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Woman makes sugar-gum flowers at O.C. Fair

COSTA MESA — Vibrant sprays of lilies, orchids, daffodils and other blooms surrounded artist Shaile Socher's work space Thursday at the Orange County Fair's "Live, Eat, Grow" exhibit promenade.

The delicate, detailed petals looked real, but Socher's flowers were made entirely of sugar.

"A florist at a bridal show said that I pretty much fooled her," the Huntington Beach resident said as she molded white sugar-gum petals between her fingertips.

"She was at another booth, and she walked over and said that she wanted to check out the competition," Socher continued. "I had to tell her, 'Oh, no. I'm not really your competition because these are sugar-gum flowers.'"

The culinary curiosity has fooled more than a few fairgoers, she said.

"I couldn't believe that they were real," said fair attendee Marsha Kramer, who saw some of Socher's creations in the fair garden and floral pavilion.

"When I first walked in, I was attracted to this dazzling display of lilies," Kramer said. "They were amazing, so beautiful. I had to touch them to know that they were real."

Socher's green thumb for the art has grown since attending a cake-decorating convention in Las Vegas about 10 years ago.

The art of crafting sugar flowers was to be one part of her larger goal of mastering cake and cookie decorating. However, she loved the time and precision required by the art so much that she never got around to baking the desserts the flowers were intended to embellish.

"It's probably a good thing. I'm a big sweets eater," Socher said with a laugh.

The sugary blooms have found their way on top of cakes and other desserts with the help of her friend Christy Platt, of Simply Layered Cake Design in Huntington Beach, Socher said.

"She does all the baking and I make the flowers," Socher said. "So we make a great team."

The two have frequently worked together to create custom cakes and desserts for weddings, birthdays and other occasions.

Socher will teach a two-day community education course at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on crafting custom sugar-gum flowers in September.

Details on Socher's work and all upcoming classes can be found at http://www.shailesedibleart.com.

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