Michael Lewis-Anderson: Confections for Peace
Can a cake or chocolate make people happier? Michael Lewis-Anderson, cake maker of the Belgian royal family, believes that yes. He gives confections a much deeper meaning than just what addresses the people’s taste needs. For him, creating confectionery masterpieces is a way to bring people together during holidays and events. According to Mr. Lewis-Anderson, even now, in times of the pandemic and general self-isolation, chocolate can have a truly magical effect on people.
cake maker of the Belgian royal family
We first met Michael Lewis-Anderson in Belgium. He was one of the participants of the Summer Peace Summit. The cake designer not only baked an amazing cake for the event but also willingly gave the event’s guests an original tour of Brussels. He conquered the hearts of the summit participants with his positivity, concerned attitude towards the world’s future, and, most importantly, his passion and commitment to his favorite activity.
Michael is not just a confectioner. He calls himself a ‘dream maker’ capable of bringing joy and happiness to people around. Today, he told us how chocolate and confectionery art help people survive the pandemic and what ‘magical’ qualities confections have. He shared several personal stories and even his own professional secrets.
– You are a craftsman who creates confectionary artworks. You know everything about chocolate and sweets. How does chocolate help people survive quarantine?
– The beauty of chocolate is that it can be shared with our loved ones. We are at a time of keeping distance from each other and communicating remotely. When we are alone, we try to find something to comfort us and bring us joy.
Eating chocolate alone brings back memories of my childhood when eating it in secret, hidden away from my siblings. Probably, chocolate often awakens the most warm and pleasant memories in many people.
I remember stories from my parents and grandparents about their first taste of chocolate after the Second World War. Due to rationing, such pleasures weren’t readily available. I can just imagine them letting that first small piece of chocolate slowly melt on the tongue with the smell, flavour and texture lingering until the last was gone. Yes, chocolate can surely make people much happier!
Unlike those times, we have an unlimited choice of most different sweets. Everyone can taste them. People stopped considering chocolate as something special. However, its taste still brings them joy and delight.
I can’t say whether sweets can somehow relieve the period of self-isolation. However, they can surely comfort us, fill us with spiritual warmth.
– Who likes chocolate and sweets more? Men or women?
– I feel it all depends on where you live and your culture. According to one study, 33% of women think of chocolate during the day, compared to only 11% of men. However, these data will be different in different countries.
Here is an interesting example. Chocolate is often used as a Valentine’s Day gift. In Japan, it is traditionally women who offer to men gifts as their sign of love, whereas in Europe, it is the men giving presents to women.
I remember creating a completely new concept for Valentine’s Day. I was to design products for international sales in Asia, the Gulf, and Europe. The finished items had to address the needs and attract the interest of three completely different cultures also pleasing both genders.
This concept was based on the close interrelation between art and confectionery. I was inspired by the artwork of Belgian artist Maud Toussaint. Her pieces strike the viewers with their strong brush strokes and vibrant colours, ideal for what I wished to make.
Confectionery craftspeople can use techniques similar to those used for painting. Chocolate is a universal material for creating any textures desired and depicting any colours.
My idea was a huge success. I am happy that both men and women highly appreciated the confections.
– In Russia and many other countries people associate chocolate with women in the first turn…
– In the past, the royal court in France and the rest of Europe were examples of fine dining and sweet displays. Some of the finest artistic creations were displayed to privilege guests to show signs of their importance, an appreciation, and quite often a manipulation of love. Many a women’s heart were stolen through sweet desires.
It is interesting that many cakes received women’s names. Queen Victoria, a huge trend setter in her time, was well known for her ‘sweet tooth’. There were many cakes made in her honour. The Victoria sponge and the concept for today’s traditional wedding cake are the two most popular examples.
In Sweden, they have the famous ‘Princes torte’: a cake filled with whipped cream, raspberry jam, and pastry cream and covered with green marzipan. That was the favorite dessert of Princesses Margareta, Martha, and Astrid. Later, Astrid became the Queen of Belgium.
Upon the birth of Elisabeth of Belgium, great-great grand child of Astrid, I recreated my version of that cake and renamed it into ‘Princess Elisabeth cake’. It was very popular in Belgium.
Another famous cake with a woman’s name is the Pavlova cake. It was inspired by the image of Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballet dancer during her tour of Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. Dispute is still going on between the two countries to whom created it.
