Cake Chicks Undercover

21 Sep

Have you ever wondered what a cake decorating contest is like? If you could “hang” with that crowd? If you have a snowball’s chance of competing? So did we. What’s a cake chick with a longing to do? Spy, of course! We’re so good at it, we didn’t even have to lurk around corners to get the story. We walked right in, spoke to people, gawked, took beau coup pictures, and boldly snagged pieces of each cake even though we were supposed to limit ourselves to one. Hey, it’s not my fault they didn’t say that before they started passing the plates!

Here’s the set-up: contestants arrived one hour prior to the competition to set up. They have one hour to finish decorating their partly finished cakes in front of a live audience. And they were definitely live. A little too live at times. Kids, young adults, and way grown people alike were both nervous and excited- too much so at times. While the contestants are decorating, judges interview about their creations. Eek! Go away! They only have an hour!

 After the time allotted has passed, the judges get to work and eat cake while we watch and are served our own pieces. Badda bing, badda boom, winners are announced, and we all go home entertained, full of cake, and a little more educated.

 There you have it. That’s how it works. Satisfied? *Sigh* I thought not. Okay, here’s the whole scoop on this particular contest:

 We arrive at the much disclosed location and pull up to the little booth where they keep the parking attendant hostage. When we fork over our hard-earned-we’ve-got-bills-to-pay five bucks for parking, he sees our swank attire and posh vehicle, takes pity on us, and gives us two free tickets to the event. Score!

 Park the hoopty, walk into the building, and wander around acting like we belong. The contest is being held during a home improvement show so we totally blend in. We look like we drop a hundred grand on a patio, right? Suuurrrre.

 Okay, in our zest and excitement, we’re a lil early for the contest. We get the lay of the land and now the contest starts in….an hour and a half. LOL Hey, at least right outside there’s a horse show of some sort. Let’s go check that out…. Well, city cake chick is not fond of the aroma and country cake chick still can’t stand to see a whip used so let’s not hang here too long. Blah, blah, blah, kill time and check on progress. Nope, zoo dude is still hogging the stage. Lunch? One taco, two drinks, and too much money later, it’s time to check again. Whoo hoo! Snag a couple of seats and wait for the big event to start!

 Waaiit a minute. Where’s the nekked cake? Why are these covered? They look almost done. What’s going on here? Hmmm, guess I should have read the rules a bit closer. I was ready for them to start from baked nekked cake and end with a completed masterpiece. I mean, that’s why I said, “No way am I ready for that” when asked if I was interested in competing. Shoot, had I known all I had to do on site was the actual last hour of decorating any cake I might have tossed my spatula into the ring. Or not. I’m pretty chicken, that’s why I’m a cake chick and not a cake lion or something else equally fierce.

 Cake chicks and cake roosters, there is fondant everywhere! As far as the rolling pin can reach, there is fondant. Out of 5 contestants, there is 1, yes 1, fondant free cake. Here. In middle America. In a town nicknamed Cowlumbus. Fondant. Huh. Whoda thunk it? And not just accents, either. Entire cakes covered. In fondant. I thought for awhile there I’d have to pull my fellow chickie out from under the folding chair where she was rocking herself while in the fetal position. Fondant has officially taken over the world if it’s here.

 Hey, I’m a fondant fan. I’m also a buttercream pipe dreamer. I can eat buttercream literally by the bucket if not stopped but fondant? Yes, I’ll have one piece, please- but only if it’s a kind that tastes good. I’m a wannabe buttercream piper. I’m practicing my skills dreaming that one day a client will ask for an 8 tier wedding cake with royal string work and intricate scrolls and I’ll say with confidence, “I can do that, no problemo.” In the meantime, I fondant. Not that fondant is simple or easy. It’s just a different talent and skill. One I already have. Piping does not come naturally to this cake chick- which makes it all the more exciting to try to conquer.

 Anyway, fondant is definitely here, but there’s some buttercream work, too- along with *gasp* chocolate! Yum, white piped chocolate! *Swoon* Now it’s my partner’s turn to pick me up from the floor. Where I’m crawling towards the table trying to sneak a taste. “Whoa, there, Nelly! Don’t make me harness you and put you in the ring outside!” Alright, alright, I’ll sit back in my chair. For now.

 After we peruse the offerings, the contest starts with minimal fanfare. The crowd quiets for a bit as the work begins- but no for long. Every contestant has their cheering section and some lend quiet support, but others, not so much.

Dispatch Cake Contest supporter compressed

At this point, one of us is sliding in and out amongst the chairs and onlookers taking pictures whilst the other is “standing on ballerina toes trying to see over the heads of the RELATIVES WHO GET TO SEE THESE FOLKS WORK ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME!!!!!!!!” Ahem. As I said, some were calm and others were not.

