Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tackling Cake Competitions... A different approach...

Each year in April, there is a cake competition in the Philadelphia area to benefit City of Hope. And since 2011, I've entered the competition with a goal in mind. I'll bet you won't ever be able to guess what my goal was...ha ha

The first year, I'd never entered any type of competition before. In fact, I was still a baby to cake decorating.  I had only begun decorating 3 short years before. So for me, I felt very much "out of my league". To go up against bakeries and cake shops that have years of experience and awards under their belts was daunting. And quite frankly, my attitude was a little different than most. If I didn't think I could win, I didn't want to bother with the time or expense to enter. So... I approached it from a different angle than most would.

I researched winning cakes, and then set out to design my cake based on what it took to make a competition cake a "winning cake". I looked at how many various techniques were used, how well they were used, complexity of design, neatness and precision, etc. And I decided that whatever subject matter my cake was going to portray, it HAD to show a variety of techniques and mastery of each of them. Piping, stenciling, hand painting, modeling, sculpting, sugar work, gravity defying, etc. etc. And then I spent a great deal of time planning out the structure and sketching. Then set to work on all the details. It took a LONG time to complete the cake. But hey... It won! My first year, nobody knew who I was. No one had heard of me. And out of 5 potential awards, I walked away with Best Tasting, Most Artistic, and Best of Show. Not bad for my first competition. Hooray!!!

The second year was a little different. I had decided to merge my cake shop with another local shop and we wanted to collaborate on a cake to prove that together, we were a strong and talented team that could accomplish great things together. Again, we approached the design through the eyes of a judge. What would it take to make a winning cake. And we put quite a bit of time and energy into the cake. We spent more time planning and preparing for the build of the cake than we actually spent on making it. But in the end, it paid off. This time we won People's Choice, Best Use of Theme, and Most Artistic. As far as Best Use of Theme, well, the theme was "Under the Big Top". So you can see that we built an entire circus "under the big top". 

The third year and I believe my final year, the theme was "At the Movies". Since the merger with my business partner failed miserably, my new team and I decided that it was important to compete again to show that we were still a strong and talented group of artists who together could accomplish amazing things with cake. We wanted our customers to see that artistically, nothing had changed and we were still capable of producing phenomenal edible art.

So Clara and Kevin and I set out to plan our cake. This time around, we chose a theme we could have some fun with. And what's more fun than a Children's cartoon? We chose Beauty and the Beast. I have to say, of the cakes we've pulled off, it's the most AMAZING show stopper! My team kicked boo-tay! Again, we approached the design with the judges in mind. We wanted to show a variety of techniques and skill level. And with 3 of us working on the cake, there had to be elements we could each work on individually to show off individual talents and skills so when put together, the whole would be remarkable. It it was! 

 For the third consecutive year, Truly Custom Cakery, LLC received the award for "Most Artistic". I am so very proud of my team. My 19 year old assistant Clara created the Beast (all by herself with NONE of my help!), she did the rose, chandelier, and much of the castle. Kevin did all the stained glass work, sketched the whole design, airbrushing, and helped make sure that the characters had "life" to them. My tasks were Belle, Mrs Potts, Lumiere, and Cogsworth (with the help of Kevin). And when it was all said and done, it was AMAZING!

We've had it on display in our shop since April and it's such fun to see the reaction from our little customers as well as the adults. Oh yea... and my staff proved that we are indeed, an incredible team!  I love you guys! You're the best. I've never had so much fun at work and cherish all the laughter and ribbing that we have enjoyed.