With state fairs, the OSASS, and other cake competitions looming, I thought I would give a few hints on making a better presentation for your work. Please don't take this as anything but hints from a veteran competitor and a more recent judge.
As a judge, the main thing that I have noticed is that fabulous work is displayed on less than fabulous boards. I've also lost a lot of points for my cake boards not being up to snuff.
If you use cake drums or florist foil, be sure the color coordinates with the cake. Always, always attach a coordinating or contrasting ribbon to the edge of the board. Hot glue works very well for this. If you use shelving paper to cover boards (my favorite), then, again, be sure that it looks right with the piece without overpowering it. Attach ribbon to any board that you enter into a competition.
A fondant covered cake should have a fondant covered board. This can be the same color or a complimentary color. Be sure the ribbon used comes to the top edge of the fondant to hide the cut edge. You may have to use two different colors of ribbon to get this wide enough. This looks nice anyway.
Another little known hint with boards is to make a cleat or finger lift. Usually I just cut two cake boards that are the size of the cake (several inches smaller than the main board), cover it with the shelving paper and hot glue it to the bottom. This looks nice and makes cake much easier to move without damaging it.
It may seem like boards are just a small part of the display, but take it from me, it's much more. This is especially important if ANY of the judges are from England. I have had some fantastic work marked down to third place because of the board not being "just right". These were cakes with botanically correct flowers, foliage, string work, embroidery, etc. The judges just didn't like the board.
For all those entering, congrats on your work and I hope the judges are fair. Please remember, they are human, and though they are not supposed to put their own opinions into their judging, it happens. Be prepared for comments that redesign your cake. Ignore it. You made the cake you wanted, not the way they would have done it. Don't take comments personally. The judges don't know who you are. Even if they do, it's not likely they will know your work that well, nor do they have time to judge things based on personal opinion of the entrant.
Sorry for the length. Like I said, I'm a veteran competitor.
These are all tips that I have learned over the last few years. Once I placed my cake on the display table for the San Diego Cake Club's Confections on Parade show this past March I thought I was doomed seeing the other two cakes in my category which was Foreign Technique. The other two cakes had such an extravagant display around the cake base to hide the actual board the cake was on. More is not always good!!!! I just had my cake sitting on a gold covered board with a satin ribbon around the edge. I thought "How boring!" Come to find out I won Best of Show with that cake. I took center stage on the BOS table because my cake was Best of the Best. I was shocked!!!!!! The judges don't care about all that puffy satin material. Sure it makes a nice display but it can distract from the cake it's self. I should also say that this may be a requirement possibly depending on the level of the cake show i.e. OSAS Covering your display board in fondant is very chic!!
I took hard packing material like what electronics come packed in and cut blocks out of it and hot glued to the bottom of my board. Taking care to make sure the blocks were even in size of course. Not trying to have a tilted cake.
More is not always better on a cake. You can have a lot of decorations, even difficult techniques but they could be executed poorly. You can have simple techniques executed well and score very high.
Color scheme, difficulty of technique, execution of technique are some of the things judges look for.
It is good to keep a list of these things to refer to when making a show cake. Never rush!!!! That was the big thing for me. I kept getting impatient with my piping waiting for it to dry so I could apply the next layer. I kept having to tell myself, "execution of technique"!!!!! I'm glad I found my patience because it paid off in the end.
I am getting ready to start on my cake for the AZ state fair. These are all great tips! Thank you!!
Since you mentioned you are a veteran at competitions, I hope you won't mind if I pick your brain a bit.
I don't do fondant covered cakes, only buttercream. However, I do fondant decorations/accents. In my very first competition, I actually lost 1st place by .05 of a point because my cake board was a Wilton white plastic cake plate. I had no idea. ( I did get 2nd though..woohoo!)
What would you suggest for the cake board for a buttercream frosted cake? I've used a drum before...white drum for white buttercream. And I've used a colored plastic serving tray that coordinated with the colors on the cake. Both those times, I won 1st place. But I wonder what judges think of boards that are cut to shape ( say the basic outline shape of the cake, assuming it's not the typical round or square). I have always been told it's best to have the cake board at least 4" larger than the cake too.
It seems to me that more often than not, cakes are fondant rather than buttercream nowadays and that makes me wonder if judges prefer them too?
Also, what is your opinion on the decorations for a buttercream frosted cake? Would you suggest the piping/borders be in buttercream as well or royal icing? Or does it make any difference?
Thank you for your insight!
Thank you for this info!
Although I'm years away from being a professional decorator, I used your "have a nice cake board" advice today for my first baby shower cake.
I dare say that my cake base (covered with baby wrapping paper and a bow I made from an online tutorial) looks better than the cake itself!
I know this post is 7 years old but I still want to say a big Thank You!!! for these hints, this was the only place I could find info on what was required for boards. By following these instructions I took two firsts and a second and show champion - it was a very small show - with positive comments about the boards in all 3 entries.