Sugarflowers Posted 19 Sep 2008 , 6:54pm
post #1 of

Since there are several competitions coming up soon, especially the OSSAS, I thought I might give a little bit of advice for improving your chances at a show. These are things that I have either been dinged for doing, things that have been done well, and other things I have seen as a competitor and judge. This are just hints. They will NOT guarantee anyone a ribbon.

1. Neatness counts. Neatness will garner more points than a multitude of techniques.

2. Be sure that your cake board matches the cake design. Avoid the foil covered boards if you can. If you have nothing else, at least put a ribbon around the edge of the board.

3. The board should be lifted slightly. This gives it a bit of lightness, makes a better presentation, and is much easier to handle when setting up and moving cakes. It can be as easy as attaching a smaller, covered cake board to the bottom. Some judges check this, especially if they are from the UK

4. The board should be proportional to the cake and no less than 2 inches larger than the display. 3-4 inches works well. Only use larger than this for large border and/or board designs.

5. Try something new. Go just a little bit beyond your comfort zone. This is a great time to practice new skills. It can also help your portfolio to grow and to show customers what you are capable of doing. Even if you don't win, your customers will be more willing to pay more for your cakes if they can see your talents.

6. Remember, judges are only human. Judging is very subjective. It is not supposed to be, but it is. Be prepared for a judge redesigning your cake. It's annoying, but, again, it happens.

7. Do not try to decorate to please a judge. This rarely works. Decorate to please yourself and to improve upon your own skills.

8. Even though this is a competition, don't' decorate to beat someone you know is entering. This is like trying to please the judges. You don't know what your competitor has learned or if they are even entering. Remember, do something YOU enjoy.

9. Make your display a 360 degree display. It will be judged this way. In real life, there is a back to the cake. In competition, there is not. If you have a problem, do what you can to hide it and make it look like it is part of the overall design.

10. Be prepared to lose. Even if you have a display that is far better than the one sitting next to it, this doesn't mean yours will win. This goes back to judges being only human. Even if yours is the only one in the category, this does not mean you will get a blue ribbon, or even a red (trust me, I've been there...several times icon_cry.gif ).

11. If you are putting sprays of wired flowers onto your cake, DO NOT stick them into the cake. This will be points off immediately. If the flowers must go into the cake, then use cake picks (or hide the wires very well). Let the judges know if you have used cake picks.

12. If you have an unusual design element that you think others might not understand, then explain it. Give the judges good information. Just keep it short. They have a lot of cakes to judge.

I hope others have some hints to add to this. Some may not agree with what I have written. These are things that I have encountered since I started competing 13 years ago. Every show is different, so every outcome will be different.

The main thing is to have fun, learn wonderful new things, get some new toys... tools, and meet some really fantastic people.

Thanks for reading this.

Michele

81 replies
KimAZ Posted 19 Sep 2008 , 10:35pm
post #2 of

Thank you so much for taking time to share these tips!

KimAZ

jsmith Posted 20 Sep 2008 , 2:42am
post #3 of

Thanks for the tips! I went to my first cake show last Feb. and was so nervous. After it was over I told my husband I was never competing again because of all the stress but by the time I got home I was already planning next year's cake. icon_lol.gif I'll keep these in mind for next Feb. show.

Sugarflowers Posted 20 Sep 2008 , 3:46am
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I've said the same things a number of times myself.... almost every year. icon_smile.gif

Michele

SeattleCakes Posted 22 Sep 2008 , 3:26am
post #5 of

What is the best way to attach flowers with out sticking wires in the cake? I use styrofoam spheres for toppers in the real world, would that be ok in a competition? how about on the sides of cakes? Thanks!

kaysie

Sugarflowers Posted 22 Sep 2008 , 12:22pm
post #6 of

For the topper, styrofoam will work fine. It just has to be obvious that is is a topper and not more cake. Also be sure that NONE of the styrofoam is showing. I know this seems over the top, trust me, I've been burned on this one. Covering the styrofoam with green fondant will work (if you have leaves) and then using soft leaves to hide where the wires are inserted into that. The judges really hate to see holes in anything. A beautiful bouquet can be dinged pretty hard over tiny little details.

If you have to stick the flowers into the cake, just make it look like they are not stuck in the cake or that you can't see it. Hide them as much as possible. Sometimes the judges will let wooden skewers be stuck into the cake. If you decide to go this route, then put that information on the cake detail sheet (the one that lists the different mediums and techniques used).

This all must seem pretty crazy for a competition. However, when it comes down to deciding first place, then every flaw counts or discounts. icon_cry.gif The judging will go from a point system to cake to cake comparison. It gets pretty tough in this case. Just like in the olympics, the difference in first and second can be just a fraction of a point.

Good luck.

