Who hasn’t looked at a VHS tape or Spice Girls poster from the 90s and asked themselves – I wonder what that would taste like with a little icing or fondant? Richmond-based Layers Cake Studio, owned and run by Danya Smith, asks that very question every day, with impressive results. From bright orange VHS tapes (Nickelodeon fans already know what I mean) to Walkman CD players to even the Bop-It toy, Smith has managed to successfully recreate something from every millennial’s childhood that will make them scream “I REMEMBER THAT!” Best of all, you’ll be able to eat it afterwards.
Smith spends her days as a popular content creator on your favorite social media addiction of choice, but her decision to start baking cakes resembling other objects originally came to her in 2017, when she really just wanted to make a birthday cake for her grandmother after she moved in with her. After watching various YouTube videos and Food Network shows, it occurred to her that she could most likely pull this off. Considering she was a sculpture major at VCU, her hypothesis wasn’t very far off.
“I just kept working on it, and like I just literally became obsessed with it,” said Smith. “I started doing cakes for friends and my mom’s coworkers and just random stuff. It literally just kept growing from there. Last year I decided [to start] making the videos, which is actually something that I did in college. I went to VCU for sculpture, of all things, and started doing like video art. So I had the software and I had these lighting kits and all this stuff, and I was like, ‘Oh, let me just start filming some videos.’ And then, much like baking. I just became obsessed with that.”
With her TikTok account currently at almost 42k followers and over 1.2 million likes, it’s safe to say that Smith’s decision to focus on content creation has paid off. Wanting something to give her more room creatively, she stopped taking custom orders in 2021 in order to focus entirely on her videos and content. In addition to TikTok, she also posts on Instagram, including behind the scenes footage of how she creates some of her creations.
That’s not to say that she isn’t entirely closed off to working with other people. Various influencers and pop culture creators have reached out requesting cakes of her work, some of which we can’t even mention here, as they are still in the works. While she’s unable to fulfill orders from outside the local area, she still stays busy on private commissions, all of which Smith is very grateful for.
Nothing tops it more than the official Spice Girls Facebook sharing her work, however.
“I got so lucky because it’s like I was just doing what I wanted to do, and then people just found it and were like ‘Oh, cool’,” said Smith. “I can’t complain, but I think the Spice Girls really just, like, blew my mind.”
@layerscakestudio It’s the 25th✨ anniversary of SPICE! @Spice Girls #spicegirls #90sgirl #zennial #millennialsontiktok #90sbaby #90ssong #caketok #everythingiscake ♬ You Are Enough – Sleeping At Last
When pop culture is your focus, the possibilities are always endless, and it doesn’t hurt that Smith loves what she does and is glad to be able to do it. Unsurprisingly, her bucket list is ever-growing, as she constantly has a new idea or two up her sleeve for future projects — even if they’re in the form of recreating questionable footwear.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen the Balenciaga crocs,” she said, laughing. “I’m dying to make a cake of that, because they’re just so bizarre. That’s kind of, for some reason, where my mind has been leading me. I want to make a Telfar purse so bad. I mean, the way that embossed logo looks, I just feel like that would look so cool in a cake.”
Part of what makes her work so successful is her arts background, and her willingness to lean completely into past skills she initially learned for different things. The prime example is her background in sculpture, which she has adapted in order to make her cakes more realistic. Recently, Smith has also been creating her own silicone molds and working on different cast techniques. This led to one of her more fascinating recent creations — an old school Game Boy Color, cast in chocolate.
I had a lime green Game Boy Color growing up, but it never tasted nearly this good. Instead, it just ate all of my batteries on road trips.
“I just feel like things are getting more and more real, because I’m remembering I have access to these random skills that I’ve learned,” added Smith. “I’m just obsessed with stuff, but it makes sense, because I literally went to school for sculpture because I’m just obsessed with stuff.”
Smith’s process involves a very detailed calendar and a lot of deep-diving research. When she has an idea, she doesn’t just research details about the product or piece of culture, she also makes sure to research any relevant dates related to it, such as creators’ birthdays, release dates, and anniversaries. This helps her get the most traction when she creates a post.
With so many ideas running through her head, she is never at a loss for something to work on, especially when she does collaborations with other creators. Smith has also been able to work with craft video channel Craft Factory, who posts short craft videos on various social media, and will usually send her a prompt for what to create.
“I just did one, it was like a Bratz doll styling head, like the ones that you could buy,” said Smith. “And I’ve got a new project with them coming up; [I’m doing] a super soaker.”
Smith also gets involved with local fundraisers when she can, including Richmond Bakers Against Racism, who raise funds for various organizations and causes during the year. Whenever they have a bake sale, she admits that she is usually one of the first people to volunteer.
“They have these bake sales every so often, multiple times a year, and they raise funds for different organizations in Richmond,” said Smith. “They just had one a couple of [months] ago. I made a walnut cake with orange blossom and really messed around with the flavors, and that’s been really fun as well because I get to test things out. I don’t have to worry so much about decorations, and get to help them raise money. So I really, really like doing that.”
In light of all the creations she’s put together in her home studio, I had to ask what is probably the most annoying question to any cake artist. Where the hell does all of the cake go?
“The funny thing is, a lot of people ask me. ‘What do you do with all this cake?’ But the cakes are very small,” said Smith. “It looks so large on camera. But like, if you can see, as a proportion of my hand, oftentimes the cakes are not larger than my hand. So that’s really not a lot of cake to go through. Like, if we’ve got three people in the house, that’s like two days of eating.”