What I do is give people a chance to relive their childhoods—those colors, those flavors Amirah Kassem
Amirah Kassem is fearless. “I go back to Mexico and hang out with my cousin and her pet wolf.” She shrugs. “It’s no big deal. My uncle used to have a lion.” Beasts of prey are one matter, but the 28-year-old New Yorker has taken on the one thing many folks consider the greatest scourge of our time: sugar. As the proprietor of the custom cakerie Flour Shop, which she founded more or less on a whim out of her Brooklyn apartment in late 2012, Kassem has emerged as the premier pusher of sweet treats to New York’s art and fashion scenes. Her signature six-layer rainbow cake is the anti-green juice. “I use real butter, real sugar. No substitutions,” she says. “People always ask, ‘How can you have a business without doing gluten-free?’ And I’m like, ‘If you want that, go somewhere else.’ What I do is give people a chance to relive their childhoods—those colors, those flavors.” Kassem says this, it must be noted, as she tucks into a scoop of cookies-and-cream ice cream covered with rainbow sprinkles. It’s 11 a.m. and we’re the first customers at Sundaes and Cones in the East Village. “My attitude is, if it’s a special occasion, splurge. Be happy.”
Kassem is certainly no stranger to downtown’s kale-heads and detoxinistas. Prior to launching Flour Shop, Kassem was the right-hand woman to BLK DNM’s Johan Lindeberg back when she began selling colorful cake pops at a friend’s coffee shop. Demand skyrocketed, and a business was born. Terry Richardson was one of Flour Shop’s first customers, ordering pies for a shoot. These days, Kassem boasts a private clientele so VIP she won’t even talk about it (google Instagram + Flour Shop + Blue Ivy, if you must), and she usually delivers her orders in person.
All of which would make for just another girl-opens-cupcake-shop story were it not for Kassem’s gleefully wackadoodle sensibility. In November 2013, she and the art photographer Henry Hargreaves staged the gallery exhibition “C.R.E.A.M.: Cake Rules Everything Around Me,” paying homage to the Wu-Tang Clan with cakes that looked like buzzing beehives, frosted swords, and take-out containers of lo-mein. The duo also paired for the art project “Burning Calories,” which consisted of photos of guilty-pleasure food such as hot dogs and hamburgers set ablaze. “People are always talking about ‘What’s the fastest way to burn calories?’ So Henry and I were like, ‘Just set them on fire.’ ” This past April, for the Brooklyn Museum’s Artists Ball, Kassem made giant gumball mosaics riffing on Takashi Murakami’s poptastic flowers. Her next art-world gig takes her to MoMA, where she and “Love Me” tagger Curtis Kulig will be collaborating on a food-based installation event set for March 2016. “Curtis’s work is about love and happiness, and mine is, too, in a different way,” Kassem says. “I’m not sure what we’ll do yet. It’ll probably be a big smiley face.”