by Linda Cloutier

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Colorado State Fair-Themed Cake Decorating Contest

The final contest at this year's Colorado State Fair was the Themed Cake Decorating Contest held on Monday, September 5th. The theme...the Fabulous Fifties.

This is always an interesting competition. I've found that the judges take the theme very literally and this isn't the place to think outside the box. They have also been very vocal in the past about their preference for buttercream over fondant.  Despite the fact that the rules clearly state that dummies are permissable, last year I noticed the judges subtlely lifting the cakes to determine the medium used. Hmmm....

I used the form cake that I posted about here so, while it wasn't "real" as in, we're going to take it home and have it for dessert tonight, it wasn't a styrofoam dummy, either. As for the cake decoration, what could be more fabulously "Fifties" than a bobby sockser in a poodle skirt? I've never made a doll cake before so I was really looking forward to it.

I started with a skirt baked in a bowl and then carved to attain the small waisted a-line shape I wanted. No well-dressed, well-brought up young woman in the fifties would have dreamed of going out without a slip under her skirt.

To make the lace trim. I used this mold I made in the class I took with James Roselle.

I gave her a pink skirt with a black poodle.

A white strapless blouse and a few accessories completed her ensemble.

A black and white checkerboard dance floor and a few details like a pair of gumpaste saddle shoes, tiny icing earrings, a belt, a bow in the poodle's fur, music notes, and little records (45 rpms, of course) and there she is..."Peggy Sue, all tarted up to go to the hop". Win or lose, I am thrilled with this cake and would love to do another doll cake.

This brings us to delivery. Thanks to some well-placed royal icing and great "cake driving" by BCHE (best cake husband ever) she arrives at the fair in pristine condition. There were just eight entries this year, a lot less than last year. The judges did their thing, and yes, once again, that little lift looking for dummies. Time to announce the winners...

In third place...

In second place...

Peggy Sue!
And in first place...

I have to tell you, the jukebox really played music!

All in all, my whole experience at the fair this year was fun and rewarding. A second place win in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship and a second place in the Cake Decorating contest left me feeling very happy. And even though my Peachy Keen Cupcakes didn't place, I now have a great recipe of my own creation.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Peachy Keen Cupcakes; Gingered Peach Cupcakes with Peachy Cream Cheese Frosting

Peachy Keen Cupcakes
Gingered Peach Cupcakes with Peachy Cream Cheese Icing
Gingered Peach Cupcakes
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups C & H granulated sugar
1/4 cup crushed crystallized ginger
1 cup mashed fresh or frozen peaches
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup+ 1 tbs peach nectar
1/2 cup + 1 tbs vegetable oil
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp double acting baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

  Pre-heat oven to 350
·      Line standard sized cupcake pans with paper baking cups
·      In small bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks; set aside
·      Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into medium bowl; set aside
·      In mixer, cream butter, sugar and ginger until light and fluffy
·      Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each
·      Add peaches and vanilla
·      Mix vegetable oil and peach nectar in a measuring cup
·      Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mix thoroughly then add ½ of the liquid and continue, mixing thoroughly after each addition until all the flour and liquid have been incorporated
·      Gently fold in beaten egg whites
·      Scoop into cupcake pan to 3/4 full; bake about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
·      Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool completely on wire rack
·      Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes
Peachy Cream Cheese Icing
1/3 cup cream cheese, room temperature  
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature  
1/3 cup vegetable shortening    
6 cups (about 1 1/2 lbs) C & H Confectioners’ Sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped peaches
2 tbs peach nectar 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
·     In mixer, blend cream cheese, butter and shortening until very creamy and smooth
·     Slowly add sugar, nectar, vanilla, and lemon juice; mix on medium speed until smooth
·     With mixer on low, add peaches and mix until incorporated
·     Frost completely cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with crystallized ginger
·     Makes enough to generously frost 2 dozen cupcakes

C & H Sugar Cupcake Challenge at the Colorado State Fair 2011

Last night was the C & H Pure Cane Sugar Cupcake Challenge at the Colorado State Fair. This was my second baking competition. The rules stated that the recipe must be original, made from scratch using no mixes or premade frosting, and contain at least 2 cups of C & H Pure Cane Sugar. Cupcakes would be judged on cake taste and consistency, frosting taste and consistency, creativity, and overall taste and presentation.

