This 'Food Illusionist' Makes Incredible, Confusing Desserts Shaped Like Sponges and Ashtrays

Olive oil sponge cake with mint crumb, sweet milk foam, and a baked apple puree.
Olive oil sponge cake with mint crumb, sweet milk foam, and a baked apple puree.
Courtesy of Ben Churchill

A self-proclaimed “food illusionist,” British chef Ben Churchill makes desserts that might not be so appetizing at first sight.

Churchill’s desserts “resemble other foods and everyday objects,” Bored Panda reports. Among his most popular creations are a vanilla panna cotta shaped like an ashtray, an orange parfait shaped like a moldy orange, and an olive oil sponge cake shaped like, you guessed it, a dirty kitchen sponge.

Vanilla panna cotta, Smokey Lapsang gel, meringue powder, chocolate.Courtesy of Ben Churchill

Churchill fell into the culinary world “by accident,” he told the Endpaper blog in 2017. After the chef dropped out of art school (he didn’t see a future in it), he took a job cooking at a local pub. But it wasn’t until about 2015 that he started learning how to make pastries.

“I had never done pastry before and wanted to learn, so I just started teaching myself,” Churchill tells Mental Floss in an email. “I ventured into fruit-shaped desserts, but found them too limiting. I used inspiration from films, video games, the world around me, to start seeing what I could do with food.”

Some of Churchill’s sources of inspiration include Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and LEGO, all of which he’s turned into delicious desserts. Last year, he published a book about his unique creations called Food Illusions.

Chocolate Iron Throne.Courtesy of Ben Churchill

“I’ve noticed people love the controversial ones like the sponge, so I decided to take this route with the ashtray,” Churchill says. “I love challenging perceptions, questioning good taste.”

That whole idea, in fact, is the premise for Churchill’s second book, he tells Mental Floss. The chef is still in the process of writing and making plans for his second volume of Food Illusions.

Lemon parfait, lavender gel, chamomile shortbread.Courtesy of Ben Churchill

Churchill thinks his lack of formal training has enabled him to push boundaries and have fun with his work.

“My rules?” Churchill tells Mental Floss. “Ignore the rules. If you want to do something, don’t question if you should, ask yourself how you’re gonna.”

To see more of Churchill’s work, follow him on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

[h/t Bored Panda]

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More


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Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

Computers and tablets


- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet 64GB; $120 (save $70)

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- Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones; $200 (save $100)

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Video Games


- Watch Dogs Legion; $30 (save $30)

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- Amazon Fire TV Stick; $30 (save $20)

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Hate Brown Apple Slices? Use This Simple Trick to Keep Them Fresh

Jessica Lewis, Unsplash
Jessica Lewis, Unsplash

Though they're perfectly safe to eat, brown apple slices aren't the most appealing-looking snack. If you love sliced apples but can't stand that fading color, eating them faster isn't your only option. All you need is a bowl of water and a bit of salt to keep your apples looking and tasting fresh and crisp long after you cut into them.

This trick for keeping apple slices from browning comes from Reader's Digest. Before picking up your knife, prepare a bowl of cold water. Stir in roughly half a teaspoon of salt for every cup of water and set the bowl aside until your apple slices are ready. Soak the slices for 10 minutes, drain them, and rinse them off to get rid of any excess salt. You can eat your apples right away or store them in a plastic bag or container for later. Either way, they should keep their appetizing white color for longer than they would without the saltwater soak.

Discoloration on an apple slice doesn't mean it's gone bad. When the enzymes inside an apple are exposed to air, they produce benzoquinone and melanins in a process called oxidation. This chemical reaction is behind your apple's rapid browning. Salt inhibits these enzymes, which slow down the oxidation process.

The saltwater trick is great for keeping apples looking fresh, but it only works if they've been sliced. Here's a tip for stopping your whole apples from going bad after bringing them home from the grocery store (or picking them straight from the tree).

[h/t Reader's Digest]