It’s no surprise Nakyung Lee’s mesmerizingly intricate cake designs, which feature lifelike flowers carefully created with Italian buttercream icing, each take at least five hours to create.
“A lot of customers say, ‘How can I eat this? It’s so beautiful!’” Lee says of her meticulously handcrafted sweet treats. “While it takes a long time to make my cakes and cupcakes, they’re meant to be eaten. I always can make more!”
Cake-making is a creative process that sparks joy for Lee, a Seoul, South Korea, native who aims to spread that sweet sentiment to area residents’ everyday occasions with bloom-covered cakes and bright, fresh floral arrangements via her online gift shop, Cott Studio.
The Kirkwood-based small business was born out of creativity and opportunity. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the flower shop where Lee worked shuttered for a month. “A month of not working allowed me time to think about my future and what I want out of a career,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed expressing myself through flowers and baking. So I started Cott and am excited to connect and communicate with St. Louis people through flowers and cakes.”
An art degree graduate of Seoul Institute of the Arts, Lee learned the arts of cake-making and flower-arranging in her home country. “In Korea, it’s common to eat rice cakes with decorative sweet bean paste,” she explains. “I learned flower-piping by using sweet bean paste because it is easier to use to decorate than buttercream. After I got used to making flowers by piping with bean paste, I learned how to pipe flowers with buttercream.”
The multitalented baker-florist combines her passion for cakes and flowers with her love of all things natural, organic and environmentally friendly to create her custom culinary designs and seasonal floral arrangements. “My cakes generally consist of Italian buttercream icing flowers that are lifelike,” she says of her bestselling made-to-order, three-layer, 8-inch round cakes. “The types of blooms I offer can depend on the season. For example, real peonies are hard to find in the winter, so I like incorporating peony blooms into my cakes during the winter season.”
When it comes to creativity, Lee says there can’t be too many cooks in the kitchen: She loves challenging herself to learn new types of buttercream blooms and even getting input from clients. “I welcome customers to request their favorite flowers,” she says, noting that it takes at least five to seven hours to make a single cake. “I’m working on becoming faster, but without sacrificing quality and attention to detail. Each cake is a labor of love.”
Lee’s unique designs are inspired by Constance Spry, a British floral designer from the mid-20th century. “Ms. Spry felt that everyone’s life could be enriched by flowers,” Lee says. “That’s my goal, especially with my subscription flower service and cakes. I want to provide beautiful and eco-friendly arrangements and highly intricate cakes at reasonable prices.”
Because Cott is a small cake and flower studio, Lee is able to personalize each creation. “I have a background in art, so that makes my flower design unique in some respects,” she says. “Also [being] from Korea … , I incorporate natural designs along with other Asian-inspired designs like ikebana [the Japanese art of flower arrangement]. Because I have a background in working with flowers, this helps me pipe lifelike buttercream flowers in terms of color and detail.”
Cott Studio’s custom offerings can be ordered online at cottstl.com, with free delivery for flowers and a $5 delivery fee for cakes within a 12-mile radius of Kirkwood.
Next, Lee will be helping others learn the art of cake-decorating. “I’m teaching a piping class at the Kitchen Conservatory [in Clayton] in March,” she says, adding that interested attendees can find more details on kitchenconservatory.com.
And the artisan has her sights set on spreading joy not only to your everyday life but also to its big moments. “I’d like to focus more on designing beautiful cakes and cupcakes for weddings and showers,” Lee says. “Flowers and baking cakes bring me joy!”
Cott Studio, cottstl.com