Entrants who came far and wide to showcase their talents and enviable ability to turn an edible delight into an awe-inspiring masterpiece. Over 110 contestants registered in divisions ranging from novice to professional, and $4,000 wasraised for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of North Central Florida.
Because of the previous year’s success, the 2012 ICED (Impressive and Creative Edible Delights) competition has been extended to a full weekend, March 31 and April 1, with The Arthritis Foundation as beneficiary. This year’s theme, Masquerade Ball, will present spectators with a fun and festive parade of cakes decorated in avant-garde and carnival fashion. The exciting new contest, the Live Challenge, will test cake decorators’ skills against the clock. Other categories include “Masquerade Ball” Cakes, Mask Accessories, Icing Images “Edible Icing Sheets” Cakes and the Non-Judged Display. Skill levels are separated by divisions: novice, advanced, professional and youth. While contestants are buckling down for the competition, I got to interview show chair Lisa Menz of Cakes by Lisa; Edna de la Cruz, who judged last year’s competition and Angela Schellbach, the 2011 professional-division winner.
“Let Your Sweet Dreams Become a Reality” is Cakes by Lisa’s slogan and a motto Lisa Menz lives by. Her cake business’s mission is to make clients’ dreams realized in 3-D—and edible—form for any special occasion. She takes this promise to the next level with the ICED competition by welcoming fellow cake designers to make their sweet dreams a reality and inviting them to showcase their best work. Lisa fills me in on her background and the competition’s.
When did you become interested in cake decorating?
I was always artistic as a child. I first got into cakes after I got married in 1992. A store did my wedding cake. Even though it tasted good, it was not a pretty cake. I had wanted something really different and unique and couldn’t find it, so I told myself I can do this and started taking classes and then started doing cakes for family and friends for free before making cakes professionally for others. I did that for five years. I am a cake artist, not a cake decorator; to me there is a huge difference. Anyone can do a cake, but to make it a piece of art is a whole different world. It takes time, talent and patience.
How did ICED come about?
I had always seen top cake competitions being done all over the U.S. and wondered why Florida, with all our amazing cake-decorating talents, didn’t put one on. So I took ahold of it and became the founder and co-chairman of the show. I love bringing a show like this to Ocala. Some of the best in the country come for this show.
What are common cake problems?
The one thing I hear a lot of from people who buy cakes from businesses is how dry they are or how the buttercream or fondant covering tastes bad. My first thing when I started decorating was to make sure to attain a beautiful cake and that the cake itself was moist and delicious. You must always work on the inside of the cake as hard as you work on the outside.
What is a tool you like to use when decorating?
The one product I really like is my Edible Icing Sheet printer by Icing Images. This is a printer that will print anything you wish on edible icing sheets, and it has edible inks. It is all food safe, and you can be so creative with it. It saves you tons of time, and lets you take your cakes to a whole new level. Even a novice can use this product right from the start to make their cakes fantastic and beautiful.
The Food Network Star
Edna De la Cruz is a professional cake designer from Orlando who teaches around the country. Her website, designmeacake.com, offers recipes, tutorials and an online shop with instructional DVDs. Edna’s out-of-this-world cake won on The Food Network Challenge episode “Extreme Alien Cakes.” She has judged many competitions, including last year’s ICED. Here, she gives an insider’s look from the judge’s perspective.
What is it like being in the judge’s shoes instead of the contestant’s?
It can be a bit difficult to be a judge. People don’t realize this. Sometimes, it comes to a small, tiny issue that makes a person go to second instead of first—sometimes it’s that close.
There is a certain grading criterion in each competition, but do you look out for other elements?
Every show has its own rules and ways to judge a cake. They are all based around the same ideas. You have to stay objective. For example, let’s say I don’t like yellow cakes and I have to judge one. At that point, I have to make sure that my opinion stays out of the judging and see the cake as a whole and by its quality of work, not just a color.
How do you determine a winner?
There are a lot of reasons a cake can win, but they need to have beautiful designs and clean work. Originality is always a plus.
What advice would you give to cake artists who want to enter ICED?
I always say to enter cake competitions, even if you are a beginner. The competitions are meant for everyone to participate, even kids. So if you feel you are too new and don’t know much, you still can go and participate along with others who are at the same level. Competitions can help you learn new techniques and will make you get better at finishing your cakes in a neat way. I know they are called competitions, but the experience is worth it even if you don’t get first prize.
Entrants, meet your contender…
Angela Schnellbach, champion of last year’s competition, worked on her ICED cake for roughly a month in between work and family time. Angela started cake decorating 15 years ago in Publix Supermarkets. Now, she experiments at home, trying different sculpting techniques. ICED 2011 was her chance to feature her skills for the first time in a competitive atmosphere.
What drew you to enter ICED?
The very first competition I watched was the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show. I wanted nothing more than to compete myself and that had been my goal ever since, but I could never afford to go out there. So when I found out from a fellow associate that there was a competition in Ocala, I was all over it and signed up right away.
How did you transport the cake to the event?
I drove myself and the cake to the event in my mini-van. The cake was six tiers tall. I divided the cake into three sections: the bottom three tiers, the middle two and then the top with the flower bouquet. Any extra flowers I kept separate. It is always nerve-wracking delivering a cake. You never realize how bumpy a road is or how uneasy drivers can make you until you have a fragile piece of art in the back of your vehicle.
Is there anything you would have changed after the competition?
Yes, I would not have pre-stacked the cakes the way I did. Even though they were in three sections, they were way too heavy to transfer more than once.
Are you entering this year’s competition?
Most definitely! I believe the competition is going to be more challenging this year because more people are hearing about the Florida ICED Cake Competition.
What’s your advice for this year’s hopefuls?
Go for it! My motto was, “Go big, or go home.” Once you come up with an idea, do your research and think outside of the box. However, if you’re in it to win it, don’t use a technique until you’ve mastered it, and showcase what you do well.
Get ICED! Florida ICED Cake Competition Sat March 31st & Sun April 1st Circle Square Cultural Center 8395 SW 80th Street, Ocala, 352-854-3670 /floridaiced.com