2013 ICES Certification Exam

In early August, Melanie shut down the bakery, loaded up the car, and headed to Kentucky to take a rigorous 8-hour skills exam called the Certification Exam.  The exam is hosted by the International Cake Exploration Society (ICES) in an effort to encourage its members to “develop their talents in the sugar arts, acquire new sugar art skills, and strive for excellence in cake decorating.”  The candidates are vying for the prestigious titles of Certified Master Sugar Artist (CMSA) or Certified Sugar Artist, but the process doesn’t start when the clock starts…no, no…it starts at least 1 year prior to the exam!

Over a year ago, Melanie registered to take the exam in Kentucky, and over the last 8 months, she has been perfecting her “Plan” for the exam.  Each candidate has to carefully plan which skills they will perform during the exam, where the skills will be placed on the display pieces, etc.  It doesn’t sound very difficult, but don’t underestimate the trickery involved with choosing your 8 best skills and incorporating them into an aesthetic cake design.  There is a fine balance between showing your talent and going way overboard (and wasting time) too.

The candidates must write up their plan and submit it to the adjudicators for approval.  While the adjudicators are there to help the candidates, they can only do so much.  During the approval process, they help ensure the candidates are following all the rules so they are not disqualified and offer some advice where they can.  But they can not tell from a drawing and description if the work displayed will be up to CMSA standards or not have quite enough detail for certification to be awarded.  That, my friends, is up to the candidate.

So when August finally arrives, the candidates have practiced and thought the exam through until they can do their skills with their eyes closed (or at least, that’s the ideal situation).  They load their vehicles and head to the exam location, which moves each year.

Melanie, her husband Adam, and their 4-month-old baby Hailee drove the 12 hours to Lexington, KY and arrived one day prior to the exam.  These are the cakes Melanie created during the exam:

Mel's 3-tier Certification display Continue reading

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Diaper Bag Baby Shower Cake

Last weekend, Adam’s mom threw us another baby shower! There were so many people there to talk to and so much good food to eat that I didn’t take a single photo at the shower. Whoops! I can’t believe it! So I have no new baby bump photos to share with you, but I do have a gazillion photos of the cake!

It’s the first official cake for Mikaela from Mommy! In other words, I made it. I spent almost all day Friday working on it because I wanted it to be just perfect for her.

The cake itself was shaped like a giant diaper bag and had a layer of chocolate cake, a layer of vanilla cake, and guava filling. The baby shower was held at Cafe Nuevo in Tampa (yum!) so I thought it was appropriate to have guava filling.

diaper bag baby shower cake edible baby shoes teether rattle
diaper bag baby shower cake edible baby shoes teether rattle
diaper bag baby shower cake edible baby shoes teether rattle
I made a tag for the bag and wrote “Mikaela” on it so it looked like we were ready to drop her off at day care. Although, I don’t know if she’ll ever go to day care with 2 sets of grandparents dying to babysit. *wink*

diaper bag baby shower cake edible baby shoes teether rattle
And I made a couple of pairs of shoes using cutters from Cakes N’Supplies by Ximena. Love them! I made these late at night on Thursday so they came out a little sloppier than I’d hoped…I think my eyes had started going cross-eyed…but the cake wouldn’t have been complete without them! In fact, Taylor, who came over to help me deliver the garbage truck cake & cookies, helped me by making the buttons and cutting out the Converse logos. Perfectly done!

diaper bag baby shower cake edible baby shoes teether rattle
Then I made a key teether set using another cutter from Cakes N’Supplies by Ximena. So cute! And I had to make some safety pins to represent the fact that we’re going to use cloth diapers for Mikaela.

diaper bag baby shower cake edible baby shoes teether rattle
And after we finished putting all the accessories on the board, Taylor and I noticed a blank spot towards the back. Oh no! That will not do! But Taylor came to the rescue and made this adorable baby rattle to fill the spot!

diaper bag baby shower cake edible baby shoes teether rattle
My due date is only 7 weeks away now and we can’t wait to meet Mikaela!

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Wedding Cake with Bride’s Custom-Made Flowers

Here’s a gorgeous and interesting cake I did a few weeks ago:

buttercream wedding cake gum paste flowers with rhinestones pink purple
The cake was iced in buttercream. The flowers & leaves were all made of gum paste and the brown swirl piping was done in chocolate buttercream.

buttercream wedding cake gum paste flowers with rhinestones pink purple
The bride purchased the rhinestone centers for the flowers and asked us to build the flower petals around them.

buttercream wedding cake gum paste flowers with rhinestones pink purple
So I made hot pink 5-petal blossoms for the larger jewels and purple stephanotis-like flowers for the smaller jewels. I love how they came out! Bright with color…and just a little touch of sparkle!

buttercream wedding cake gum paste flowers with rhinestones pink purple

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Castle Groom’s Cake with Sci-Fi Trinkets

It’s Monday…you’re back at work…and possibly searching for something to look at to kill a little time…am I right?

You know, my blog is most often visited during normal business hours on weekdays? I imagine you read your email, check in on Facebook, read a few blog posts, and then eventually get down to what you’re actually paid for. And this probably doesn’t happen just once each day – you probably repeat this cycle multiple times, hmmmm? Don’t worry, I won’t tell the boss. *wink*

Well, I’ve got just the thing for you today. A very…um, interesting groom’s cake.