 La, la, la, la- contestants are covering cakes with fondant, applying borders, covering cake boards, piping basket weave, etc….etc…etc…. It was difficult to see due to people standing and the set up of the whole shebang. Every 15 minutes or so one of the judges announces the time left. Roughly half-way through, a local reporter/judge talks to each one of the contestants asking about the inspiration for their cakes and each caker’s experience with cake. Near the end, the crowd’s patience is at an end and they start filing by the tables, completely blocking the view of anyone polite enough to stay back and let them work without interference. Argh! A child’s curiosity gets the best of her and I see her reach out and quickly slap a cake. Aaaahhhh! I swear, this next part was pure reflex on my part. I’ve been a parent too long. I should have been given more time off as a parent. You would have done the same, I swear.

 I slapped my fellow caker. Yes, slapped. Reflex, I swear. It was as if I was reaching out to slap that child’s hand away from the cake. At the same time, I gasped, “She’s touching it!” Fortunately, the slap was gentle enough that my bud just said, “what?” like a fellow exasperated mother who’s been interrupted one too many times. Security like people (if you can call people in golf shirts security) quickly set up a barrier and the cake was unharmed. Whew! Disaster averted.

 The whistle blows signaling the end of the allotted time and we are all given one more chance to take pictures and shuffle by the cakes. Contestants cut into their masterpieces and the judging begins. We were, umm, too busy eating cake to watch much of the judging. J Hey, you have to know if it tastes as good as it looks, right? I mean, in the end, cake is for eating.

  How did it taste? Disappointing. Then again, I had pretty high expectations so my disappointment was partly my fault. I was looking at the decorators as semi-gods. Obviously, they were confident enough to enter. If they entered, they must have thought they had a decent chance of winning. Judging by their supporters, other people thought so as well. I naturally assumed a person with such high decorating skills would have equally high baking skills. I mean, it’s cake, right? You eat it. Your family eats it. Your friends eat it. Your coworkers eat it. There must be something extraordinary about it, right? Nope. Box mix, box mix, box mix, box mix, probably altered box mix. Call it fudgy chunky pumpkin whatever. It’s a box mix. Huh. So what’s all fuss about scratch vs. box again? Hey, I like box mixes. I make them a lot. It’s just that I had different expectations. I definitely didn’t expect the chocolate to be burnt, but let’s not point fingers at what I’m sure is already an embarrassing enough situation. Can you imagine when that caker got home with the leftovers and discovered that little oopsie? Oh my!

 Other unexpected discoveries were:

 Wilton boxes. Yep, flimsy as they are, every box I saw was a Wilton.

 Not a Viva paper towel in sight. I guess they all trusted their icing to remain perfect. The paper towels I saw had prints or patterns on them.

 Fondant- the homemade one was okay- tasteless, which can be a good thing. It didn’t compete with the cake or buttercream flavor at all. The stuff that wasn’t homemade and that was served was…weird. Very stretchy. The person who flavored their fondant with pumpkin pie type spices- don’t do that. Weird and ick, ick and weird.

 Square corners with ripped fondant. As we all know, that’s what décor is for, right?

 Crooked borders

 Not an airbrush in sight, but there was a can of Wilton spray color involved.

 One person out of 5 wore gloves. None had their hair covered. In fact, one long haired contestant didn’t even pull the hair back in a ponytail. Not all wore aprons.

 The buttercream layer under the fondant was maybe 1/8” thick. Mine is closer to ¼”

  Just interesting observations. Observations that make me think I’m too hard on myself and perhaps I’m ready to play with big guys. Or maybe the medium guys.

 In the end, the little details didn’t seem to matter that much. As someone said to me, “You could have Jesus spinning on top of a pumpkin, and the ‘shoe would still win.” Sorry if that offends anyone, but there’s a truth to it.

Dispatch Cake Contest 'shoe compressed

The horseshoe stadium wins every time. Something to remember, no? I’m not saying she didn’t deserve the win, not at all. She gave a terrific explanation of her inspiration for her cake and she does a mean, fast, straight basket weave, after all.

 Check out the detail on this apple:

Dispatch Cake Contest apple compressed

“Gorgeous!” (must be said in a certain tone of voice with jazz hands) Again, to be fair, the judges were not cakers. Not that I’m aware of, anyway. Only cakers truly know the exquisiteness of a well turned out shoe:

Dispatch Cake Contest william's shoe compressed

or perfectly executed cutey pie pumpkins:

Dispatch Cake Contest baby pumpkins compressed

or the real difficulties of a chocolate collar (even if the decorator says it’s easy):

Dispatch Cake Contest chocolate collar compressed

I guess I just wanted all the cakes to win or something. Each one had their own specialness to it. Each stood on its own as a work of edible art. But dang, did you have to go all ‘shoe on them??? LOL

So, judge for yourself. I know you can’t taste them so you’ll just have to go on decorating skill alone. Which one would you have chosen?

Dispatch Cake Contest 091 'shoe cake done compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 090 pumpkin and stump compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 074 chocolate cake compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 092 pumpkin house compressed

Dispatch Cake Contest 093 square cake compressed

 

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