This Chef’s Amazing Dessert Illusions Look Like Things You Would Never, Ever Eat

In the world of cutting-edge culinary arts, nothing can be trusted, especially your eyes. Made-to-deceive items such as the watermelon “ham” and the cantaloupe “burger” that recently surfaced in New York are proof that you really can’t judge tasty food by its appearance. And some chefs are counting on that — just ask chef Ben Churchill, a self-proclaimed “food illusionist” who notes on his popular Facebook page that he’s “creating desserts that push the boundaries of perception.”

What exactly does that mean? For starters, if you’re easily taken aback by the appearance of mold, bugs or dirt, maybe pass on his creations, which include desserts that look just like a maggot-filled apple, a sopping-wet, dirty kitchen sponge and even a used ashtray.

However, you won’t want to pass just because of the appearance. Churchill prides himself on making indulgent desserts that, despite looking disgusting, are actually quite delicious.

Here’s how he makes that apple. The maggot is chocolate!

Churchill has amassed a huge following on both Facebook and Instagram, where fans can see videos and pictures of his latest and most outrageous creations. One of his most popular treats is an olive oil sponge cake that looks incredibly similar to a soapy kitchen sponge:

This creation is made with a dense cake topped with a mint crumb — which looks exactly like the rough side of the sponge. Churchill plates the dessert with a baked apple coulis to imitate the look of dishwashing soap and a toffee sauce to mimic grimy dishwater. The creation is then topped with a sweet milk “soap sud”, completing the insanely realistic look of a sudsy sponge. This is how he does it:

Maybe you can deal with the grimy sponge. But would the look of a beating heart served up for dessert throw you off? In this creation, the resemblance to a human heart is uncanny. But don’t worry, it’s just a ganache-filled cookie with charred strawberries, burnt rose gel and coconut:

Still unphased? Well, would you dare dive into this ashtray? From the image, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a real ashtray and Churchill’s dessert, which makes actually tasting the deliciousness of this vanilla pannacotta all the sweeter. He brings together a smokey lapsang (tea) gel, meringue powder and chocolate to create this masterful illusion:

There’s one more thing that’s truly shocking about all of these creations: Churchill is self-taught in the world of desserts. He’s been a professional chef for more than 10 years, but he only began teaching himself basic pastry techniques three years ago, he told This Is Insider. While he creates some of his desserts quickly, other ideas come to him over the course of a few weeks. He developed the ashtray dessert over six months.

“Ultimately, I want people to have the freedom and confidence to make whatever they like,” he said in the interview. “I love the reactions [on social media], both good and bad, but ultimately, I want to inspire people to break the rules.”

For a compilation of his most disgusting-looking work, the chef created the video below, which features “The Gross Desserts” and includes the aforementioned maggot apple and dirty dish sponge; the “moldy” Sumatra, an orange parfait coated in a shiny glaze and finished with bubblegum-flavored meringue powder that resembles mold; and his edible “soap” bar, a lemon parfait filled with lavender gel, finished off with a chamomile shortbread and molded into the shape of a bar of soap.

But not all of his amazing creations are going for gross — other desserts imitate the look of a savory dish. Check out this KFC-inspired dessert made with chocolate cake coated in cornflakes and chocolate, served with deep-fried pastry and chocolate sauce:

Will you ever look at dessert the same way again?

Curiosity, Desserts, Food

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About the Author
Chelsea Davis
Chelsea is a freelance journalist based in New York City whose passion revolves around traveling the world, immersing herself in foreign cultures, and of course, eating and drinking everything delicious. She covers all things food, drink and travel and is always up for an adventure, whether that means an adrenaline-pumping excursion or trying a new cuisine. Follow her on Instagram at @cheycheyfromthebay and keep up with her latest work at

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