Since peaches are in season now, and here in Colorado we have the wonderful Palisades peaches, I decided to base my recipe on peaches. The theme of the fair is The Fabulous 50s so what better name than "Peachy Keen Cupcakes"? Hey, I watched Happy Days.

I created my Peachy Keen Cupcakes by making a "Gingered Peach Cupcake" topped with "Peachy Cream Cheese Icing". I'll post the recipe in a separate blog post. They got all thumbs up from my trusty taste testers.

This is two of the judges tasting my cupcakes. It doesn't get easier to watch someone taste and judge your creations. The other entrants were so nice! We were all nervous together and for each other! There were 17 entries and it took over an hour and a half to get through all the tasting.

Sadly, my cupcakes didn't place. On the bright side, two of my new friends placed first and second so I was very happy for them! ALL the cupcakes looked so good, I don't know how the judges do it. Even though mine didn't win, trust me, they're really good so the winners must have been amazing. I'll be back next year!

Final Fair competition on Monday, the Themed Cake Decorating Contest!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hazelnut Mocha Custard, the Recipe

Hazelnut Mocha Custard

1 1/2 oz Ghirardelli unsweetened chocolate, chopped*
1 1/2 oz Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate, chopped*
1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
1/2 cup strongly brewed hazelnut flavored coffee
1 heaping tbs hazelnut spread ( Nutella )
2 tbs sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
White Chocolate Cream (see below), optional
2 tbs finely ground hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 300.

In a double boiler or microwave, melt chocolate and set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm cream, coffee, hazelnut spread and sugar, stirring constantly, just until sugar dissolves completely. Do not allow mixture to boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth. Slowly add warm cream mixture and whisk until smooth. Add melted chocolate and stir to combine. Stir in vanilla,

Pour mixture into four 4 to 6 ounce ramekins or custard cups. Place into 9 x 13 pan, at least 1 inch apart. Fill baking pan with hot water to about 1/2 inch from the tops of the ramekins.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Test for doneness by by lifting and tilting a ramekin; custard is done if the center bulges a bit when tilted. Don't over bake. I actually start testing at 35 minutes just to be safe.

Allow custards to cool; cover each with plastic wrap (don't let covering touch the top of the custard) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Optional: before serving garnish with a piped swirl of white chocolate cream and sprinkle with ground hazelnuts.
Optional White Chocolate Cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup of strongly brewed hazelnut flavored coffee
1 cup Ghirardelli White Cholocate Chips
1 tsp vanilla

In heavy saucepan, heat cream and coffee until very hot. do not allow to boil. Pour warm cream over white chocolate chips in a bowl and stir until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla. Allow to cool and whip to desired consistency
*This recipe can easily be made with 3 ounces of either type of chocolate

Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship at the Colorado State Fair

It feels like it's been forever since I've done anything competitively (I've decided that submitting a picture to a web site DOES NOT count) and I realized this week that I've missed it. As I wrote about before, the Colorado State Fair opened yesterday, and last evening I had the pleasure of entering my Hazelnut Mocha Custard in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship.

The rules stated that all recipes had to be original; must include Ghirardelli chocolate and no more than 10 additional ingredients; from scratch, without using mixes or prepackaged items. Entries had to include 3 copies of the recipe and proof of purchase for the chocolate.