I regularly make a pure chocoholic cake made from the darkest chocolate and tea biscuits. It is a favorite confection of Queen Elisabeth II. According to a rumour, her Majesty knows exactly how much of the cake is left and at tea time she will take a small slice every day.
It is also a favorite dessert of Prince William. So who has the sweetest tooth, men or women? This question is still relevant.
– What were your most memorable cakes?
– It is very difficult to choose which my most memorable cake was. I have made so many of them. Each of them is linked with a certain event and memory.
Is it the yearly QBP cake to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday at the British Residance in Brussels? Or, is it the cake for Bill Gates Microsoft’s 20 years Birthday celebrations at Living tomorrow? It may also be the first Christmas cake I made with my grandma at home when I was a child.
There are also the cakes made for world peace, one was presented at the Palace of Justice in Den Haag. H.I.R.H. Herta Margaret Habsburg-Lotharingen, President of The Flame of Peace foundation, cut the cake and was emotionally happy. The chocolate cake apparently brought back childhood memories to her.
Another spectacular cake for peace was presented in the sumptuous ball room of the Schönbrunn Castle in Vienna, Austria, home to Empress Elisabeth of Austria (nicknamed Sissi) and birthplace of Marie Antoinette. That prestigious reception was attended by the Prince and Prime Minister of Bahrain. I was presented my first honours for my contribution to promotion of the world peace. My motto is “A Piece of cake for Peace”.
Another bright event coming to my mind is the Gala reception for the seminar of Relais Dessert, which is a French organisation for the top pastry chefs of the world. One hundred chefs were there to share their knowhow at this annual dinner. I was asked to design and create the central show table. I chose the theme of Napoleon Bonaparte. Belgium was also celebrating the Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, so it was an appropriate choice. The reception was attended by more than 600 guests. It was the highest privilege for me to be able to create such a spectacle for the most esteemed pastry chefs of the world.
– You give every your confection piece a deeper meaning. What compositions did you make using chocolate?
– I remember clearly, a show piece made for the United Nations Peace Day. A piece I called ‘Children of Our Nations’. Three children made from chocolate depicting different ethnic origins. An Indian girl dressed in her traditional sari, a girl from the Massai, and a blond boy holding a dove of peace taking flight.
I remember some 20 years ago, I created a life-size statue of Diane Von Fürstenberg, all in Black chocolate. Since then, my working techniques have developed into new directions.
– What is your source of inspiration for your artworks?
– My designs and inspiration for cakes of art will always depend on the occasion: a birthday, a wedding, a corporate event, a Royal celebration or something else. Being passionate about interior design and colour tendencies helps me enormously. The most important thing for me is that the baking process comes from my heart.
I am always wanting to create the impossible, something new. Each creation is an adventure of ‘avant-garde’ and I often launch new trends.
Confectionery can be compared with art building communication bridges among countries.
Several years ago, I created the unicorn Easter egg. Later, that idea became very popular worldwide. I remember clearly making the first heart shaped macaroon. Pierre Hermé, a French pastry chef, repeated that experience and the product was a huge success.
– You are a very creative person. What advice would you share with people from all over the world during the pandemic?
– The most important advice I can give, at this moment, is to stay at home!
My piece named ‘The Tortoise and the Rabbit’ was inspired by a message to the nation from Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium. That wonderful speech made me think of the famous fable of Jean de La Fontaine, the message of which can be understood as “stay at home to be safe”.
The tortoise living in its home which is its shell is the symbol of safety. The rabbit running through the fields in search of Easter eggs puts himself at risk. The eggs were of mixed colours to show we are all equally vulnerable to the virus. My question is: “Are you the tortoise who chooses to stay at home or the rabbit feeling he is invincibly untouchable?”
My artwork was very popular in the media. That is how I managed to attract people’s attention to this relevant problem. Her Majesty thanked me emphasizing the power and originality of my message to people to stay at home in these worrying times.
A great idea whilst staying at home would be to make a British afternoon tea. One can even get dressed up for the occasion and make a different theme of this ceremony every day. It can become an entertaining way to learn history with your children.
I truly feel it is the time to step back and do the wonderful things we had no time for in our busy lives. I am busy with developing new products such as icings and chocolates that will be branded under my name. I am also developing my mould concept for cake decorations and chocolates.
Moreover, now I have more time to develop a concept for world peace, which is very important for me, For example, I have written a set of articles for Diplomatic World magazine.