They specifically wanted Hogwarts castle made out of cake. No problem! Except the hand-sculpted exact replica of the castle wasn’t in their wedding budget. So, instead, we used Wilton’s Romantic Castle Cake Set to create a cake that somewhat resembles Hogwarts.


And, he wanted us to put a bunch of sci-fi trinkets on the cake. Above, you see the castle cake without the trinkets. Below, you see the trinkets added.


Front and center, you see the ring from Lord of the Rings.


Behind that, are Aragorn’s necklace (Lord of the Rings) and Voldemort’s wand (Harry Potter).


On the next tier down, we had a lightsaber (Star Wars), the Batman logo, a Star Trek Communicator Badge, and ruby slippers (Wizard of Oz).


The ruby slippers were my personal favorite. Just look how they glitter!


Technical notes: The cakes were iced in buttercream and airbrushed in shades of brown and black to add depth. All sci-fi trinkets were made of gum paste.

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Spring Flowers Anniversary Cake

It’s not uncommon for someone to order an anniversary cake that resembles their wedding cake. In fact, we just got an order like that a couple of weeks ago. What IS uncommon is that the groom that’s ordering the cake as a surprise for his wife is a cake decorator himself!

It’s a little nerve racking to make a cake for a cake decorator! I just kept thinking…”He’s going to tear the cake apart and find all the flaws I’ve worked so hard to hide. He’s going to think he can make the gum paste flowers better than I can. He’s going to hate it!”

But I was wrong, so wrong. When Jerry saw the cake, he almost cried! I just hope his wife was equally impressed and reminded of their wedding day.

spring flowers cake daisies roses calla lilies buttercream
The cake was iced in buttercream and piped with a buttercream swirl pattern. And a royal blue ribbon was wrapped around the base of each tier.

spring flowers cake daisies roses calla lilies buttercream
All the flowers you see were hand-made from gum paste. We topped the cake with a bunch of the flowers and 2 sweet butterflies.

spring flowers cake daisies roses calla lilies buttercream
The top tier was supported above the bottom tier using push-in pillars, and we hid the pillars with lots and lots of gum paste flowers.

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Pink & Brown Cowgirl Cake

This week, one of my favorite cakes was one we created for a 4-year-old’s birthday. I actually used to work with her Mommy when I was still at the University of Florida so it was fun to create a cake for someone I know.

The bottom tier was iced in pink buttercream. The paisley pattern was hand-piped with white and black buttercream, and the rope border was made out of chocolate fondant.

The top tier was iced in white buttercream. The stars, “leather” tassles, and rope garland were all made out of fondant.

And the boot on top was hand-crafted out of gum paste and fondant!

Happy Birthday, Gracie!

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Butterfly Cakes – 2 Ways

I guess we’ve got trucks out of our system for a while…the theme this week was butterflies! We had 2 very different butterfly cakes, but I loved the colors on both!

The first one was for a baby shower. The shower was going to be decorated with bright colors, frogs, butterflies, ladybugs, and dragonflies.


I covered the square cakes in sky blue fondant, and put a green vine-like border around the base of each tier.


The butterflies and flowers had all been made earlier in the week (out of gum paste) so they could dry. So when it came time to decorate the cake, it was a simple as “gluing” the bugs on with a little buttercream.


I had a little fun with the ladybug and butterfly trails. They remind me of little bug families – appropriate for a baby shower.


The second cake was for a bridal shower. They gave us a napkin that they were going to use at the shower so we based the cake on that.


The cake was iced in ivory buttercream, and then I piped the ferns on using tip 4.


Again, the butterflies, flowers, and dragonflies were all made earlier in the week so I could just stick them on!


Two very different cakes but both covered with cute bugs and flowers! I can’t decide which one I like?

The first is fun, colorful, and very sun shine-y! The second is mature, feminine, and calming. I just don’t know…

Do you have a favorite?

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ICES Convention – Here I Come!

I leave tomorrow for the ICES Convention in St. Charles, IL! Like always, I’m going to try to participate in the convention in every possible way – go to as many demos as time allows, take hands-on classes, take TONS of photos of the cake gallery, volunteer, and bring a sugar display! Because I’m flying to the convention this year, it’s much more difficult to bring a dummy cake. Instead, I made a bridal bouquet made of sugar! I’ve packed it up as tightly as I can so hopefully (a) they’ll let me carry it on the plane and (b) it survives the trip!

The bouquet is made up of pink roses, white stephanotis, pink hydrangea, and yellow & pink calla lilies.

I’ve been working from home on my dissertation a lot lately. During the day, I write…and at night, I work on cake stuff! I usually move the dining room table into the living room so I can take TV breaks occasionally. Anyway, during the day, Nani constantly wants to sleep in my lap. One night last week, Nani jumped on this chair all by herself…she KNOWS she’s not allowed up there, but she did it anyway. It was like she felt like she was entitled to it since it was empty. Please excuse the condition of the living room. If you were ever wondering what it looked like while I worked, now you know! The flowers in the background are the ones I used in the bouquet above.


The best part, though, was when Nani stood on the chair and leaned over to the banister. Check out this photo Adam caught (yes, her open eye is scary…they always turn out like that in photos…oh well!):


Is she seriously winking? She’s mischievous alright! But that face is so cute…how could you do anything but laugh???

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