Hola! How to prepare well and win cake competitions?
This is always a hot topic of discussion in my classes, and everyone would have that one little thing that they did wrong which cost them their Gold or Silver or Bronze award. It’s painful I know, but competitions are a learning process. You grow as you learn and it can only get better.
There are some tips from my personal observation and experience, so these by no means are guidelines. I hope this article inspires you and prepares you a little better for your next big competition.
Rule number one! Do not try to replicate what the winner from last year did. Try to be original and bring something new to be the table. Your judges would appreciate that. Most of the competitions have ‘Creativity’ or ‘Originality’ as a major marking criteria.
Practice your techniques
As you all know, practice makes perfect, and perfection is what the judges are after. You may be comfortable with a simple technique, but adding complexity to that simple technique and transforming it into something unique is probably the best move.
If your strongest point is piping then, design a cake with lots of intricate piping. If you are good with painting, design your cake with a challenging painting on it. Utilize your strongest skills and more techniques the better.
Enter the right category
There’s nothing more painful than entering the wrong category. Who would do that right? Well, I did!
See below my floral hat cake which I entered in the Small Decorative exhibit category in Salon Culinaire. I believe it’s still one of my best cakes to date. I knew my cake did not belong in that category as soon as I placed it amongst figurines made of fondant by other contestants. And my judge just confirmed that during the feedback session. It was heartbreaking but hey ho, you learn, and you grow!
So learn from my mistake, always check thoroughly. It helps to look through the previous year’s entries to get a feel of the kind of cakes that belong in that category.
Don’t hide, fix it.
If there is a tiny little flaw, a small one even, if you can see it so can the judges. I had a mishap with my cake board once, and I hid the part that was revealing the silver board with some edible pearls. But I was marked down because they could see the silver board through the pearls.
So my advice would be to take time, do everything correctly and fix errors rather than hiding them.
Planning and Executing
Competitions can be stressful, so planning plays a huge part in getting you organised and prepared. Allow plenty of time for redos. Aim to finish your cake two days before the competition day.
Plan your transportation ahead, so you reach on time. Have a kit ready with you that would allow you to fix any damages that occurred in transit.
Learn and Grow
Without taking chances, we will never know, and without knowing, we will never learn. So take your chance! More than ‘How to win the competition’, you should be asking ‘How can I create a masterpiece?’, the best of my capability.
I am not a ‘competition’ person as it distorts my peace of mind massively. I dislike the nerves. But the exposure competition gives for my business is above any marketing. When you are a small business, you do not have huge budgets for marketing, and we know how much a page in a magazine or a popular blog would cost. But if you win a competition, they would publish your interview for free. Your cake pics are out there in popular magazines and websites for absolutely nothing.
So take a chance. Win or lose, you will have a beautiful cake to show off to your potential customers.
It is really a win-win situation!
Competitions to look out for
In the UK, the Cake International, Salon Culinaire, and The Cake & Bake Show are the popular ones. There are plenty more local ones as well.
Be Skills ready
I have had great response with my buttercream projects in competitions because it’s unique, something different in a sea of fondant work! So it stands out and that has really worked well to my advantage.
If working with buttercream for competitions, make sure you use a crusting buttercream, meaning you can really smooth it to perfection and it will also keep well during display.
Did you see the recipe for the Award-winning cupcakes? It’s super simple too! And you can also read about my Top 10 Baking Hacks. Top Baking Tips and Marble Cupcakes Recipe.
Good Luck ?
If you have any questions, feel free to write to me – firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,