Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Poinsettia Cake

Holiday Poinsettia Cake 
Photography by Prem Midha

Yesterday I entered my second cake competition.  This was the Patty Cakes Holiday Cake Affair in Decatur, GA.  My first competition was also a Patty Cakes show in September: This Cake :)

This time I was much more calm and prepared.  Okay, I don't know about calm, but definitely more prepared! 

Ivory Gum Paste Poinsettia
While the ideas for this cake definitely evolved in my head over the last couple of months, I ended up solidifying my design by making a few sketches and picking my favorite.  

The first things I made were the poinsettias and the little holly royal icing lace points encircling base of the top tier:

(Aren't Prem's pictures awesome?)

Anyway, I based the little 1" lace points on an Earlene Moore pattern which I modified to meet the holly/ holiday theme.  

As for the gum paste poinsettias (which you can see in my previous post)-- well, when I realized they were just over 8" in diameter, I figured I'd better make over-sized cake tiers so that they didn't swallow the cake whole. 

That means I baked 12 cakes (15 if you count the batch I screwed up) to make 5.5" tall tiers (standard height is generally 4").  My flavors this time were chocolate cake with dark chocolate peppermint ganache and butter cake with rum syrup and eggnog filling.  Now, normally I'm a chocolate person, like seriously.  When eating a non-chocolate cake I often find myself thinking 'this is good except that it's not chocolate.'  The exception was that butter cake with the eggnog filling.   These were some tall cakes!

Remember, I do all this at home: read, one oven and a fridge that was still full of Thanksgiving leftovers 3 days ago... ;) 

Anyway, I'll tell you more about the details on the cake and then I'll tell you more about the competition...

I covered the cake in red Satin Ice fondant.  It wasn't terribly cooperative.  Normally I have very little trouble with white Satin Ice, but the red coloring dries out the fondant and my apartment was pretty cold and dry when i was trying to roll it out.  I couldn't get it as thin as I normally do, but I ultimately prevailed.

All of the details were either fondant, gum paste or royal icing.  That round ornament is royal icing. :)  The pearls were all fondant.  Oh by the way, do you love that ribbon around the board as much as I do? 

The snowflakes were gum paste, and the fabric/ ribbon swags were a fondant and gum paste blend. 

So, the competition.  I did a lot more things right this time.  First, I finished my cake at about 1:30 AM and managed to get a full night's sleep. In the morning, I had time to eat breakfast and get packed before Prem came to take pictures.  I had a full entourage of friends with me, and we packed some wraps so that I'd have something to eat after I set up.  AND my friend with an SUV was able to drive the cake over.  Score.

I had the whole cake set up at home for pictures and it traveled perfectly.  All I had to do was un-box it, orient it, and check it when I got there.  No repairs or additional set up was required. *phew*  So I set up and ate some lunch.

For the record, as soon as I start to walk in, I get nervous.  I'm far too nervous to check out the competition when I first walk  in.  Everything is very intimidating.  This time, since I had eaten and slept (and we had chairs to sit by our cakes-- last time I stood almost the entire time), I was in much better spirits.  My competitors on either side of me were wonderful and I had a great time socializing with them and talking cakes.   Here's a picture I took after I'd set up at my table:

Not leaning this time! :)

So, in this competition they judge on originality, neatness, and taste (supposedly).  The unfortunate thing is there's no published rubric or score sheet, nor do you receive such a sheet after being judged.
After 4 hours, I was more than ready to hear the results.  My heart was jumping out of my chest.  Unfortunately, I did not place, even though a couple of the judges told me I was 'really close.' 

While most cake decorating competitions are not scored on taste and have a more obvious scoring rubric, I think it's important to remember the Earlene Moore school of thought on competition: Never enter a competition expecting to win.  I was proud of my entry and saw some great cakes and learned some stuff in the process, so that's great. 

Another 'different' thing about this competition is that after the results are announced, you cut slices of your cake for your public.  For the record, it's really hard not to doubt yourself when a kid tastes your cake and makes a face.  I guess this particular kid had tried some of the chocolate with peppermint and didn't like mint!  Eeesh.  People's cake tastes can be widely different-- all my friends loved my cake and you should have seen how fast that cake was disappearing at school today.  Clearly it wasn't grimace-worthy or people wouldn't have been flooding my lab to get a piece.  Still, these situations do come up and sometimes it's hard not to make a face back! :) 

Finally, I'd like to thank all my friends who came out and supported me yesterday.  You guys are the best!

Maybe I didn't place because I was the only contestant not wearing a chef's coat... it's just not my style! :)

Thanks for looking and let me know if you have any questions about my cake or the competition!  Hope you all have a great week. :)


  1. Aw, I'm bummed you didn't place. This is such a gorgeous cake! It looks so polished and professional... Just WOW! Nice work with the swags and flowers.

    That royal icing ornament is mind-boggling and beautiful. Does the technique involve a balloon?

  2. That cake is absolutely stunning... OMG what a neat and perfect job

  3. Hah! I don't like mint either (in fact I almost downright loathe it), but I'm too polite to make a face :) However, the butter cake with egg nog filling was so freaking superdelicious that I hardly even noticed the mint in the other cake!

  4. Great cake! I'm still baffled that it didn't place! Do you have a mold for the gum paste snowflakes?

    And, I totally agree with Earlene's theory on competitions. You can't go into a competition expecting to win. It's a little cliche, but you just have to do your best and be 100% happy with your entry. If other people don't like it, well...something's wrong with them. ;)

  5. Wow, Roxanne! I think you did a fabulous job! The cake is stunning and MY son would've LOVED the chocolate cake since chocolate/mint is his favorite combo. ;-)

    I would love to know how you secured the poinsettias to the cake and how you did the snowflakes and ball ornament.

    I do have another question but I think I'll email you instead. Thanks again for sharing and congrats on such a beautiful cake!

  6. Thanks everyone!

    @Whisk-kid-- yes, it does involve a balloon!

    @Mel-- The snowflakes are patchwork cutters, the stars and snowflakes set!

    @Natalia-- I broke one of my own rules-- The snowflakes were wired and I ended up sticking the taped wire straight into the cake with a generous dab of royal icing. If I were better prepared, I'd have stuck in a jumbo straw (a regular size was too small), filled it in with some royal icing, and then stuck in the poinsettia wire. The ball ornament was piped on a balloon using royal and then popped when the icing had set. The snowflakes were done using patchwork cutters-- snowflakes and stars set. :)

  7. I am confused as to why you didn't win because i think t looks stunning! :)

    Also, i just read your profile and we are sort of in the same boat. I just finished grad school and i am impressed how you are able to manage both decorating and studies.

  8. Absolutely Stunning............

  9. stunning cake you did an awesome job...!!

  10. Your cake is stunning, I'm in awe! The poinsettias are so realistic. Well done, be very proud of what you have achieved with this design I would be!