by Linda Cloutier

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sweet Times in the Rockies 2010, Chapter Two, The Cake!

Back to a year ago...a bit of a refresher...after my 3rd place win at the 2009 Colorado State Fair, I decided to enter a cake in the 2010 Sweet Times in the Rockies cake show. I entered in the Intermediate Adult Division, Tiered Cakes Category. I spent many hours making and shading gumpaste magnolias. I crafted an elaborate cake board cover. I also made some smaller blossoms and large and small leaves of gumpaste. We come now to the week before the competition. All entries are to be dropped off on the Friday, between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

At that time, it never occurred to me that I could enter a cake made of anything but cake! The only freezer space I had back then was the little side by side refrigerator so baking ahead was pretty much out, too. So, Monday, I made "crisco-cream" frosting (why waste good ingredients on a cake that won't get eaten?) and on Tuesday night I baked enough pound cake (from scratch!) to make 2 layers each of 6", 8" and 10" round cakes. On Wednesday night, I leveled, filled, and crumbcoated and tinted my fondant. Thursday night, all three cakes got covered in fondant.

The big day finally arrives. I had taken the day off from work so I could devote the whole day to decorating my cake! Bright and early, I check out my cakes and decide I hate the fondant on the cakes. I'm not happy with the color and I know I can apply fondant more smoothly than that! I peeled it off and started over! Round two was MUCH better! On to the design. You've seen those cakes with what looks like Chanel-type quilting on them? Um, yeah, that's a lot harder than it looks. Probably should have practiced that technique before trying it. Plan B there, too. The rest goes pretty smoothly and I finish about 3:00 p.m. leaving plenty of time for the drive to Denver.

Delivery was so much fun! Once I got my cake in place and assembled we hung out and watched other cakes arriving. Some of the cakes in the professional and masters divisions were amazing! Heck, some of the cakes in the kids' and teens' divisions were amazing! And the extravagant cakes...just wow! The other cakes in my division are pretty great, too. One of them has an almost identical color scheme as mine! Great minds and all that.

Now, the hard part...I have to leave my cake there, all alone, all weekend. The awards aren't announced until Sunday evening. I fretted and worried all weekend. What if people are poking it? What if someone broke the magnolia on top? What if someone knocked the the whole cake over? Those worries in addition to being convinced that there's no need to waste the gas going back because there's no way I'll get anything. The other cakes were way better than mine, weren't they? Finally, finally, after about two years, Sunday arrives and we head back to Denver.

There's a LOT more cakes than there were when I left on Friday. We take some time to look at all the cakes. I (naturally) had worried about mine needlessly; there were ropes set up a good three feet away from the display tables that people had to stay behind. We also took some time to walk around the Garden and Home Show.

The awards announcements start with the youngest of the children's divisions and go up. They get to my division and category and announce the third place cake. It's not me. It's this one...

3rd Place
Two peas in a pod...pretty cute.
They announce the second place cake. That one's not me, either It's this one...
2nd Place
Just look at that tiny bouquet of flowers...beautiful!
And in first place...

...wait for it... MINE! I'm shocked and amazed and VERY excited! Here it is...

1st Place! Mine!
Sadly, my award winning cake didn't make it home in one piece. It didn't even make it out of the parking garage. It fell over coming down the steep spiral exit drive.

Thanks for reading! Next up, the Wilton Cake Decorating Challenge, May, 2010.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Form Cakes and Other Fakes (Interruption continued)

I recently discovered a couple of ingenious tools for cake competitions...the first is cake dummies made of styrofoam! Not all competitions will allow them and, if truth be told, I truly believe real cake requires more skill to decorate. Real cake moves, and shifts, and bulges, and gets stale. All that being said, my purchase a few months ago of 4 "tiers" of  styrofoam cake is what is enabling me to enter more than one cake in the upcoming Sweet Times in the Rockies cake show. I will be covering them in fondant this weekend, more than two weeks before the show, as opposed to two days before the show. They look like this...

Styrofoam cake dummies
The other is a recipe for something called a form cake. There are competitions that don't allow styrofoam cakes. The recipe was originated as an alternative. It's "real" cake, but isn't truly edible and will last forever without molding. Hmm, except for the molding, it sounds a bit like my pound cake! Fellow Cake Central member bobwonderbuns (aka Cindy) tracked it down on a state fair website (I understand it's since been taken down) and very graciously shared the fruits of her labor with the rest of us! I made some this past weekend for my second entry, which will require very specific cakes shapes and sizes for which I don't have dummies. It baked beautifully! It's very firm and has a lovely outside texture. Here's a couple of pictures...

I'm really looking forward to decorating them!

The recipe is...
1 cake mix (I used the cheapest yellow cake mix I could find)
3 tbs flour
3 tbs meringue powder
1 cup water (due to my high altitude, I added an additional 3 tbs)

Mix for about 2 minutes, until well blended and smooth. Batter will be thick. Spread in greased pans (I also line the bottoms of my pans with parchment paper) and bake at 350 until browned (I was making small cakes so they were done in about 30 minutes).

I come from a long line of women for whom food equals love. Thus, I find great joy in cooking and baking good food for the people I care about. I do have to confess, though, that it is nice to take a little break from making sure it tastes as good as it looks. Just don't tell anyone I said that!

Next up...back to the past with Sweet Times in the Rockies 2010, Chapter Two, The Cake!  I mean it this time.

