Cake Competitions – Part 1

Competitions are hard.

But most of all, there’s so much work and preparation that goes into any competition. Any. Well, except for the spelling bee competition that I entered when I was ten which I didn’t know how to prepare for other than reading the dictionary which I felt was rather aimless – I didn’t go through in the end.

I’ve done my fair share of cake competitions this year, but wanted to bring you into my amateur-ish take on this world of decorating cakes for competitions.

My decision to enter the Royal Melbourne Show was influenced by Hannah from Storytale Cakes. It never crossed my mind to enter the show, as I was still unaware of the cake competitions available in Victoria. Within a split moment I said, OK, I’ll do it! Mind you, I had entered the Art of Cake challenge which was happening during the Cake, Bake & Sweets show in Melbourne in October, so to have put my hand up for this competition meant more work from me.

I chose to enter the Birthday Cake or Celebration Cake category, which is a different take from my point of view. Competition cakes for me has always been wedding cakes or novelty cakes, and picking this category was a fresh take. I started having a boy’s birthday cake in my head, but as the weeks went by, I changed my mind and decided to create a birthday girl’s birthday cake. I’ve made several boys’ cakes, and a girl’s cake would be something to expand my portfolio.

I don’t sketch any of my cakes – I’m a terrible sketcher, and that is surprising given my avid interest in drawing as a child. I guess so many years in between were dedicated to studies that I just lost touch. The one thing that stuck with me when designing this cake was a maypole (the pole with lots of ribbons and people go around with it with the ribbons in their hands – yeah I had no idea that was what it was called!). It kept popping in my head for a long time, and I knew the design had to have a maypole in it.

The cake was going to be a two-tier cake, and I knew I wanted to try a new skill with it. During the brainstorming session, I have been watching Faye Cahill’s tutorial on Paul Bradford’s Sugarcraft School. She gave an in-depth tutorial on how she creates her signature cakes, which involved piping, silver leaf, appliques, and luster. what I loved most about the tutorial was that I had creative control as to how I can colour lustre, but most of all, you don’t need to keep hundreds of lustre colour when really you could make them all yourself! Because the lustre can have almost a silky sheen to it, I wanted a colour which was feminine, young, and playful. So I chose a yellow lemon tone to it. DSC_0565The maypole was going to be the feature on the top-tier, and so I wanted the tier to look as though the maypole is perched high and proud along plains of grass, and I will achieve that with a bit of watercolour. I added pieces of teardrop-shape white fondant to look like rolled clouds in the sky, and that gives it a bit of dimension. This project was where I wanted to have elements in both 2D and 3D to play with the eye a little, tacky as it may sound, but I know my eye gets drawn to such things.

 

DSC_0570The ribbons on the maypole was achieved using thin strips of coloured fondant, and I didn’t know how best to place them. So I thought, give it the illusion of the ribbons floating in the air . That required a lot of manoeuvring the strips so that it stays in place and doesn’t flop. People may start to think that it will need CMC so that it firms up fast enough, I’ll say if I’m impatient and I can do without it, so can anyone else. I may have gone overboard, but I think the effect just looks colourful. People’s eyes tend to go for something a little more colourful, doesn’t it? 🙂

Now I had to tie the two tiers together because at the moment they don’t look like they flow from one cake to another. Hence I decided to have little pink blossoms that flow from the top-tier to the bottom, in a ombre fashion. Genius, I thought. I started to pump these little babies out like there was no end to it, as they say, if you think you’ve pumped enough, you need to pump out more. And thankfully I did, and it looked like a cohesive cake piece.DSC_0569

Did I forget to mention that I had piping on this cake? Yes I forgot to mention that Faye’s tutorial heavily influenced this piece, and so I took a leap of faith and grabbed myself a piping bag with royal icing, and piped out a monogram that surprisingly did not take very long to do. After the monogram was done, boy did I feel triumphant! It may not sound like it is a big deal, but I am sure a lot of cake decorators may agree piping with royal icing, even buttercream, may be arduous and messy and stressful!

Here’s the finished piece!

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The complete competition piece

 

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Front

 

 

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This baby’s got back!

