Does Entering A Cake In The Local Country Show / Fair Help Market Your Cake Business?

Business By Magic Mouthfuls Updated 8 Jan 2015 , 12:49am by mariel9898

Magic Mouthfuls Posted 30 Dec 2014 , 12:50pm
post #1 of 13

I have tried asking my fellow Aussie's this question in The Lounge... but they must all still be on Christmas holidays - so now taking my question international.  

 

I am wanting to get your thoughts on entering the local country shows (not cake shows, but agricultural shows).  The next 2 months host a heap of country shows in my cake delivery zone  - but I have never entered anything before.  

 

This year I have the time, but no money to spend on ingredients.  Mostly, the entry fees are pretty reasonable ranging from 20 cents to $2 per entry.  But prize money is a bummer - usually around $2 - $5 for first prize, which doesn't even cover the ingredients for most entries.

 

I can enter my chicken's eggs for 20 cents (read: no effort or cost expended), and potentially win $4.  Or I can spend $50 on ingredients/materials and 20 hours of time for a special occasion iced cake to also potentially win $4.  Oh yeah - joy joy :party: !!

 

Has anyone participated before in these types of events, and is the exposure for your cake business worth the time and money (because obviously prize money isn't).

 

Catergories for entry which I consider might be (somewhat) useful bragging rights on my website include 'best free range eggs', the plain, uniced cake recipes like sponge/chocolate/banana/carrot/fruit cake etc, fillings like lemon curd, and then the great expense and effort entries like decorated special occasion cake.  

 

Any advice, tips or opinions welcome.

12 replies
Edible Art Co Posted 30 Dec 2014 , 5:18pm
post #2 of 13

I entered my county show for the first time this year, and the short answer is no! It was a good experience and allowed me to create something I fancied doing, with a broad theme, but we weren't allowed to put business name or cards by the cakes so it doesn't help get orders. Regarding cost, the category I entered was judged on decoration only, so it was allowed to be a dummy - so you don't have to spend on ingredients if you have a few dummies already.

 

Having said that, it would be nice to say you got 1st/2nd/3rd prize for something, even if it's a filling - it's still a review of your goods by a judge, isn't it? So depending what you want to get out of it, I hope this helps you. I'll probably try again next year only for fun :smile: 

johnson6ofus Posted 30 Dec 2014 , 5:33pm
post #3 of 13

Photo opp!!! Posing with a blue ribbon, posted on your internet media would be great... regardless what it is from. You can still post as a Blue ribbon winner". 

LNW Posted 30 Dec 2014 , 10:40pm
post #4 of 13

AI am a 4-H project leader (cake decorating) and I've been the 4-H cake decorating judge in the past. Those ribbons are super nice and look nice next to your cake ;). Also brag rights are pretty nice too!

All of the 4-H cakes in my state are dummies, not real cake. It's different in every state though and for each fair too. If you could just decorate a dummy that would be awesome exposure for you.

Having said ALL that...I, personally, HATE when professionals enter into local fairs. I like seeing what kids, little old ladies, other unknown cake artists, can do. If I want to look at professionally made cakes I'll check out their website. Fairs are generally for locals who have some skills and want to show them off and maybe win a fun ribbon and some bragging rights. If that's you though GO FOR IT!!!! It'll be fun!

If not then I'd say you're probably best going up against actual professionals like yourself, in a real cake show.

Magic Mouthfuls Posted 1 Jan 2015 , 12:28am
post #5 of 13

Thanks everyone for your input thus far.

 

COST

Of the 'decorated special occasion' category - all but 1 of the 6 local shows accept a cake dummy as the base - but to say that is cheaper is not so here in Aust.  They cost $5-$10 - which is roughly the cost of butter cake of similar size ingredients here.  But I already have some dummies, so that is not an issue.  However, it is the cost of the other ingredients - board, cleats, ribbon, fondant, gumpaste (buttercream is not a show winning medium here in Aus) wires, florist tape etc etc etc.  Our ingredients and materials here are generally 2-3 times what you pay in USA and UK.  So yes, it will cost me about $40-$50 to enter this category - even with a cake dummy ready to go. 

 

The highest prize in all shows is the (undecorated) Rich Fruit Cake - with a recipe that all show entrants must follow across the country (town winners get to compete regionally, regional winners compete at State level at Royal Sydney Show or Royal Melbourne Show).  I just did a costing on the fruit cake ingredients - at portion cost it is $28 to make. But to purchase the ingredients in the retail packaging (ie raisins come in 375g packs, but recipe calls for only 250g) equates to about $80.  Sure, there will be leftovers for other cakes, but that's the problem - I dont have a spare $80 out of my grocery money to do this so close after Christmas. 