Michele

bafishr Posted 22 Sep 2008 , 4:33pm
post #7 of

Thank you, Michele, for all the info. Your cakes are gorgeous, just as you said it shows that the judges are not as impartial as they should be. Your Twilight over Tokyo is breathtaking.
I am entering my first competition next month. Melissa from CoutureCakeCreations has been a lot of help also.

tracycakes Posted 22 Sep 2008 , 5:39pm
post #8 of

Thanks for the tips! I'm entering my first cake show, OSSAS, and I'm really pushing my skill set. I'm tired, sore, stressed and excited. Michele, do they give comments on things that need to be approved or just a score or just award the prizes? I'm not really sure what to expect. I'm not entering the wedding cake competition, just the other categories of cakes.

Thanks!

Sugarflowers Posted 22 Sep 2008 , 8:30pm
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by tracycakes

Thanks for the tips! I'm entering my first cake show, OSSAS, and I'm really pushing my skill set. I'm tired, sore, stressed and excited. Michele, do they give comments on things that need to be approved or just a score or just award the prizes? I'm not really sure what to expect. I'm not entering the wedding cake competition, just the other categories of cakes.

Thanks!




Most of the time there are comments and suggestions from the judges on their score sheets. Not every judge does it, most do. It also depends on your division. There are more comments left for beginners than for the higher divisions. I've noticed that I don't get any helpful information since I had to enter in the Master's division. Others have said the same thing. I guess we are supposed to know everything and don't need any help. icon_confused.gif WRONG! icon_smile.gif

Also, in some shows, there might be awards given for only second or third. What I mean, is just because there are three cakes in a category that does not mean that each will get a ribbon of some sort. If the score is not high enough, then there will be no first place, etc. This is a little frustrating. I honestly believe that if there are three cakes in a category, then all should get a ribbon. I know that some will disagree saying that this will bring down the quality of the show, but I think it will encourage others to enter. Why continue to enter a show that is stingy with the ribbons? Of course, not every entry deserves a ribbon, but if there is only one display in the category, then it should get a ribbon. It's embarrassing to get a 3rd place with the only entry. At least the person brought something to the show. Give them some encouragement. JMO

Good luck at the show.

Michele

Price Posted 22 Sep 2008 , 9:30pm

Michele, Thanks for the hints and advice. I appreciate any help I can get! I have entered the Mid-Atlantic Cake Show the past two years and plan to enter again this spring. I've been bitten by the competition bug! lol. I got a 2nd place in the divisionals both years and would love to be able to get a first this spring. But even if I don't place, I love the show. I have learned so much and enjoy meeting other people with the same cake addiction that I have!! Your hint about the cake board is very helpful. I would have never occurred to me that the judges would be looking for the board to be raised!

I'd love to make it to OSSAS some day. Good luck to all of those who are entering cakes this year!

tracycakes Posted 23 Sep 2008 , 12:26pm

Thanks for the information! Of course, at the rate I'm going, I should be finished sometime Sunday afternoon. icon_lol.gif I'm just ready for Saturday at 10:00 so I don't have to think about it anymore. I'm looking forward to all of the events and demonstrations and NOT working on these cakes. icon_biggrin.gif

stephaniescakenj Posted 29 Sep 2008 , 10:40pm

Hi Michele, I just came across this thread and the information is fantastic. I'm contemplating entering a competition but I know I will be in way over my head. I feel like I'm ready for a challenge and even if I'm in last place, it will have forced me to step it up a notch. I have my basic sketch in mind, we are allowed to submit dummies, I want to use an odd shape in my middle tier and I don't know if I will explain this right. I want it to be round but taller than the rest of my tiers and concave in the middle so it will be an eight in round but it will go in to maybe 7 inches in the center. I haven't been able to find any dummies in that shape already so I assume I have to make it myself. I wasn't sure that the foam would cut too nice so I was thinking about using rice krispie treats, covering in royal icing to smooth out the bumpiness and then covering in fondant. would that work? do you have any other suggestions? One final question, my top tier will have gumpaste flowers on it, so what you're saying is to use flower picks to place them into the dummy? Thank you so much for all the information you've already provided. If you don't have time to answer these right now, I completely understand!
thanks, Stephanie

Sugarflowers Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 5:21am

Since the center tier will be considered sculpted, then either rice krispie treats or real can should be used. Don't forget to include 3 in-progress photos. You will need to show the cakes stacked, the base frosting and carving, and then your final frosted cake.

Be sure that it is well supported. The idea sounds good. Please post a picture.

Michele

stephaniescakenj Posted 30 Sep 2008 , 2:45pm

now I would have never known to take pictures of it during production. Clearly I don't know anything about competing! thanks so much for your help.

Sugarflowers Posted 29 Jan 2009 , 5:57am

Since there are several competitions in the very near future I thought I would bring this post back to life. If anyone has anything to add to help those entering please do so. We can all learn from others and every little bit helps.

