Instagram is a visual feast of rainbow-bright salads and towering ice cream cones. And Lauren Ko's exactingly patterned pies and tarts (often studded with motifs like dragon fruit trapezoids and kiwi triangles) belong with the cream of the crop. But there's another reason her treats are gaining followers (175,000 and counting): The 30-year-old Seattleite is completely self-taught. Until recently, Ko worked as an executive assistant for a college chancellor—but now she's been catapulted into confectionary stardom.

Almond cream tart with wine-poached pineapple and quince. Photos: Courtesy of Lauren Ko

Her main ingredients:
"I'm inspired by geometric patterns, architecture, and textiles. I've seen things done with pie that involve cookie cutters or cut flower shapes, but I want my designs to feel more experimental. It also helps that Seattle has great produce. What can you do with ten pounds of cherries other than stuff it in a pie?"

Mixed-berry pie with beet-colored crust.

Her vision:
"I created a spoke design out of dough—it's based on some string art I found—and it's kind of become my signature. It's actually not that hard to execute, even though it looks complicated. But there are some designs that really stretch my brain. I once thinly hand-sliced five or six pears for a layered tart, and that was way more laborious."

Mixed-berry pie with freeze-dried-raspberry crust.

Her power tool:
"My pastry wheel! I used to slice straight edges with a paring knife and a cookie sheet. But the rolling wheel cutter, coupled with a metal ruler, has saved me so much time. Not to mention that my lines are now smoother and more consistent."

Raspberry-lemon curd tart with mango arrows.

Her grand plan:
"I'm going to teach a few local workshops and classes and develop more recipes—but I don't want to open a store and sell pies. Some take up to six hours to complete, so I couldn't produce them en masse. Right now I'm happy just sharing with friends. They're happy to eat what I make!"

Chocolate tart with kumquat tiles.


Next Story