 

BRAGGING RIGHTS / PHOTO OPP

Apart from the love of baking, this is my motivation here (I could just as easily spend my spare time at the beach on their summer school holidays).  And I guess all the promotion will all have to be my work after the event.

 

All show entries have your name next to them, but I understand my business name wont be there (unless my cake includes an edible image of my logo - now there's a wicked idea).  And it is a pretty decent google search to link my personal name with my business name.  But, I did take photos of previous years winning entries and have googled their names.  One winner is the local TAFE (adult education like a college) teacher for Cake Decorating who also has her own cake business on the side.

 

But that also means, if I don't win anything, my business name is not damaged either.  (what a sad thought to enter my head)

 

THE MORALITY OF A PROFESSIONAL ENTERING

There are special categories to kids to enter, so yes @LNW, we get to delight in the enthusiasm of the next gen of bakers.  And I am encouraging my own kids to enter their lego creations, vegies, drawings and baking.  (My son once one best handwriting for a grade 1 kid, how proud was I).

 

But in my small region (we are talking towns here of only 300-1000 population) then the little old lady is my greatest fear.  She's been taught old school techniques like crimping, bridging, lacework, piping etc that I could never compete with and she's the president of the regional branch of the nation's decorating guild.  Although I advertise as a professional - I am a stay-at-home-mum - with a registered business trying to make some extra money for the family.  I don't have a shop front nor pay 100's of staff to create my brand.  Which I guess is just like 95% of the members on CC.  It's not like I am Duff Goldman or Ron Ben Israel competing againsts mums and grandma's.

 

In Australia, the local country show is step 1 towards showcasing your product to the nation.  To say professionals can't enter is to say that it is not fair that the farmer down the road should enter his bull because he's a professional farmer and that's not fair to the hobby farmer.    Even at State level, the winning bread bakers are professional businesses and franchises (its like saying Starbucks wins the coffee category).  There is nothing wrong with saying - the best 'item' in said category in our town is also available for the general public to purchase and experience for themselves.

 

The moral dilemma is when Coles/Aldi/Woolworths (think Walmart or Harrods) enter their Christmas plum pudding and get first prize at Royal Sydney Show.  Yes, great bragging rights for their packaging, but who made it?  A conglomerate with factory production line earning minimum wages, a recipe they paid $100 for (from little old lady who won local country show) and receive $millions in turnover, and ingredients they bought from hard working farmers at extortion rates.

 

 

Happy New Year to you all !

cazza1 Posted 1 Jan 2015 , 9:48am
post #6 of 13

As said above, Australian shows have different categories for different levels.  Someone who sells cakes, has been doing cakes for more than a certain number of years, or who even posts a picture of their cake on a social media site is no longer considered a novice and must enter the next section up.  This leaves the beginners section for real beginners.  The children have their own section as well.  With a lot of areas struggling for entries it would be a real shame if the professionals did not enter.  The public don't care about a person's status, they just want to see nice cakes.

bubs1stbirthday Posted 1 Jan 2015 , 10:12am
post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by LNW 

I am a 4-H project leader (cake decorating) and I've been the 4-H cake decorating judge in the past. Those ribbons are super nice and look nice next to your cake icon_wink.gif. Also brag rights are pretty nice too!

All of the 4-H cakes in my state are dummies, not real cake. It's different in every state though and for each fair too. If you could just decorate a dummy that would be awesome exposure for you.

Having said ALL that...I, personally, HATE when professionals enter into local fairs. I like seeing what kids, little old ladies, other unknown cake artists, can do. If I want to look at professionally made cakes I'll check out their website. Fairs are generally for locals who have some skills and want to show them off and maybe win a fun ribbon and some bragging rights. If that's you though GO FOR IT!!!! It'll be fun!

If not then I'd say you're probably best going up against actual professionals like yourself, in a real cake show.


Interesting point of view - just goes to show how different everyone is, the one and only show that I entered so far was our little country one and I was so disappointed when no one else at all entered the 'decorated cupcake' section and the only other cake to enter the 'café style' cake section was an uniced fruit cake - such a deflating way to win lol.

 

I love having quality competition to go up against. I would rather place behind a professional than win against cakes that were obviously made by kids, no victory in that, (lol just the feeling of being a big meanie).... and you never know you might even one day beat the professional at their own game. At the very least there is the inspiration to come back better next year.