We interrupt this trip down memory lane...

...for an update on what I'm currently doing, competition-wise. As I've said, I'm working on two entries for Sweet Times in the Rockies, 2011. My designs are planned and drawn. All my supplies are purchased. Some flowers are made. Here's a sneak peek...

I had such fun making these hydrangeas. They may just be my new favorite flower.

I've submitted my entry and received my materials. I've signed up to volunteer. You can see me there 3:00 - 6:00 pm and 7:00 - 8:00 pm on Saturday, February 12. Stop and say "Hi" if you're at the show on Saturday!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sweet Times in the Rockies 2010, Chapter One, The Flower

Last year at this time I was preparing to enter what I considered my first "real" competition. Sweet Times in the Rockies is Colorado's Premier Sugar Art Show; it is put on by the wonderful people at the Colorado Chapter of ICES (International Cake Exploration Societe`). It is held in February in conjunction with the Garden and Home Show at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

I deliberated for a good long while before deciding to enter (I'm not good enough, I'll make a fool of myself, etc). After reviewing the rules, I realized that I was two months beyond being considered a beginner and had to enter the show as an intermediate decorator. I certainly felt like a beginner (still do, as a matter of fact!) and that made me even more nervous. Ah, well, I've already committed so, onward to inspiration.

Yellow is one of my favorite colors, so I know I want to incorporate yellow into my cake. The show is held close to Valentine's Day so I think some pink will work well with the yellow. I take myself to my local craft store to browse the silk flower aisles. I find an amazing silk magnolia. It's ivory, with soft yellow and pink shading and I love it. I decide to design my cake around this flower. I love it so much, it later becomes my inspiration when I re-decorate my bedroom. Here's a picture of it:

Silk Magnolia

Now, I have no idea if this even remotely resembles a real magnolia, as I've never seen one. I'll call it a "fantasy magnolia", just in case. Re-created in gumpaste, it will sit in glory on top of my tiered cake. I allow myself several weekends to work on it. It's a good thing, too, as it took much trial and error to get all the components figured out and done.  I finally create enough centers and enough ivory petals to assemble several flowers. It's time for color.

Back to the craft store for pearl dust. Pink and yellow. I've never used this stuff before. I had no idea what I was missing! Love it! On my next trip to the store I buy it in every color they have. I enjoyed every minute of shading those flower petals! Here's a picture of the sugar version:

Sugar Magnolia
On my score sheet from the judges, the fabulous and famous Rebecca Sutterby complimented my shading on this flower. How exciting is that? I was so pleased with them, but in hindsight I wish I had known then about steaming my flowers. I didn't do that until my next competition. But, once again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Thanks for reading. Next up...Sweet Times in the Rockies 2010, Chapter Two, The Cake! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

A look back at my first competition

The 2009 Colorado State Fair, the theme is "Birds, Bugs and Barnyard Friends". I immediately have visions of an homage to Charlotte's Web...turns out so did a good half of the much for originality! But I'm getting ahead of myself.



Butterfly, worm, ants
The cake is comprised of 2 14" round layers, 3 8" square layers, 1 8 " round and a 1/2 ball. That's a lot of cake. I made it all out of pound cake. Pound cake is heavy cake (at least my pound cake is, apparently pound cake is not my forte). It's all covered in fondant.

Here's the finished product on display in the fairgrounds' creative arts kitchen:

All done!
I start looking around at the other cakes. Hmmm...lots of barns, lots of critters, lots of spiders. There are a few interesting cakes mixed in though. A stunning 3 tiered blue cake covered in butterflies; a carousel. I'm starting to wish I had thought a little outside the box on this. Creativity matters, right? Unique is good.

The judges are introduced and do their thing. Once they're done and before they announce the winners, the head judge makes a little speech which basically says, in a nice way, "Fondant? That don't impress me much." Okay...I haven't got a prayer cake is all decked out in fondant, and it's design is the same as half the others there. Oh, well, it was fun making it and going to the fair.

But wait...they start to announce the 3rd! Yay!

3rd place-mine!
 Second place is another barn cake...

2nd place
and so is first...

1st place-cute, huh?

I'm still sad that the beautiful butterfly cake didn't place. It was easily the best cake there...


Lesson learned? Give the judges what they want!

Now, to get this behemoth home! My husband, who's the best cake husband ever, carried what must have been at least 50 pounds of cake, fondant, and plywood base through the fairgrounds, across the street and to the opposite end of the parking lot, all the while being stopped by people asking "Ooh, is that a cake? Did it win?" etc. I bought him lunch.

Next up...Sweet Times in the Rockies, 2010!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My very first blog post!

Hi! Thanks for joining me! I'm so excited to share my adventures with you. This blog is definitely a work in progress. I'll be making changes, additions, and tweaks as I go along. Bear with me, please!

I'm currently in the midst of preparing for my seventh cake competition. I'll be entering two cakes in the Sweet Times in the Rockies Cake Show in Denver, Colorado. The cakes will be on display at the Colorado Garden and Home Show at the Colorado Convention Center, February 12th and 13th. To see pictures from past shows, go here

I wish I had thought of doing this back at the beginning but, I didn't, so I'll use my first few posts to catch you up on my past competitive adventures! Stay next post will be about my very first competition entry... the 2009 Colorado State Fair, where the theme was "Birds, Bugs and Barnyard Friends"!