Saturday, April 28, 2012

Our First Cake Show

As most of you probably know already, Will and I entered cakes into our very first cake show/competition last weekend. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too!

Here are the cakes.

First up, my little cake boy's creation:

The bones on the top are arranged as letters to spell the dog's name, Rover. It's hard to tell, though.

Will's cake was designed to follow a theme. The whole theme of the show was a family celebrating several milestones, including a 25th wedding anniversary, their daughter's first baby, their son's turning 16 and getting his driver's license, and their dog turning 10 years old. Will chose the dog part of the theme and drew out a little picture to prepare for doing his cake. He decided on the colors and design, then cut and put all the pieces on himself. I am soooooo proud of him!


Drumroll please.....

Will won FIRST PRIZE in his age group!!

He won a little basket full of cake stuff for kids, including some sprinkles, edible glitter, a set of decorating tools (icing bags and icing tips), and a little decorating book with instructions for several projects that kids can do. Will immediately picked his next project: a cake that was in an ad for another book, one for adults! My little go-getter. I think he can do it, though!

I entered two cakes into the competition. One followed the theme and celebrated the 25th anniversary. The other was a non-themed wedding cake, which was a separate category until the other cakes dropped out! So, my two cakes ended up in the same category.

Here they are!

At home:

At the show:

The wedding cake:

The wedding cake won 2d place for the intermediate category! That won me a nice red ribbon and bragging rights! :)

Both of my cakes, and Will's cake too, are made from cake dummies. Cake dummies are styrofoam cake forms. I wanted to use them for a few reasons. First, it allowed me to work well ahead of time. This was the only way to have enough time to complete both large cakes and help Will with his. It also saved me a lot of baking time and time preparing real cake to be covered and decorated. It would have been way too much cake for us if all the cakes had been real. While I'm sure we could have given it away, I kind of wanted to keep these. Using styrofoam as the base allows us to keep the cakes for "display" pretty much indefinitely.

Now all three cakes are sitting in our dining room for all to see! Okay, so no one really goes in there to see them. But they could if they wanted to! :)

Here are a few decorating details. First, the wedding cake. That's the one with the birds. Will calls it the "lovebird" cake. I love it! (Did you notice that pun, too? Hee Hee!)

I hand-molded the birds on the top from a lovely teal-colored fondant. I love love love this color! It's one of my new favorites right now. I thought that molding these somewhat abstract bird forms would be easy, but it was surprisingly tricky! They kept wanting to settle on me and flatten out. I think that perhaps my fondant/gumpaste was a little too soft. In the end, I like them, though I think I could have done a little better given more time and materials.

I made the nest around the birds by first flattening out a piece of brown fondant to form the base of the nest. I then used my clay extruder and some of the same fondant to make the ropes that formed the main part of the nest. I pretty much let them fall messily around the birds so that it would look a little more natural.

Some things I have learned about using the clay extruder. I have a cheap-o one from Michaels. There are nicer ones on the market for sure, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money when I got mine. Click here to see the one I have. The link is to Amazon, but they sell the same kind at Michaels for $10 or $15.

I have had so much trouble with this in the past. Based on some advice I read, I would mix shortening into regular fondant to soften it up. This was to make it easier to push it through the extruder. The fondant always came out ragged with edges that refused to be smoothed down. I would add more shortening and then the fondant would just fall apart. Argh!

So, this time instead of adding a bunch of shortening, I used a Q-tip to rub a little glycerin onto both sides of the extruder plate and inside the tube of the extruder. I then mixed a little of the glycerin into the fondant until it was nice and soft, and stretchy. It worked!! It was so easy to push through and came out nice and smooth. Yeah!! So, if you ever use an extruder for your cake decorations, remember to add glycerin. Works like a charm!

Okay, back from that little commercial break. Ha!

The most time-consuming part of this cake was the birds and vines. They were all cut by hand and placed by hand onto the cake. All of the little leaves were cut separately. I think the judges thought I used a cutter to do the birds and maybe the leaves because I lost points for level of difficulty. Next time I know to write my process on a little card so they know exactly what was done!

I really love this cake. I don't want to sound braggy, but this cake truly shows my style -- the modern clean design, the colors, everything. Some people believe that a simple design means that it was simple to make. I think that couldn't be further from the truth. The less you have on a cake, the more careful you have to be to make sure everything is perfect. You can't hide a lot of flaws with lots of decorations. I wanted this cake to be really clean and it ended up being the cleanest work I have ever done. And I'm proud of that!

Wow, this is turning into a long post! I hope you all are sticking with me!

Here are some more pictures to hold your interest! :)

Here we are hard at work! I'm hoping that you will focus on Will in this picture because he is oh so cute in his little apron concentrating on his fondant. And that you aren't paying much attention to me.

Will in his apron. He made it himself!

Want some details on the peony cake? Even if you don't, I'm giving some anyway! Ha!

The focus on this cake for me was the peony. This was the first time I've made a flower like this, peony or otherwise, and I wasn't sure at first if I would use it for the cake show. But I really loved how it turned out! I think it really looks like a tree peony. You can decide for yourself if you like. Just google "yellow tree peony" and look at the images that come up. You will get to see some truly amazing real peonies!

The top and bottom tiers of this cake have a quartrefoil-like design pressed in all around the cake. I did not have a mat for this, but used a tool for cutting edges to make the design, turning it on it's side and around for every other line to make the full pattern. This was time-consuming, but I really like the result.

The middle tier has quartrefoil-shaped plaques with either "25" or "S" (for the couple's last name) on them. The plaques are edged with a fondant rope. Each tier has a bottom border made from a fondant rope painted silver.

Overall, I really like the subtlety and softness of the design of this cake. Again, pretty simple I guess. But a challenge to get right. The flower is truly the star of this one.

While at the cake show, the kids got to decorate cupcakes. They mixed fondant to make the right colors, then molded little animals to top a cupcake.

Will made a little fox.

Sorry you can't see it very well. Here he is holding his cupcake and hamming it up for the camera.

Kate made a little dog. I'm afraid you can't see hers that well either. Sorry!

Kate wanted to pose with her cupcake beside Will's cake.

I hope you have enjoyed our little cake show adventure with us! Come back again soon!


  1. Congratulations to you and your son! What great job for such a young man! I was actually at the same competition and thought both of your cakes were very beautiful and so very clean! You are so right that getting a clean, neat cake is such a time-consuming skill by itself.

  2. Thank you, Kate! And congrats to you too! I was inspired by your cake to work on more flowers! :) You did a beautiful job on your cake! I took a peek at your blog too (I couldn't help but click over to it when I saw your cake on CC) and it is great. Thanks for peeking over here at mine! :)

  3. Very nice, and how fun for you and Will!! That peony is gorgeous! When I saw your pics on fb (on my dinky phone since fb isn't working on my pc) last week, I thought maybe it was a silk flower, it looked so lifelike! It looks even more lifelike in these bigger pics and you made it, wow!!