 

Our bigger country show (Ballarat if you know where that is) also runs two sections, one for amateurs and one for professionals to even out the field, and they have a separate section again for the kids.

MimiFix Posted 1 Jan 2015 , 4:59pm
post #8 of 13

Regardless of how many entries in a category, one of our local counties in New York will not give a ribbon if the items don't meet a certain standard. 

Magic Mouthfuls Posted 1 Jan 2015 , 9:55pm
post #9 of 13

Quote:

Originally Posted by bubs1stbirthday 
 

 

Our bigger country show (Ballarat if you know where that is) also runs two sections, one for amateurs and one for professionals to even out the field, and they have a separate section again for the kids.

 

Ballarat is huge - isn't it about the size of Canberra (300,000 people)?  That would be a great show.  As for your other little town - it is sad when there is not much interest in some sections - I am glad all our little shows have separate sections for kids, novices and open.  Even the kids sections are broken up by age group with the challenges getting harder with age.

 

(Bubs1stbirthday - I was 17 when my boyfriend (now husband) took me to my first country show at Whittlesea - back when the suburban crawl hadnt happened and it was still a separate country town.  I was blown away with delight - I couldn't believe that ordinary people and kids were being celebrated for their work - that never happened in the city. I've wanted to be a country girl ever since, finally got my chance 13 years later and never regretted.)

 

I like what MimiFix says - if its not good enough for first prize, then it doesn't get it - even if its the only entry.

 

Regardless of the size of the town - it's all about community spirit.  The whole idea of a Show is to showcase the talents and produce of the town and its people.  And regardless of what that town or region is 'good at' - its all about showing off what its community can grow, breed, make or bake.  It shouldn't matter if those skills are honed through paid work or pure delight.  Like I said - the cattle, sheep, goat, wool, working dog, horses, corn, wheat sections etc etc are entered into by professional farmers, so why can't the bakers, seamstresses, artists, flower arrangers be professional too?   We want to see the best our community has to offer.

 

As for a proper cake show - now that is something I would love to attain to.  At the moment, pretty much the only cake shows are in the capital cities - so that means 8 hours drive in one direction or 10 hours drive in another - add that the $300 fuel, $500 hotels and $100's takeaway costs and the expense to enter becomes prohitable for us country-hicks. 

bubs1stbirthday Posted 1 Jan 2015 , 10:52pm
post #10 of 13


Ballarat is the sticks if you ask the Melbournites lol - the current population (just had to look that up) sits around 90 thousand at the moment. The show that I entered was The Beaufort Show (My husband and I grew up in Beaufort and now live in Ballarat but his parents still live there) - population as of 2011 was a bit under 1500 lol so not really surprising that the entries were so scarce :-) Good Luck if you enter any shows. You could never convince me to live in the city (Melbourne) that's for sure!

embersmom Posted 2 Jan 2015 , 3:24pm
post #11 of 13

We have a regional county fair in my area every summer.  There is a cake competition, and it's separated into experienced, amateur, and kids.  They're quite stringent on what constitutes amateur vs. experienced status.  And, as MimiFix said, if the cake in question doesn't meet a particular standard at the outset, it's automatically disqualified no matter which category you're in.

 

I've played with the idea of entering but I haven't, mostly because of my work schedule and distance.

kyliecake Posted 6 Jan 2015 , 11:20am
post #12 of 13

AI have entered our local show (Dandenong) for the last three years and have won firsts and seconds. I do it partly for the glory (everyone likes a pat on the back sometimes, especially from independant people), partly because i can now put it on my facebook page and partly because i like to read the comments and criticisms from the judge. Unfortunately the number of entries has fallen each year, partly i think due to the population changes over the years- we have 160+ cultural backgrounds!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But they are fun to enter, even though they are definately not money spinners. And it is nice hearing comments secretly by people looking at your cake! Good luck. Go for it!

mariel9898 Posted 8 Jan 2015 , 12:49am
post #13 of 13

Quote:

Originally Posted by MimiFix 
 

Regardless of how many entries in a category, one of our local counties in New York will not give a ribbon if the items don't meet a certain standard. 

 

If you mean Dutchess County you are right - I entered nine things and won 6 prizes this past summer (1 first, 4 second, 1 HM). In two of the three categories I won second place, no first place was given. There was another category I entered where no prizes were awarded.

 

To the OP - make sure you read the rules very carefully as many of these contests do not allow "professionals" of any kind to participate, and what they consider "professional" is usually spelled out explicitly.

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