I've been perfecting the recipe over several weeks and was very pleased with it. When it was time to make the final, do-or-die version to be presented to the judges I felt confident about it and things proceeded nicely. What I hadn't anticipated was that there wasn't any extra custards to do a "just-to-be-on-the-safe-side" taste test so I had no idea if they had come out as good as the last time I made them. Sure-fire way to instill insecurity right there!

Upon arrival, I set up my dessert and took a few pictures.

Planning the presentation was as much fun as creating the recipe. Pier 1 has a fantastic Tasting Party line and after much angst and drama, I decided on the red and white custard cups. The were the perfect size for an individual serving and more unique than a traditional ramekin. I also got a set of absolutely darling itty-bitty tasting spoons. Served on a white tray lined with a red rose patterned felt cut-out placemat with a red napkin. Pretty!

There were four judges, one of whom was the Ghirardelli NATIONAL Champion. Initially, they walked around and looked at all the entries. The entries varied greatly, and included a cake, two different cheesecakes, parfaits (also mocha hazelnut, so much for my creativity), scones, brownies, stuffed and chocolate covered strawberries, a chocolate chip cheesecake ball, and ice cream. Everything looked fantastic!

The judges (tough job, right?) sat down and were presented with each recipe and dessert, one at a time. They really scrutinized the recipes, reading through each one carefully. They then looked closely at the items from all angles, smelled them, and finally cut or served them to be tasted. They all kept their poker faces throughout the process so there was no telling what they thought of each dessert during the tasting.  Talk about nerve-wracking! I was twitching and fidgeting, nervous as all get out! How do those people on Top Chef go through that every week?

The whole process took quite some time. It was well over an hour and a half after they started that they were finally finished and announced the winners. Soooo...

Third place...Cheesecake-stuffed, Chocolate-covered Strawberries...

Second place...Hazelnut Mocha Custard! Yay...happy dance!

First place...Who cares? I won second! No, just kidding! It was the ice cream.

And what were the prizes? Absolutely fabulous!

A Ghirardelli Chocolate apron, an AMAZING gift basket, $50 (for 2nd place) and a really pretty red ribbon! Here's a closer look at the gift basket, which included 5 bags of chips, 6 different 4 oz bars of chocolate and 2 containers of cocoa.

All three winners had their pictures taken wearing our new aprons. Everyone was so nice. We spent some time chatting with some other entrants during the judging and afterwards shared samples of our treats with each other. All in all, a very pleasurable evening!

Next week...C & H Sugar Cupcake Challenge! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gearing up for the fair!

Well, I'm gearing up for a couple of busy contest weeks as the Colorado State Fair approaches. It opens on the 26th.

This Friday, I'll be entering a dessert in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship. I didn't go with a cookie or a cupcake. I tried to think outside the wrapper but hopefully not too far out. Personally, I think it's delicious. We'll see if the judges agree. Oh, and I love what I got for the presentation. Has anyone checked out the Tasting Party line of goods at Pier 1? Fun!
Next Friday is the C & H Sugar Cupcake Challenge. My recipe has been tweaked and twitched and is hopefully perfect. I've aimed for creative but not strange; seasonal, using locally grown ingredients that are also readily available anywhere, year round.

This is a first for me. Except for some frostings and fillings and maybe fiddling with flavors of existing cake recipes, I've never formulated my own recipes before. I have to say, I really enjoyed the process. I've also never submitted to a TASTING contest, either, it's always been about looks.

Finally, on Labor Day, the last day of the fair, is the cake decorating contest. The theme is "Fabulous Fifties". I haven't even started on it. Believe it or not, I'm still knocking around ideas. I'll definitely be kicking it into high gear this weekend.

Details, pictures, and results coming soon!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Update on the latest online contest I entered...

Hi! I finally have an update on the online contest I entered in early July and posted about here. The winners have been posted and, as expected, my cake wasn't one of them. All the winners and honorable mentions were gorgeous and the 1st place winner was my personal favorite.

