flavor for me, and so when I was thinking about what I would want to do for Cherry Bombe, I obviously wanted to center cherries as part of the flavor profile, but I decided to go with spumoni just because I think I was playing with the idea of 1950s domesticity sort of thing, but flipping it on its head by going way above and beyond and out of control with what the cake ended up looking like and kind of using that 1950s palette too of the pistachio green and the soft cherry to create something that felt retro but also very modern and contemporary and forward thinking. I always think about those two sides of the coin when we think about women in the culinary space and where we've been and how far we've come and that sort of freedom of expression that so many of us are embracing these days.

Kerry Diamond: Well I would have loved to have had that cake at Jubilee and sliced it up for everyone. And that leads to my next question, how the heck do you box up and transport these cakes?

Azara Golston: The only times I've been transporting some of these really tall cakes have been if I'm making like a wedding cake for my friend or something like that. Generally speaking, I'll just get them very, very, very cold like frozen basically. I'll build special boxes for them just by cutting different boxes and sort of piecing them together, and then it's just about slow, careful driving. I will say it's less scary to me to get one of those tall single tiered cakes to a venue than it is to think about transporting a giant multi-tiered cake that has structuring on the inside.

I mean it's just the scariest thing ever, and when I was at Nine Cakes, that's something that we did all the time and every time one of those huge six to seven tier giant cakes went out, I would just be absolutely terrified. So for me, the smaller, even if they're tall, the smaller ones because they're pretty stable, it's on a nice stable base and everything, is a lot less scary.

Kerry Diamond: That's amazing. All right. So you recently became a new mom.

Azara Golston: Yes, I did.

Kerry Diamond: Congratulations.

Azara Golston: Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: How are you doing?

Azara Golston: Doing well. It's a lot. You go into it with everyone telling you it's going to be a lot and obviously you can't possibly know how much of a lot it will be until you're there, but it's also been just so amazing. My little boy, his name is Jacob, Jacob King Krovatin, and he's just a total little sweetie. We're doing all kinds of fun stuff right now. He's nine weeks today so he is starting to smile a lot, he's starting to coo and giggle and he's just amazing. He's a delightful little guy.

Kerry Diamond: He sounds like a little angel. So that means you were pregnant through a lot of COVID.

Azara Golston: Yep, the whole thing.

Kerry Diamond: That must have been so challenging.

Azara Golston: It was. It was. It definitely gave me a lot to think about in terms of bringing a baby into a world that's going through something very... going through a number of very challenging things. I gave birth in a mask. It was a very bizarre experience, very different from what I was expecting. I had done all this planning to have a doula and a midwife and this, that, and the other thing, and then we found out that only my husband was going to be allowed to come in to the hospital with me.

So it really changed a lot very quickly about what my expectations were for what this was going to look like. At the same time, everything worked out and even having lost... both my husband and I lost our jobs at the beginning of COVID and he found another one pretty quickly afterwards which was really great and very grateful for that, so we ended up doing okay in the end. It was scary though. It's definitely a scary experience.

Kerry Diamond: Well I'm really grateful that you're doing okay and to all the new moms and new parents out there, I just wish everybody the best because I can't imagine just how challenging and terrifying but beautiful at the same time it is to have a new baby right now.

Azara Golston: No matter what, the beauty of having this child is still very much the same. In fact, I think even more so in certain ways because he really represented a light through a dark time for us and for the country, for our families. He was just this constant little source of joy for us throughout a lot of really challenging stuff.

Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. Azara, you mentioned bringing a child into a world that's going through a lot right now. I noticed on your Instagram on June 3rd, you posted a black square as a lot of people did on your Instagram feed, but you talked about the racism that you and your family have been subjected to. So I was curious, what kind of change would you like to see in the industry, both the industry that you are directly in, cakes and Instagram and bakeries and all that, but also the food industry at large?

Azara Golston: Yeah. Well I think in the cake world specifically, there are some really, really incredible black decorators out there and when I was working at Craftsy, I got pretty frustrated because as I was acquiring new instructors, it got really difficult to basically convince the folks that I was working for to bring a lot of instructors of color and black instructors on, just because they didn't have the same kind of exposure that we were seeing with white instructors. There are so many reasons for that. It's extremely complicated and extremely frustrating, but I am glad that right now there is this conversation happening about giving people more of a platform and giving black voices more of a platform.

Just more broadly in the food industry I think the same thing, but I'm glad to see that there are efforts being made right now and that there's a kind of seriousness that a lot of these conversations are being had at this point that I have never seen before. I feel like that's very encouraging and it's something that I'm very excited about. I think the future is looking brighter, despite the fact that right now there's just so much turmoil and conflict.

Kerry Diamond: Azara, we know how busy you are and I'm going to let you go. I honestly could talk to you for another hour. You are so fascinating.

Azara Golston: Thank you.

Kerry Diamond: Like I said, I really hope there are books in your future and please make more videos. I know you have a newborn baby at home. You're such a talent and I just hope the future is super, super bright for you. If people would like to work with you, what's the best way to get in touch?

Azara Golston: DM me through Instagram, at Milkmoon Kitchen. Yeah, if you'd like to collaborate, if you'd like to talk about a project or anything like that, I'm here. It will be a little crazy for a little while with my little boy, but I'm always open to starting a conversation so please do get in touch.

Kerry Diamond: Terrific. Well, Azara, you are such a talent and such a treasure and I'm really honored you're part of the Bombesquad.

Azara Golston: Thank you so much, Kerry. This has been such an honor. So cool. Thank you very much.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to Azara for sitting down with us and sharing her story. Be sure to check out her beautiful and very unique cakes at Milkmoon Kitchen on Instagram. Thanks to Kerrygold for supporting today's show and making the butter and cheese we all love so much. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Radio Cherry Bombe is produced by Cherry Bombe Media. Hang in there everybody, and thank you for listening. You're the Bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Christina Wong: Hi. My name is Christina Wong and I'm the co-founder, creator, and chief chicken wrangler at Baking With Chickens, my weirdly wonderful world where I bake using eggs from my backyard chickens here in Los Angeles. You know who I think is the bomb? Joline Rivera, the founder and creative director of Kitchen Toke, a magazine that elevates the use of culinary cannabis for health and wellness. Joline is so bomb that she created the world's only full spectrum whole plant hemp honey that's made naturally by bees and not mixed by humans.