For our September issue, on newsstands now and available for digital download, we challenged New York City baker Emily Lael Aumiller of Lael Cakes to translate runway designs into sure-to-impress petite treats. The results? Fashion you can sink your teeth into. 

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Runway Inspired Desserts - Valentino Cake
Credit: Romulo Yanes, Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Poised yet poppy, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli’s smartly swinging Valentino collection spurred this geometric masterwork—a graphic checkerboard cake artfully hidden beneath a glossy chocolate glaze. Cake creator Emily Lael Aumiller’s advice on keeping the look ultra-sleek? “I always start with a very thin layer of buttercream before spreading on the ganache,” she says. Read on for her fashionable recipe.

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Makes: one 4-inch cake


  • 1 standard-size pound cake (8½" x 4½" x 2¾"), chilled
  • 1 standard-size chocolate pound cake, batter tinted with ¼ tsp black food coloring, chilled
  • 1 cup buttercream ($6 for 1½ lb.;
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • Walnut-size ball of white fondant ($23 for 5 lb.;
  • Walnut-size ball of black fondant ($23 for 5 lb.;
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 10 drops black gel food coloring ($2 for .75 oz.;
  • 1 cup heavy cream


To Assemble the Cake

  • 1. Using a serrated knife, cut each pound cake lengthwise to create a layer 1-inch thick. Then cut each layer into two 4-inch squares. Slice each square into 4 even strips. Chill for 1 hour.
  • 2. On a 4-inch-square piece of cake board (from $2 for a set of ten 6" boards;, line up 4 cake strips, alternating the colors. Spread top with buttercream, and then lay 4 cake strips in alternating colors, starting with the opposite color from the first layer. Spread with buttercream. Recreate the first layer on top. Neatly frost the top and sides with remaining buttercream.
  • 3. Mark the front of the cake that shows the checkerboard design by inserting a toothpick. Chill for 30 minutes.
  • 4. Meanwhile, make fondant triangles. Dust a surface with confectioners’ sugar; roll out each ball of fondant to ¹/₈-inch thick. Using a knife or triangle cutters ($8 for 6;, cut out triangles in assorted sizes. Layer small triangles over larger ones in the opposite color, using a thin swipe of water in between to adhere them; set aside.
  • 5. Place chilled cake on a rack set over a baking sheet.

To Make the Ganache

1. Place dark chocolate, butter, and black gel food coloring in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream on low until bubbles appear around the edges; pour it over the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.
2. Slowly pour melted ganache over the entire cake, using a spatula to help spread it onto the sides. Chill until ganache is set, about 30 minutes.
3. Remove the toothpick. Use leftover ganache to glue fondant triangles onto the front, covering up the hole from the toothpick.