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