After the airing of the recent WEtv Wedding Cake Wars Cake Competition, I am so flattered to have such an outpouring of love and support from so many people. I am humbled by the compliments and best of all, just who it was that took the time to contact me. I am in awe. I’m a self taught cake decorator who decided one day to do what she knew best. I started baking, which brought me great comfort, since it was something I’d been doing since the age of six. One thing lead to another and viola!, here I am now, on a cake competition!
First things first, I needed an assistant. I lucked out when Minette Rushing recommended Kerry O’Connor from Savannah, GA, a talented cake decorator in her own right. Kerry was an absolute pleasure to work with. We worked quickly, efficiently and stuck to our plan which went off without a single hitch. We had only met for the first time a week earlier, yet we moved through the process with great ease and comfort.
Here are a few things that weren’t made clear during the show. One of the requirements of the competition was to have at least one moving part on the cake. We had three – a turntable that spun around in the center of the bottom tier, pearl strands all made from sugar that hung along the edge of the second tier, and the petals on the flowers. If you saw the cake spinning around and it didn’t make sense, now you know why. The only non-edible items allowed on (or in) the cake were the support system and the moving parts. All contestants were required to use real cakes, filling, and icing to assemble their cakes. Most disposed of their cakes at the end of the competition. Our cake weighed about 120 lbs.!
On the first day, we had two hours to carve, fill, ice, cover with fondant and then assemble our cakes. The second day, we were allowed five hours to decorate and complete our designs.
This is the first day of the competition. We’ve just covered and stacked our cakes but discovered that the table wasn’t level and it threw the entire cake off balance! Here we are ‘jerry-rigging’ it.
I thought it might be too challenging to work with cameras all around us in addition to the judges watching over our shoulders, but that was not the case at all. Both Kerry and I were very comfortable and at ease even though the pressure was definitely on.
We were very relaxed despite working at a feverish pace. It’s amazing what one’s adrenaline can do when it kicks in. We were wearing microphones the entire time and just praying we wouldn’t say anything we might regret later on. I heard the ‘bleeping’ when I watched the show and I was just glad it didn’t come from me!
Kerry and I were the first team to finish our cake before the five hour deadline. Towards the end, we had to decide on what design elements we could complete in the time that was left. We had to compromise on certain things in order to complete others. I would have done numerous things differently, but then again, hindsight is 20/20, right? In the end, we did finish first, had a neat and cohesive cake (all things considered), and our work tables were clean. We were able to finally sit back and put our feet up until they began the judging process. We had buckets of icing beneath the tables which doubled as foot rests!
My design was inspired by Marie Antoinette who had lived in the Palace of Versailles. The clue was in the phrase ‘Let them eat cake!’ written on a scroll on the front of the cake. You can see by my awful handwriting that I was spent! We had slept a total of 4 hours the night before, and not much more in the three nights prior to that. I have no clue how we made it through that week.
Myself, Jason Ellis and Kerry O’Connor. I’ve always been a huge fan of Jason since I saw him for the first time competing on a Food Network Challenge. He is such a cool, cute and overall adorable guy! Oh, and he’s quite the talented cake artist extraordinaire, too! Jason is the owner of Jay’s Cake Couture in Glen Cove, New York. Jason was very interactive with the competitors and gave great tips on how to work through the process in spite of the ticking clock. He was so upbeat and outgoing. As soon as the winners were announced, Jay made a b-line for our table and made it a point to let us know he really fought for our cake to place. He was out voted by the other two judges, Colette Peters of Colette’s Cakes in New York City, and Jill Hudson Neal, editor of Washingtonian’s new Bride and Groom Magazine. We really appreciated that, Jason, and want you to know how much your support meant to both Kerry and I. We didn’t have an opportunity to chat with Jill Hudson Neal, but Colette did give us great feedback that helped us understand how the judges came to make their decisions so that going forward we”d know what to, and not to, do again.
Here’s a group shot of some of us, including the host of the event, Ron Ben-Israel of cake decorating fame! Ron is the owner of Ron Ben-Israel Cakes in New York City, and is known for his amazing cake designs. A former ballet dancer, Ron is constantly setting trends with his flawless work. Wouldn’t we all love to know how he does it? I know I would! Alas, he only hires interns from pastry school, mainly the French Culinary Institute, so he can teach them his techniques from the very beginning. He will not hire anyone who has any cake decorating experience, no matter how good they are. He shared this information during a class I took with him last year. Darn, Ron! That’s cold! How am I ever going to learn your secrets now? Joking aside, Ron Ben-Israel has an amazing sense of humor. He’s hysterical! During the class I took with him, he had us in stiches the entire time. He was just as entertaining during the competition.
The best moment for me came at the end of the competition when Ron Ben-Israel approached Kerry and I and told us that he liked our cake best and why would have made it a winning cake had he been a judge. This is not to take away from the winners. It was his personal opinion and he knew it would matter to us. Regardless of the outcome, Kerry and I left there with the best reward ever – a major nod from the Cake God himself. Hmmm, I wonder if he tells all the girls that? Either way, thank you, Ron. We loved hearing that from you.
Here’s a great pic of my cake taken by my friend Lidia Miller of Lidia Miller Photography. If not for her, I’d have none of the photos you see here! I think the cake looks stunning in this photograph! The flowers were all hand made of sugar, petal by petal, as were the leaves. The mirrors and the framed pictures were representative of the ‘Hall of Mirrors’ in the Palace of Versailles. These, too, were all edible and hand painted by Kerry, who, lucky for me, has a degree in fine art. Oh, and she’s a pastry chef, too, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute. Did I mention she’s a very talented cake designer? See more of Kerry’s work at www.savannahcustomcakes.com.
People keep asking me what inspired me, and here’s the answer: my cake was a tribute to Marie Antoinette and women with attitude!
Many thanks to all of you who have written me and called me, some familiar and others complete strangers. I really appreciate your compliments and well wishes. I have so much to be grateful for, I must admit. Starting with my family who supports everything I do, no matter what that may be, to my closest friends, an amazing group of strong, independent and courageous women who love me and accept me no matter what (even when I don’t feel like making cakes for any of them on my days off!).
I often hear from people that they’d love to learn to make and decorate cakes. I always tell them, ‘If I can do it, you can do it too.’