In the meantime, I've been busy tweaking and perfecting my recipes for the tasting competitions coming up at the Colorado State Fair. I've settled on the Cupcake Challenge and the Chocolate Championship and will skip the Great Cakes. My cakes taste as good as they look but the recipes aren't my own. I did try one but it was a flop. Maybe next year.

The theme for the Fair and the Cake Decorating Contest is "Fabulous Fifties" so I've also been working on design ideas for that.

Thanks for reading...I'll keep you posted!

Monday, July 18, 2011

1000 Cooks for the Cure

Whoa...check it out! Half Baked - The Cake Blog

Another blog to love...another giveaway...and a great way to give! Sadly, I've never heard of 1000 Cooks for the Cure (how could I have missed that?) and it's too late for me to pull something together this year but you can bet I'll be hosting a dinner party next year!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fabulous blog...fabulous website...fabulous giveaway!

Hi! I can't believe it's been a month since I posted! there has seriously been nothing going on in the way of competition! Oh, well, soon enough.

Here's why I'm posting today. Check out the fabulous blog I just discovered! Paper and cake is currently doing a great giveaway. Just WAIT until you see the cake and cupcake stands feature in the post. Droolworthy!

Hurry, though, time is running out!

*UPDATE* I won the giveaway! Yay! A gorgeous, handcrafted cakestand that will be a wonderful addition to my collection...

...from Delightfully Lovely and a $50 store credit from paper and cake. Pretty sweet!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Branching out

In more competition news, I'm considering trying something completely outside the box for me. Tasting competitions! The Colorado State Fair has a few "Special" contests, including a Cupcake Challenge sponsored by C & H Sugar, a Chocolate Championship sponsored by Ghiradelli and a Great Cakes Contest sponsored by King Arthur Flour. It's definitely related to cake decorating...what's underneath the decor has to taste as good as it looks, right?

All recipes have to be original and unpublished and completely from scratch. Now, I bake from scratch all the time, and I've developed my own recipes for simple things like fillings and frostings, but never cake or cupcakes! I've been busy doing research and applying it to what I already know and yesterday made my first and second draft of my very own cupcake recipe! It does still need tweaking but I'm very pleased with both the cupcake and the icing. I had NO IDEA how fun this would be!

I have a couple of concepts in mind for the chocolate and the cake contests but I plan to perfect that cupcake before moving on to the next thing. Of course, all recipes and ideas are secret until I submit them!

Just for fun, though, here's a sneak peek at version # 2...

Thanks for reading! I'll keep you posted!

Another online contest

So, online contests being what they are, I still really don't favor them. I figure if my cakes lose something in pictures, I'm sure many others' do, too. However, all that being said, I caved, and once again entered an online contest. The theme is "Flowers, flowers, flowers" and I entered Katie's cake as it has some of my best flowers to date on it...

One of the positives about an online contest is that you don't necessarily have to make a cake; you can use one that you already have pictures of, as long as it qualifies.

The contest is hosted by an online cake decorating community. The judging is done by registered members, most of whom are cake decorators; cakes are ranked on a scale of 1 to 5. All points are tallied to determine the winner. I'll let you know how I do once the winners are announced sometime after July 5.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How I Met Two Food Network Challenge Competitors!

Since there's so little going on competition-wise at the moment I thought I'd take the opportunity to share about a recent class I took. I spent a wonderful day at Intricate Icings, Rechael Teufel's beautiful cake shop in Erie, CO taking a Make Your Own Lace Molds class with James Roselle. Rachael, along with her very talented assistant, Avalon, was a gracious and generous hostess. James was charming, exceedingly nice, and a great teacher! Mold making was something intriguing to me that I had never done before.

We started out by learning how to make silicone molds from our lace. It was really fun seeing what kind of lace everyone brought. Rachael graciously let us use her brooches to make additional molds. While the molds were setting up, we covered our cake dummies with Fondarific fondant. Very nice, I must say. James (and Rachael, too!) gave us lots of tips and tricks for covering cakes! Once they were stacked, it was time to unveil the molds. Here's mine:

My original lace and its mold

A mold of one of Rachael's brooches
We then used our molds and fondant to decorate our cakes! I made borders and cut-out blossoms with mine but I left with an unfinished cake.

