In Season 2 of Netflix’s baking competition (now streaming), in which artisans try to fool judges with hyperrealistic culinary creations, contestant Miko Kaw Hok Uy gave the world’s most famous painting an upgrade so delicious it might finally explain Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile.
The classic oil-on-canvas was re-created entirely with cake − layers of dark chocolate with peanut butter buttercream filling. peanut brittle and a crowning flourish of raspberry puree drizzle.
“Everything you see with this Mona Lisa is edible, including the frame, which is made of chocolate,” says Uy, a New York City artisan. “I even used edible paints.”
Contestants in 2022’s viral hit “Is It Cake?,” hosted by Mikey Day (“Saturday Night Live”), painstakingly re-created objects such as a bowling ball, stacked red Solo cups and leather purses. But Uy (dubbed “Miko-Angelo” on the show) was undaunted by the fine-art masterpiece challenge gunning for the second season’s $75,000 grand prize.
“No one has ever attempted anything like this on the show. Just the sheer spectacle of it was remarkable,” says executive producer Dan Cutforth. “It did seem like that would be impossible. But he defied all expectations.”
Uy, who began showing painting talent at age 4 while growing up in Manila, Philippines, was able to lean into his training with a major in painting and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Cebu. Unlike Da Vinci, he was given just 10 hours to create his Mona Lisa cake.
How do you paint the Mona Lisa on a cake?
The stacked cakes were covered with a layer of tempered chocolate, which became the canvas. Tempered chocolate was also vital for the ornate frame, poured into molds taken from one of the show’s Mona Lisa replicas (suffice to it say the original remains in The Louvre in Paris).
The hard frame, detailed with a knife heated with a blowtorch, was painted with realistic gold coloring − edible gold dust mixed with vodka. (Pro tip: Vodka makes paint dry faster.)
Most of Uy’s time on the show was spent painstakingly painting the Mona Lisa on the tempered chocolate canvas.
“The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world. So everything had to be precise,” Uy says. “Make one thing off and everyone knows it’s a fake. And you really have to capture that smile. That was the most difficult part.”
Uy experienced moments of contained panic wondering if he could re-create the painting in time. But just before the deadline, it was clear he “nailed it.”
“I am very proud of it, especially given the time limit. If you put them side by side, it could pass as the original.”
We won’t spoil how the painting fared in the show’s competition when placed next to three replicas. But we can say that celebrity judges Jade Catta-Preta, Chris Redd and Taylor Tomlinson were blown away, even with the painting under close scrutiny. And they found it far tastier than the original. All “Is It Cake?” creations must taste divine or the baker is heavily penalized. “Oh my God, if the cake is not delicious, it’s a deal breaker,” Uy says.
Most importantly, Uy wanted to honor his art-encouraging parents, and even Da Vinci himself.
“I really hope I made him proud. He’s one of my idols. This is one of my best works; I’ve always wanted to make a life-sized Mona Lisa.”
The ‘Is It Cake, Too?’ crab creation was more real than the crab
On the other end of the cake spectrum was the crab creation, a masterpiece from the sea. Liz Marek, creator of the online decorating school Sugar Geek Show, looked to impress judges with her small but lifelike crab. She, too, stressed out over the intricate legs, claws and realistic shell on deadline.
“In the moment, it was like this is the worst thing I’ve ever done,” Marek says. “I was literally sculpting right next to the real crab, putting all the little teeth on the claws, and the barnacles.”
But the cake looked more real than the actual crab brought onto the show (which was so fresh it popped to life on the set, startling Marek). And the creation − a lemon cake with raspberry buttercream filling covered with a shell of modeling chocolate, painted to perfection with edible food coloring − was a hit.
“The cake gods were with me, for sure.”