Her confectionary artistry has made Dinara Kasko one of the most celebrated pastry chefs in the world. Her Instagram followers exceed 800,000, and she’s caught the attention of magazines and news agencies like Pastry Arts, Bloomberg and The New York Times.
Perhaps even more amazing is the Irvine woman’s journey: from an architect living in an ovenless apartment to internet sensation, invited to bake in more than 30 countries, including a special event at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she replicated the bas-relief of the Palace of Versailles in cake.
“I make edible pieces of art,” says Kasko, who recently moved to Promenade Village at Irvine Spectrum. “When people see my designs, they often can’t believe it’s cake. Then, you cut into it, and you have these delicious layers of sponge and mousse and meringue. It’s about an experience – like theater.”
Talking to her, it’s easy to forget that two years ago, she and her family were sleeping in bomb shelters and had to flee Ukraine after her Kyiv bakery was bombed during the Russian invasion. After she and her family left Ukraine, a friend sent her a video of some Irvine apartment communities.
“I make edible pieces of art. … It’s about an experience – like theater.” – Dinara Kasko
“I really loved the place,” she says. “So I watched videos about Irvine on YouTube, and people said the city is very clean and safe. That was very important for me.” She likes being close to Irvine Spectrum Center, and her children enjoy the city’s many parks, pools and soccer fields. And, of course, there’s the climate. “I love the weather and all the trees and green environment here,” she says.
Kasko never baked as a child. In fact, she didn’t start baking until age 23, when she moved into her first apartment with an oven.
At the time, she was a successful architect who made cakes as a hobby – with one twist. She had the ability to visualize 3D shapes in her head and employ mathematical principles such as triangulation, biomimicry and the Voronoi diagram to design cakes no one had ever seen before.
In 2015, she used a friend’s CNC (computer numerical control) milling machine to create a cake mold for her first masterpiece: a red-mirror glazed cake that resembled nine separate cubes, finished with a cocoa butter spray.
“In that moment, I realized: I can now bake anything,” she says. “And it just happened.”
Someone from the industry magazine So Good saw her cakes on Instagram and ran a cover story on Kasko. Within weeks, she had more than 300,000 Instagram followers and requests for interviews from around the world.
She was offered jobs. Collaborations. TED Talks. Speaking engagements. Teaching opportunities. Presentations.
In 2016, she founded Dinara Kasko Pastry Art, and she began touring the world – from China to Thailand to Italy to France – demonstrating her techniques. She built her own design studio and partnered with Italian silicone-mold maker Silikomart to sell cake molds in more than 100 countries, using warehouses in Kyiv and Poland.
Inspiring the next generation
In 2018, The New York Times said Kasko was better known than the pastry chefs at such popular establishments as Gotham Bar and Grill in New York, the Rosebud Bar & Kitchen in Boston and Delancey in Seattle.
Last year, Kasko was named one of the world’s top 50 culinary “game changers” by the 50 Best brand, which wrote: “She has inspired a new generation of home cooks and professional bakers … shaping the future of gastronomy.”
Having lost so much in her homeland, Kasko is now looking for investors, business partners and opportunities to demonstrate her cake designs in and around Irvine.
“I’d like to open a pastry shop here,” she says. “I want people to see and share my passion.”