I had brought the pink hydrangeas with me.
Here's all of us with our cakes:

People l to r: Molly, Erin, me, Renee, James
Cakes l to r: Renee, me, James, Erin, Molly
So, now I've armed myself with silicone plastique and went on a mini shopping spree at Mill Outlet Fabric Shop, the best fabric store ever, and purchased several pieces of lace, and trims, and buttons and can't wait to start playing!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Online Contest Update

As I stated a couple of posts ago, I really don't like online cake decorating contests. Even so, I decided to enter this cake into a contest featuring gumpaste flowers...

The contest was on a social networking site specifically for cake decorators. The format is that the photos are posted and site members vote for their favorites. After a pre-determined amount of time, the site mods cull the top ten vote getters for presentation to the judges, who then choose the winners.   

The top 10 vote getters were just posted. You can see them here.

As you can see, my cake didn't make the top 10. It did get several votes ("likes"). It also got several "favorites" (a favorite is when a member saves your picture for inspiration) and some lovely comments. Coming from fellow cake decorators, the favorites and comments are highly flattering and mean so much more to me than winning!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wilton Cake Decorating Challenge, October 2010

My former Wilton instructor hosted another cake decorating challenge at Michael's in October, 2010. The cakes needed to be at minimum two tiers and "seasonal in design (specifically Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, or Christmas)". Cakes could be covered in icing and/or fondant ahead of time and up to 50% of the decorations could be made in advance. 

I decided to do a haunted pumpkin patch. In advance, I made gumpaste pumpkins, a trick or treat bag, witch's hat, a broom...and an over-sized spider...all really fun to make!

In addition, I made a pumpkin carved out of cake and covered in orange fondant for the top.

Making the deep purple for the night-time background was no easy task! Purple is a notoriously difficult color to work with. I used a lot of violet food coloring and added a very small amount of royal blue. Since purple also fades very quickly, I waited until the day before the challenge to color it and kept it in a ziploc bag wrapped in a dishtowel to keep it away from light. I covered the cake the morning of the competition. I also made and colored all my buttercream the day before. The black buttercream was even harder to make than the purple fondant!

I packed up all my stuff and hauled it, along wih the cake, to Michael's. We had an hour and a half to decorate our cakes on-site. I did all the piping, and hand cut my ghosts and bats and cut out my full moon while there. It was so much fun assembling this cake! I especially enjoyed piping the tree and the fence.

The concept for the cake was that a trick or treater (costumed as a witch, of course) was walking by the pumkin patch and was frightened away, dropping parts of her costume as she went.

There were four of us competeing and from what I understand, it was a really close can see's the other finished cakes....they're all great!

Soooo....guess which one won?

Yep, mine! Both judges' and customer favorite, thanks to all my friends who came out to vote. The feedback that I got was about the vibrant colors and neatness of execution. That's the good news...the bad news is that I've been banned from future challenges as a two-time winner. OK, not BANNED, but I can't enter again. I may be able to help with judging but I do know that I'll definitely be at future challenges to cast my vote for my favorite cake!

I had a great day. I won great prizes. People enjoyed my work. AND my cake lasted through Halloween without fading! What more can a caker ask for?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2010 Colorado State Fair

So, we're now up to my second time entering the cake decorating contest at the Colorado State Fair. This was last September. The theme of the fair was "Wild About Flowers" and the contest theme was "Earth Laughs in Flowers". I had a really hard time coming up with a design, in fact I even considered not entering at all. Finally, inspiration struck...why not a flower joke, where the cake is the punchline? I Googled "flower jokes". Who knew there were so many? Here's the joke I settled on...

"What do you call a country where everyone drives pink cars?"


