Sorry there was no blog yesterday A dear friend's uncle unexpectedly passed away and I was with the family yesterday. I seem to have lots of 'second families' and they are one of them. Janet's family is also like a second family to me. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for them or their families.
Ok, now on to happier things! I mentioned in my last post the Janet and I are heading down to VA for a cake show next week. We actually leave in exactly one week! Needless to say, I still have A LOT left to do on my cakes. I am entering two cakes into the competition. I am probably 30% done with each one, but am on track to finish them on time. You will all get to see photos of the cakes when they are finished. I do not like to show pics of them before that time, sorry!
In the absence of detailing the work that I'm doing on my cakes, I thought I'd talk about some of the challenges I face when entering a competition, or just doing a cake. Don't worry, if I have mini-meltdowns or something close, those details will be here, lol.
One of the biggest challenges, and usually the first one I face, is what to do. What kind of cake do I want to create to enter. Most competitions have a 'Show Theme' category which can be specific, as well as general categories. For instance, in a show I went to a few weeks ago, the show theme category was "Child's Play". The one coming up in VA is "Nursery Rhymes". In addition to that category, there are the normal or usual categories that most decorator's have come to expect to see: Non-tiered, Tiered, Special Occasion, Novelty, Special Techniques, Foreign Techniques, Buttercream Only, etc. The list can almost be endless. Some shows/competitions have a lot of them, others only have a few. There are also different skill levels with each of those categories. The upside to this is if you're a beginner, who's been decorating cakes for less than a year, you're not competing with someone that has over 10yrs experience. The downside is, it usually appears as though some cakes are in the wrong skill level. The judges have the discretion to move a cake to a higher skill level. It doesn't happen a lot, but I have seen it.
Back to ideas, lol. I usually start by looking at the categories and see if any ideas pop into my head on their own. They haven't been lately. Then I think of what I like to do, and do well, and see where those ideas fit in. Sometimes I come up with crazy ideas - some work and some don't. I'm not afraid to try something and fail at it. At least I tried. (Too bad this philosophy seems to be missing when it fails, lol) It also helps to have an incredibly awesome idea person :D
Barring any of that working, there are many places you can find inspiration for a cake. Look around your house, the store when you're out shopping. You'll be amazed how many things you start wondering how to make out of cake once you look at things through a cake decorator's eyes. Some of the items I've looked to for inspiration are fabric (who doesn't love browsing the fabric section of Joann's?!?), greeting cards (yes, you will get looks if you say to your friend 'I bet this would make a cool cake'), gift bags (look at the designs). Depending on your level of confidence, you'll look at stuff and say 'no way I could do that'. Hey, even I do it, and there's very little I think I can't do (no, I'm not singing my own praises, I just have a high confidence level and will try just about anything).
One of my favorite inspirations came from a greeting card. It was for a wedding cake competition last May in MD. I have no idea how long I spent looking for the 'perfect card' for the cake. In the realm of competitions (at least those that require your inspiration piece to be displayed with the cake), some part of the inspiration piece is expected to be replicated on the cake. I found plenty of cards that I could design a cake around, but nothing screamed "MEMEMEMEME, PICK ME". I think I went into every store that sold greeting cards. Even bought 5 or 6 cards that would work, but couldn't get excited about any of them. It's very hard for me to put my best into a cake if I can't get excited about it.
I had pretty much given up finding the perfect card, and had to run into CVS for something non-cake related. I thought of looking at the cards, but honestly was just tired of looking and not finding anything that jumped out at me. But.......I figured, what the heck, it couldn't hurt to look. Lo and behold I found it!!!!!!!! It was the second one I picked up. I looked at it and said "that's it. That's the card." By the time I got home from CVS (all of 10 minutes) I had the entire cake planned out in my head.
I don't have a picture of the card (and if I ever find the card around here I'll take one and post it), but here's what the cake ended up looking like. Hopefully you can see the hours (and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours) of piping I did on the cake. There is a glimpse of the card down in the corner, hopefully that is visible too.
There were approximately 50 or so wedding cakes entered in this competition, and my cake came in 14th! This might not sound like much, but the competition at this show is tough, and it's an honor to have scored that well. I have always said to my friends that I certainly never expect to win the wedding cake competition at this show, but I would be happy with being in the top 10. Well........being #14 has encouraged and spurred me on to try even harder this year (more about that cake in the coming months, lol)
What I will say, the inspiration for the wedding cake competition this year is a US State. We are to pick a state and decorate a wedding cake using whatever we think will make people recognize it as coming from that state! I have my state picked out and ideas flying around and can't wait to start on it!!!!
What inspires you?