Hi, I'm semi-new to cake decorating. I've sent in an entry to the OK Sugar Art Show next weekend, but I can't make my mind up on what kind of cake to do. I've entered in the tiered division and the all occasion division. I was thinking of a tiered Halloween cake, but I'm not sure. I can work with fondant or buttercream or royal icing. Does anyone have any tips on what kind of cakes usually win or place, or what the judges are looking for. I've never been to this Show before. Thanks!
Welcome to your new addiction! Check out the site as they give some tips. What ever you do, do it as cleanly as possible. A few techniques well done will score higher than a lot of poorly done techniques. Don't forget your cake board and make sure to give it attention - make sure it's covered, ribbon around the side, etc. HTH!
Make sure you read the competition schedule *very* carefully as it is disappointing and frustrating to take in an entry that is not according to schedule (NAS) and therefore not be able to win an award. The schedule will tell you what you cannot do so avoid that. While it does mention what you can do, just remember it is not possible to list everything a creative person thinks up. But if what you wish to do is not listed as not allowed, if you are unsure try phoning the show to ask. Usually if it is not in the "cannot do" list it is okay.
Eye appeal, or visual impact, is very important as you want your cake to stand out when the judges run an eye over the exhibits. You achieve that by
1. Try for creativity in how you set your tiered cake. It is common to stack tiers one cake on another. Think of having a cake standing on its side rather than flat, or a 'creative' way of separating the tiers.
2. Color is extremely important. Using colors that support each other or bounce off each other is eye catching. Whether using strong color or pastel will be determined by the "style" you choose - soft and femine, traditional, op-art, contemporary.
3. Have a theme - even if it is just a theme in your head. The most formal and traditional wedding cake can still be designed and decorated according to a theme. A theme does not mean a story as such or a novelty design. To give a very simple example - if you used roses as a theme (to name just one flower) you would use a rose theme for embroidery or side design, perhaps in the cake borders, the color of your rose would be used for the cake cover or as highlights. Whatever is the main flower theme, you need a secondary flower and a small "filler" flower and leaves to fill in and give contrast, shape and interest.
4. To use your Halloween as an example you choose which aspect of Halloween you want to base the design around, and use decorative techniques that express that aspect. The colors would be those associated with Halloween and the time of the year.
5. I assume you would be in a novice or beginner section as you are "semi-new" to cake decorating. Even so you need to use a variety of techniques or skills on your entry (exhibit). There may be entries which are basically nicely covered with a piped border and an ornament or flowers - very basic - but as it is a *competition* you need to display skill. Use as many of your skills as you can without making the cake look over-done. You need open areas as well as those that are decorated. While it is true that doing something 'siimple' well is better than doing something more difficult 'badly' - that is very extreme. A competition is also to challenge exhibitors so attempting a more advanced skill and making a good attempt will earn points over not attempting anything at all... it is called degree of difficulty.
6. As mentioned by 'tracycakes' you need to make everything on the exhibit as neat, clean and precise as you can. Don't forget that if you do get something less than ideal...such as a mark in the cover, it may be possible to use your decoration to hide that. I can tell you in total honesty that some of the greatest design results have come about through making up for mistakes.
7. Make your board part of the whole design rather than using a plain board that is there "just" to hold the cake. In a single tier cake or the base tier of a tiered cake make sure the board is wide enough to protect the cake sides - and to give balance. The board is a frame so use it that way. You can cover your boards with the same cover you use for your cake, or you could use material that fits the design of your cake.
You can decorate the board to blend with the cake - for example if you use embroidery or piped work on the sides you use it in a simpler version on the board.
Make sure your boards are very well made, the right shape and the edges are neatened with ribbon to match.
It is also a good idea to put "cleats" which are small feet beneath the bottom tier board of a tiered cake or under the board of a single tier cake to lift it up from the table surface about 1/2 inch as that displays the cake and also makes it easier to lift the cake when you move it around. You can use small pieces of wood or other material that you attach underneath using glue.
Finally, although you want to win an award (everyone does and that is entirely natural) while doing your best *remember to enjoy yourself*. Don't try to guess at what the judge wants or others do too much, but work with what *you* love best and your own personal creativity will come through. In competition you are not tied to doing what someone else wants their cake to be - this is your chance to be yourself and present what you love best.
Use competition as a very valuable learning experience. When you go to see the exhibits study the others and look at what makes them stand out and also what does not look so good. If you take your time and really use your eyes and study detail you can learn a heap by observation.
As I don't know what skills you can do I cannot give real detail. If you do want more detailed help you are welcome to contact me by email - email@example.com.
Thank you sooo much for the all the time it took to type all of that out. I appreciate it so much. I also needed to hear to just enjoy myself and not stress over what the judges want to see!! I had almost talked myself out of submitting a cake, as I have two others to do this week. I know to most of you that probably doesn't seem like alot, but I work full-time and have three youngsters under 6, and I've only done one or two cakes for someone other than family! I'll post a picture of my finished project. Thanks for the support.
Thank you sooo much Summerr cos I'm in the same boat9though a different show and I've been in a twist wondering where to start only to stumble across this thread and am I glad!!!!!Thanks once again!
You are both very welcome "twinsplus1" and "Tee-Y" and I wish you every success.
Many people, in fact most people, see competition at least in reference to sugar art as "something you enter when you are good enough to win awards" and along with this is the underlying feeling that if they enter and do not gain an award they have somehow failed and look 'bad'. As they feel that way it most often happens that they just never enter competition as they don't want the possible disappointment.
I keep reminding all I can that in fact competition should be seen as "you enter competition so that you learn and become good enough to win awards". There is a world of difference between the two views, and also a world of difference in the benefits gained from competition.
Used as a learning tool competition helps you to develop and evolve your own personal style and creativity. You also are displaying your creation among peers, the colleagues who have gone through the same process as you in learning right from a beginner (nobody is born with an icing tip in their hand for which I am sure the mothers are very grateful), and have felt the same joys and disappointments. Of all people your colleagues can appreciate what you have achieved and what it took to do it.
If you ever hear an exhibitor putting down another exhibitor it simply shows their lack of understanding and knowledge, so let it pass.
For those who see competition only in terms of winning it will often be a disappointment as nobody wins all the time, and by looking only in terms of win or lose the mind is closed to learning from the experience so there is little learning taking place and that limits improvement.
I look forward to seeing the exhibition entries so I hope you both will upload photos.
Thanks summerr: That was a lot of wonderful guidance! I'm also thinking about entering a wedding cake in the CT Cake Competition in February. This will be my first entry ever and I'm very excited. I'm planning to enter the intermediate level competition. I've been making cakes for my children for the past seven years but have become serious about cake design over the past nine months. So I think I'm beyond beginner but it's very hard to place yourself.
Thank you so much Summerr!! Your words were so helpful! I'm also entering my first competition for non professional in the wedding cake category in our state fair. I'm looking at it, just as you said, a learning experience. I know people who aren't confident enough to enter and my response was - What's the worst that can happen? I learn more & get more practice. That didn't sound bad at all to me! Thanks for all the tips! I've noticed my self wondering what the judges might want & not what I want to do. I'm stopping that now, this is what I want to do and my design.
Thanks for all the advice!!!
Wow! Congratulations! I can see why you received gold in both categories. Your dog is amazing! Did you use modeling chocolate?
Thank you so much and no I used fondant strengthened with a little pastillage.