My cake was a basket of gumpaste carnations. I think I made 50 of them!

In progress...pre-dusting
The basket was an inverted 1/2 ball and a 6" round covered in royal icing basketweave piping. If you look back at my first venture in this particular competition, I mentioned that the judges don't like fondant too much. That piped basket was for them!

My basket of carnations sat upon a 12" x 16" slab cake with the joke written on it. Around the sides of the cake were cars in varying shades of pink. Here's the finished product...

Not my best work, but I thought it was a pretty fun cake and a clever interpretation of the theme. Not to mention, pink and green are among my favorite color combinations.

Once again, the judges do their thing. Once again, the judges discuss their preference for buttercream. They announce the 3rd place cake. It's this one...

 They announce the 2nd place cake. It's this one...

And in first place...

Fabulous cake!
The winner was, hands down, the best cake there.

Lessons learned? PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU'VE ALREADY LEARNED!! I knew, from last year, that this contest doesn't favor creativity and thinking outside the box. Remember all those barns? No matter, I still liked my cake and my concept and I'll wow 'em next year!

As always, thanks for allowing me to share. Next up, another Wilton/Michael's Challenge in October, 2010.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Online contest

I much prefer real life cake contests and competitions to those that are photo-based. My cakes always seem to lose something in photographs. Most likely because I'm a TERRIBLE photographer!

Anyway, that being said, I decided to submit a picture of my mother's birthday cake in a gum paste flower contest online. Winners will be announced in early April. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The 2010 El Paso County Fair

Time for another trip down memory lane to the 2010 El Paso County Fair last July and my entry into it's cake decorating competition.

I stumbled upon their contest quite by accident and decided to enter. There were three divisions in the contest. They were wedding, gingerbread house or novelty cakes. I entered a novelty cake; my first. The theme for the fair was "Catch the Spirit of Tradititon" and the logo featured a catchers' mitt and baseball. I decided to put that idea right into cake.

The rules stated that dummy cakes could be used; in fact they encouraged it, since the cakes would be on display for 10 days. Up until then, I hadn't used dummy cakes at all. My "best-cake-husband-ever", Dennis, helped my by picking up a sheet of 2" thick styrofoam and cutting 2 10" x 10" squares for me to stack and cover in fondant as my base. I covered it in green fondant and sponged on multiple shades of green royal icing for a grassy effect. I put a baseball diamond on top; added a border of gumpaste peanuts and the words "Take me out to fair" on the sides...

On to the best, most fun part...the glove and ball...for the glove, I started with pound cake baked in a 3-D heart shaped pan* and carved it into a glove, using a friend's glove as a guide. As a way to preserve it, I experimented by brushing it with 3 coats of watered down school glue (like you'd use for decoupage) and it actually worked!

I covered it in fondant and added the details, again using a friend's glove as the guide (Thanks, Kelly!) and shaded it with cocoa...
I added a fondant covered styrofoam ball for a baseball and made a tiny gumpaste ball and bat. Here it is all finished...

I'm not much of a sports fan, and we're not a sporty-type family, so I was kind of ho-hum going into making this but I really ended up having a fabulous time with it and loved how it turned out. It was the perfect ending to my summer vacation!

I delivered the cake to the fairgrounds the day before the opening.  Sadly, there were no other decorated cakes there and there was only about a half hour left to drop stuff off. They had no idea what to do with it and initially wanted me to wrap it in plastic like the other pantry entries. I explained that I had followed the rules and used dummies so there was no risk of spoilage so they decided to let it go uncovered but did say that it would probably be a wreck by the time I picked it up.

BCHE (best-cake-husband-ever) and I went to the fair the folloing weekend to check out the results. We get there and there are only two other decorated cakes, for a total of three cakes, each in a different division; mine, the novelty, a wedding cake, and one decorated by a child. There were no results on them like there were on the other entries so we thought they had decided not to award prizes. As much as I enjoyed doing the cake, I enter competitions for the competition so I was pretty disappointed in the whole thing. On the plus side, I did meet my new BFF, the cutest little pig you ever did see!