Thanks,
Michele

onebigdogmama Posted 29 Jan 2009 , 6:21am

Thanks for bringing this post back. I was going to make a new post asking for suggestions for newby cake competitors. I do have a question. I am planning on using buttercream and dummies 6&10. Should I go with the all crisco being it will not be eaten. I was looking into the perma-icing but that will be a bit spendy. I'm wanting to keep this in a set budget of about $25 or so for everything (cake). And possible do 2 cakes--different categories. Thank you.

Sugarflowers Posted 29 Jan 2009 , 6:38am

Using the full shortening frosting will be the best way to go. Many years ago the perma-icing would have been accepted - not these days. As much as possible needs to be edible. It doesn't have to taste good, it just has to be able to be eaten without a person croaking! icon_lol.gif

Good luck!

Michele

all4cake Posted 29 Jan 2009 , 7:10am

What competitions are coming up????

tonedna Posted 29 Jan 2009 , 7:37am

there is one in Gainsville florida in February 17, I think there is another one coming somewhere in Texas
Edna icon_biggrin.gif

onebigdogmama Posted 29 Jan 2009 , 1:50pm

Oh, I forgot, if I do a stacked cake, still dowel as if it were a real cake, yes? OR glue the 6 & 10 together? TY!

sylly Posted 29 Jan 2009 , 2:09pm

Thanks for bringing the post back- this last one was very useful to me. icon_smile.gif There are a couple coming up in Texas- one in Austin at the end of Februaury and one in Mckinney towards the end of March. I can't wait!! icon_smile.gif

tonedna Posted 29 Jan 2009 , 3:07pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by onebigdogmama

Oh, I forgot, if I do a stacked cake, still dowel as if it were a real cake, yes? OR glue the 6 & 10 together? TY!




You dont need a dowel..a little bit of royal icing between layers will glue them well.
Edna icon_biggrin.gif

Sugarflowers Posted 31 Jan 2009 , 12:40am
Quote:
Originally Posted by all4cake

What competitions are coming up????




There is also a show in Phoenix, AZ on February 7 and another show in Baltimore, MD the 3rd week of March. I think the one in Baltimore is also going to be having a Food Network Challenge.

I hope to meet some of you in Arizona, I won't be able to go to the one in Maryland.

Michele

all4cake Posted 31 Jan 2009 , 4:00am

I reckon I'll keep my fingers crossed to be able to head back to Tulsa...It would be nice to go to all of them...but those are too soon for me to get to go.

adven68 Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 10:09pm

After watching 6 hrs. of cake challenges yesterday, I saw a couple of the Oklahoma shows & it baffled me why they don't allow wires in the cakes. It's perfectly sanitary, and used widely these days. Any insight?

Also, it seems like stringwork is what they look for the most. Do you find that true? I would much rather spend my time sculpting a phenomenal topper than getting carpal tunnel syndrome with a piping bag! LOL If I ever entered a show in OK...do you think they would hold that against me? Or might one balance out the lack of another?

Thanks!

__Jamie__ Posted 2 Feb 2009 , 10:21pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by all4cake

What competitions are coming up????




Arizona! Woo hoo!

Sugarflowers Posted 3 Feb 2009 , 6:12am
Quote:
Originally Posted by adven68

After watching 6 hrs. of cake challenges yesterday, I saw a couple of the Oklahoma shows & it baffled me why they don't allow wires in the cakes. It's perfectly sanitary, and used widely these days. Any insight?

Also, it seems like stringwork is what they look for the most. Do you find that true? I would much rather spend my time sculpting a phenomenal topper than getting carpal tunnel syndrome with a piping bag! LOL If I ever entered a show in OK...do you think they would hold that against me? Or might one balance out the lack of another?

Thanks!




The wire could have lead in it, depending on where you get it. I think this is the main reason for not wanting wires in the cake. Most people use the little picks to hold the flowers or a piece of matching fondant to attach them. It's allowed to stick the wires into the fondant blob.

It does appear that stringwork is all the rage right now. It is a difficult technique, but there were several cakes that have done very well without it. If you don't do string work, don't worry about it. Every year there are different judges and they all different tastes, so just do something you enjoy.

HTH

Michele

__Jamie__ Posted 3 Feb 2009 , 2:37pm

Yeah...stringwork? Awesome stuff....for someone else, I'm too fidgety for something like that!

kaat Posted 4 Feb 2009 , 2:01pm

Thanks for all the tips - SOOOOO helpful! I'm entering my first comp in April! I'm so excited/scared!

For all you canuks... CSSA 2009 comp is in Markham Ontario this year - more info is available @ cakescanada site.

mamacc Posted 6 Feb 2009 , 12:14am

I'm planning on going to Mid-atlantic this year...although now it's split into two shows. So now I have to decide which one to go to?!?

I think I'm just going to enter a sculpted cake the divisional competition though...I don't think I'm ready for the wedding cake yet competition yeticon_smile.gif

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