– In the context of self-isolation, many people have more time to bake something delicious for their loved ones. What professional secrets can you share?
– Remember your childhood. For example, mine is full of wonderful moments spent with my grandparents making cakes. Now it brings me great pleasure to re-make them again. That gives unforgettable emotions and lets you immerse in warm memories.
You may have always wanted to try your hand at a new hobby, for example, cake decorating, baking a traditional dessert, or mastering a new recipe. Now it’s high time to try that.
Go back to basics. We often avoid simple and popular recipes considering them banal. However, they are often tastier than the most complex and sophisticated dishes.
I would like to share three of my favourite recipes with you.
The first one is the cake I make always for peace. It is Queen Elizabeth’s favourite chocolate cake. It is very easy to make and can be made for any celebration.
ROYAL TEA CAKE FOR PEACE by Michael Lewis-Anderson
- 200g Dark Belgian Chocolate, (I use my own of 80% from Millesime bean to bar)
- 200g Confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
- 200g unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- 400g Plain rich tea biscuits, (I use digestive chocolate coated or any other plain biscuit, gluten-free if desired)
- 1 prepared cake tin +/- 23 cm or other form.
- Dried fruits can also be added, raisins, sultanas, cranberries. The choice is yours.
Crush the biscuits into small pieces (almond size) and set them aside. Cream the butter and confectioners sugar together in a bowl until the butter is soft and light. Add the melted chocolate then the eggs and beat the mixture. Add the broken biscuit and optional fruits into the chocolate cream by hand until they are covered. Press the mixture firmly without air pockets or gaps into desired cake form. Refrigerate for three hours or until firm. Coat the cake with desired covering.
My second famous recipe is called ‘Chocolate Melting Moments’. It is a soft cake firm on the outside and like molten-lava of a volcano flowing from the inside. It is served with delicious ice-cream.
CHOCOLATE MELTING MOMENTS by Michael Lewis-Anderson
- 100g Black Chocolate melted
- 100g Butter
- 4 Eggs
- 100g Sugar
- 50g Flour
- 4 Buttered ramequins
Cut the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bowl over a Bain-Marie. Cut the butter into cubes and cream to a pommade, add the melted chocolate and mix with a wooden spoon. In another bowl beat the eggs and sugar until white, progressively fold in the flour. Mix the two preparations together and keep cool for a few hours. Fill the ramequins 3/4 full. Bake in an oven: 200 °C, 5 Minutes.
The third recipe is a soothing hot chocolate drink, wonderful for those comforting afternoons at home.
SOOTHINGLY HOT SPICY CHOCOLATE by Michael Lewis-Anderson
- 500ml Cream
- 500ml Milk
- 230g Black chocolate
- 150g Milk Chocolate
- optionally a pinch of chilli powder, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, or cardamon
In a saucepan, heat 250ml of the milk, with the chocolate, stirring until melted. In another pan heat the rest of the milk and all the cream to 80°C infusing the spices (optional). Mix the spiced milk together with the chocolate. Stir briskly with a whisk or an immersed blender to make the hot chocolate smooth. Use a pre warmed mug to serve with a generous spoon of whipped cream and dusted with cocoa powder.
– What kind of chocolate is the most useful one? White chocolate? Dark chocolate? Bitter chocolate? Milk chocolate? Is there any research on that topic?
– During a charity event for the United Nations, I promoted the first chocolate bar for world peace. That was a chocolate bar of 80% cocoa, a pure origin from India and with timut pepper from Nepal.
I wished to have a chocolate to use for my cakes of peace, a chocolate of which I knew the provenance of the beans, biologically farmed and trade friendly. A plantation in India was growing wild cocoa beans and seemed the perfect choice. A Dutch family saw potential in that farm and started the development in harvesting the chocolate. Today, it is known to be one of the finest in the world.
Chocolate is like wine. Each manufacture and country will have their own recipes and preference. France, for example, prefers to eat dark chocolate whilst the UK and America like Milk. Belgium, the “gourmet country”, loves Black, Milk and White.
It is not a myth that cocoa has many virtues and health benefits. It is a source of vitamins and minerals and is rich in Magnesium. Cocoa has positive effects on the body by reducing stress and mitigating fatigue. That is exactly what we all need today.
Of course, chocolate is not the miracle cure of any illness. However, it can raise our mood and make every day brighter, warmer, and more comfortable.
I would like to wish everyone good health. Be safe, stay at home.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov