Cake International Winner 2022
This is my story of how I became a Cake International Winner in 2022.
How My Cake International Journey Started
Just a bit of history first; Cake International is the original and world-leading competition in the sugarcraft community. Thousands of professional artists present their work to be judged by a panel of seasoned experts. The world-famous Cake International Judges maintain and abide by the highest standards. These experts included Senior Judge Alan Dunn and the Head Judge, Chef David Close. Indeed this event has been dubbed the Oscars of the cake world!
My journey began with a simple message to Kim Firth: a now retired, multi-award winner. I wanted to meet and chat about her experience (we live in the same town you see). She explained how strict the judging process can be and how hard I had to work to produce original pieces to showcase my skills. After talking with Kim, I pinned down the categories I wanted to enter: Category A: The Sugar Flower Display and Category Q: The Colourful Wedding Cake 3/more tiers.
Between that day in November and the competition date, I messed around a lot with sketching, buying new equipment and brushing up on skills. Admittedly, I procrastinated A LOT… in between being a one-woman wedding cake business owner and a stay-at-home mum with two autistic children. Part of me suffered from imposter syndrome; I was genuinely scared to start. Thoughts such as ‘I could fail’ and ‘Who am I to compete?’ entered my mind. Nonetheless, I pulled on my big girl pants because I was not a quitter.
Work finally started on constructing my pieces just one week or so before showtime. This was a big no-no as things did go wrong which meant that I used up a lot of time and material remaking things. For example, my sugar flower arrangement drooped due to high humidity, and the crackle effect on my colourful wedding cake took 6 attempts to look like I envisaged. Thankfully, I am big on planning and therefore had many contingency plans to fall back on.
Talk about working under pressure! I am pleased to say I kept faith in the process while sticking to my commitment to not dig into family time and to get to bed by 10 pm each night. When Friday the 4th of November arrived, I was well-rested and excited. My thoughtful hubby Tom offered to drive Kim and me to Birmingham NEC. We set off at 6 am to ensure we delivered the displays before the 9:30 am deadline and gave ourselves plenty of time to navigate the various routes to Hall 17.
The Big Day- Cake International Birmingham 2022- Set up
I was happy with my competition pieces, given the time I devoted to them. That was until I walked through the heavily controlled doors of 17.4. Kim and I had to first queue up by surname to collect my exhibit labels. These labels needed to be stuck to my work and told me where my item would sit on the hallowed black tablecloth. I was so nervous that I got into the wrong queue! Even though I am 14 years married, I got into the S queue for my maiden name instead of the B. Huge thanks go to Kim and Tom for steering me through this nerve-wracking process one step at a time. They helped me focus on my work rather than compare my entry with my competitors. You are only human to do this, but take heart as each display is judged honestly and impartially on its merit, not the person’s work next to yours.
As soon as I got my labels, we first located where my categories were to be judged. Next, I went to get my cake and sugar flower arrangement out of the car. Thankfully, we were given special passes to park close to the doors of Hall 17, so the risk of tripping with my precious cargo was significantly reduced. I unpacked my pieces amongst hundreds of other artists… some frantically repairing damages and adding final touches. It was a wired atmosphere….there were no smiles, just quietened tense voices and extreme concentration. Kim and I managed to unpack everything without incident, then carefully navigated our way back through the hustling crowds to the exhibit area. Once the pieces were labelled, positioned perfectly and the necessary notes put in place, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Kim kindly took some photos of me with my entries. On the way out, we stole the opportunity to have a quick nosey at some of the other entries seeing as the area would be blocked off for judging soon. They were all stunning and of impossibly high standards.
The Big Day- Cake International Birmingham 2022- Post Set up
Tom, Kim and I spent the rest of the day trawling through all the lanes of the Craft, Christmas and cake show stalls while the Judges did their thing. I, for one, had a great time as I was unashamedly fangirling. I got to see Zoe Hopkinson and Alan Dunn again as well as first-time face-to-face hellos with Robert Haynes, Petya Shmarova, Emma Stewart and Suzanne Esper. Of course, shopping was high on the agenda; I proudly stuck to a five-item list (Kim and Tom were amazed at my self-control). Indeed, Cake International is for cake artists what a toy shop is for kids. For the record. My hubby spent the most money that day…he got me gorgeous pair of opal and diamond earrings from one of the antique stalls to mark this special occasion.
Sadly I could not spend the entire weekend in Birmingham due to family commitments. However, I returned on Sunday to attend a full-day workshop with Alan Dunn and Petya Shmarova. That was a wonderful and rewarding experience, especially as I befriended some lovely artists from Japan, China and a few from sunny England. The course ran over time, forcing me to make a mad dash to fetch my exhibits before they got dumped after the 5:30 pm collection deadline.
The Competition Results
Now for the scary moment, I found out the results of my entries! These were available to view in person on Saturday from 9:30 am or 2 pm online. I had to wait for the latter, something I am not very good at. As it happens, my hubby was the bearer of good news as he saw the result online before I did. I really could not believe it….I felt sure I would not place or get disqualified as so many do on their first go. Tom is my biggest supporter, so it was the best way to find out that I was awarded a Merit in each category. Next, I called my mum, dad, sister, brother, best friend and cousin in Trinidad. I went around with some flowers to thank Kim in person. Tom and I celebrated with a lovely meal and champagne at our favourite local restaurant Van Dykes by Wilds in Clowne.
I am very proud of my achievement. Now that I have processed the judge’s comments and feedback, I know it will help me to step up my game next time. If anything, this competition has given me laser focus.
I am determined to do better next year….Onwards and upwards, as they say.