by Linda Cloutier

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!