I went to pick up my cake on the allotted day and lo and behold...all three cakes had a 1st place ribbon! I collected my prize for "winning" first place...want to know what it was? Keep in mind that this is a small county fair...and no one really enters for the prize money...ready? It was $4...yep four dollars, no missing zeros there. I had to laugh!

On my way back to the car with my cake, I had so many people stop me to tell me how much they enjoyed it. One woman who has been involved with the fair for some time said they have in the past had more cakes entered but they've never had anything like mine. Apparently, it was quite a hit. She said the children, especially, loved it. It pleased me immensely to know that my cake had made people happy. That's why I decorate cakes!

*Note about that heart shaped pan...I found it at a yard sale, it's a discontinued Wilton character pan and I paid $2 for it. I've used it as a heart, made a chocolate covered strawberry with it and carved it into a baseball glove. I'd say that a pretty good investment of my $2!

As always, thanks for reading! The next competition I entered was the 2010 Colorado State Fair...more on that next time!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In Love with Lavender; The Process and the Judges' Feedback

I promise, this is the last post about this show!

This whole cake design flowed from my desire to incorporate piped lavender, a la Eric Lanlard's mini "Lavender Fields" cakes in his wonderful book, Glamour Cakes. I knew I wanted to pipe lavender on the top tier and really wanted the topper to be an extension of that. I love the look of a different technique on each tier.

Here's a bit of how the lavender topper came to be...

Fine gauge, cotton covered floral wire is dipped in royal icing using a piping bag and tip #4.

Once those dried (overnight) I piped on layers of royal icing dots (tip #2) in two shades of lavender and a little green, allowing to dry overnight between each layer.

To construct it, I used an inverted base from a cake pillar.

I filled it with green tinted gumpaste. Using a toothpick, I made holes and inserted the wire end of the flowers into the hole and sealed it with a dab of royal icing. I filled any remaining gaps with piped grass.

The finished result...

I've only worked with cake dummies on a limited basis in the past. This is my first whole cake constructed of styrofoam. Here they are covered in white fondant and ready to be decorated...

Sad and a bit exposed, no?
They slowly came together, though, with the addition of  a fondant ribbon, a monogrammed plaque, and some more piping...

A few layers of ruffles...

And a little bunch of hydrangeas...

So, just like with my other entry, scoring was on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 = excellent, 5 = good or above average, 1 = fair/needs improvement. Highest possibe score was 90. This cake was also judged by two well-known cake decorators.

My scores were 79 and 80 out of 90!

I got very high scores (9 or above) on Originality, Innovation (from 1 judge), Overall Eye Appeal (10s from both judges!), Skill, Neatness, Creativity, and Execution of Techniques. On Color Combination and Appropriateness I received 10s from both judges which was especially gratifying after they thought my pink and orange cake was a bit on the bold side.

I got an 8 from one of the judges on Innovation, and sixes from both of them on Number of Techniques Used.

Positive comments included "absolutely beautiful", "love the color scheme", "love the ruffled border", "very smooth fondant", "stunning overall", "wow", "ruffle is fantastic", "fine flower work", "awesome", "excellent".

Constructive criticism was that my hydrangea should have been higher up to show it off better. Also, to pat down the pointy tips on some of my piping. They were referring to the dots on the ruffled border, I decided to add those at the last minute and rushed a bit but, um, I do know better than didn't I do that? Sorry, Charity!

All in all, I think a fine showing for my final entry as an intermediate decorator. Next year I will have been decorating long enough to enter the advanced division.

Once again, the finished cake...
And yes, I did take a picture of it with it's winning ribbons, just because I'm a dork!

Next up, a jump back in time to the 2010 El Paso County Fair last July! Thanks for reading!