Delivering this cake to the competition venue was a stressful event for me – I lost my way and had absolutely no clue where to go. Finally after 40 minutes of driving aimlessly, I told myself I must place in this competition after my horrendous drive!

And guess what?

I did place! Second! This project is still very dear to me as it is my first win after many competitions, and I get a red ribbon too! (Blue ribbon is for 1st place winners, but blue isn’t really my colour anyway 🙂 )

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I’ll be keeping this piece for a while, but not too long as I have more plans ahead for amazing new projects!

Glory

I’m sorry that I haven’t kept a regular schedule of putting up regular blog posts; full-time job gets in the way, and cakes are rushed out of the house that I find myself inclined to post them on my Facebook page by default.

But I had to blog about my first royal icing and piping class experience. It was fun, the atmosphere was heartwarming and conducive, and most of all, there was much to learn from this class.

Months ago, there were classes by Kelvin Chua of vinism sugar art, announced by Glorious Delights. I knew vinism sugarart for a while now as I started cake decorating – not only was Kelvin another talented Malaysian sugar artist, but his work with royal icing was so beautiful, it reminded me of the conventional way of cake decorating – lots of piping etc. I had minimal experience with piping royal icing, and my skills with piping buttercream was not up to scratch – hot hands does not help! So it was decided, I shall attend one of his classes. Upon looking at the classes, I was very keen with all of them. So keen, that I would have paid to go to all of his classes, but no. I held on tight to my wallet, my money, and most of all, my sanity. Each class looked very majestic and beautiful in its own way, that I found it extremely hard to choose as back then I didn’t know what techniques would be more suited to me.

What do I pick?!?!

I decided to go with the “Glory” class as I found the visual for the cake stunning and I was keen to learn the steps involved in creating this masterpiece. Finally the day came, and deep down I was nervous but excited to find out what I was gonna learn and meeting both Kelvin and Tutin. Tutin, the host for Kelvin’s class at Glorious Delights, greeted me with such warmth and kindness that you felt at ease instantly. Her little studio was such a cosy setup, next to her house. The studio was admittedly beautiful  – I was excited to feel what it would be if I had a studio away from the premises of a house where I can store all my cake decorating tools, without invading the entire household with it. Kelvin was a character – a great teacher without a doubt, but you could say his “vinisms” were laughable and humorous. He doesn’t care about sharp edges on a cake, he says – because he can’t achieve them himself. And he will tell you to speed up where necessary. And when he has demonstrated what we will be working on, he says “bye bye” as a gesture to head back and reproduce what he said. He fills the class with humour, and I couldn’t be happier being in the class with eight ladies who laughed and were more than happy to joke around with Kelvin. What made me happier was meeting Grace from Grace of Cakes – her face just lit up when Tutin told her I was the face behind Van Goh Cakes, and it is a comforting thing to know that people just says they love your work etc, bit of a confident boost methinks.

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Blank canvas… Here Kelvin, no sharp edges!

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Learning one of the many techniques of piping – this was before the X-rated joke was thrown in haha!

Photobomb love when I'm trying to concentrate, LOL. From left to right: Hannah, Kelvin, Grace, Tutin

Photobomb love when I’m trying to concentrate, LOL. From left to right: Hannah, Kelvin, Grace, Tutin

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Kelvin working his magic on some of our pieces

I loved how the class was stretched out over two days, which gave us a chance to understand the techniques properly. And for once, I could experience what it’s like to leave a class on time! Piping with royal icing, I’ve learned, involves a lot of practice. It saddens me that not many cake decorators showcase this skill anymore, which to me is a fine handmade art and once mastered, you can adopt a style that suits you. I know I’m beginning to love the beauty it brings and I look forward to making a masterpiece of my own, creating my style and one day including it in my repertoire.

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With the master! Thanks for a great class

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All the ‘cocks 😉

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All of us burst into laughter as Tutin was getting excited snapping with my camera. “Ooooo” she says. LOL

Some of them have been back for Kelvin’s class, year after year. I now know why, and I think I’m about to do the same thing. Gotta save up for his class now!