These are tips for competing in a general sense but aren’t strict requirements. However, you will find that judges look these things, and you earn more points if you follow these suggestions wherever possible.
Present your work on a covered cake board/base. Make sure the board is strong enough to support your work and is footed (has cleats) at least ½ inch from table.The board/base is an integral part of your display, so incorporate it in your overall design, not as an afterthought. Cover your board with fondant or another medium. Even pretty foil is considered to be less “finished” and displaying less skill. If your board has an edge, put a ribbon around it. If the underside of your board is visible (i.e. in floating tiers), cover it, decorate it, hide it, or somehow make it look integral to the design instead of just sticking out as an obvious board. However, if fabric is used care should be taken to ensure it does not come into direct contact with the cake.
Try to use as many sugar-based mediums to execute your decorations.
Make sure the covering is neat, finish the edges and extend the design to incorporate your board/base.
Tiered cakes need to be in proportion and balanced when using real cakes, they should be level and free of crumbs.
Do not insert wires directly into cakes; they must be inserted into straws or covered in a food approved wrap.
Real feathers and moss are not allowed. Be careful using glitter, not all are FDA approved.
Fondant cakes should be smooth and without bumps or cracks. Borders should be uniform with no visible stops or starts.
Icing colors should be pleasing and not clash with boards, ribbons, etc. Colors should not be faded or run together. Remember colors change when dry and colors of different icing mediums may not always match.
You might want to practice before you make your final piece in Fondant, Gum Paste, Isomalt, Royal Icing, or Buttercream, etc.
Watch for fingerprints, nail marks, tool marks, uneven icing, or other general neatness issues. Clean up any rough edges from cutters. Use a ruler/straightedge regularly when you decorate. Use templates for circles to keep them round. Never assume the judges won’t notice that little thing, because that little thing is exactly what the judges will see first. Clients don’t notice small errors, but judges do! Cleanliness of work is a large part of what separates Beginners from Professionals, so if you’ve gone up a Division, up your game accordingly.
Hide your structure unless there’s a very good design reason not to. Judges should not see uncovered PVC pipe frames, metal supports, skewers, etc. unless they are part of the design (i.e. decorative pillars). If you want judges to see something special you’ve done with your internal support, provide photos with your Entry Form.
Use your Entry Form to let judges know anything you want them to know, as long as it’s not going to identify you. Explain your concept, highlight your innovation, describe the thing you’re worried they won’t understand. Use respectful, formal, informative language. You may add extra sheets, if needed, although there’s no guarantee judges will read every word beyond the main sheet so keep it brief. We will provide a link to this sheet in the email confirmation that goes out with your registration, so you can fill it in early and not risk forgetting to list something. Most people do it at the show, and that’s fine, but if you feel stressed on the day of the show, do yourself a favor and fill out this sheet calmly in advance.
Dummies should be treated as real cake whenever possible. If a judge thinks, “Well that’s nice but you could never make that with real cake,” you are likely to lose points. Your primary reasons for using dummies should be weight/transportation and to avoid spoilage, not to avoid having to decorate real cake.
Judges are always looking for greater edibility, because it takes more skill. So even though your entry isn’t going to be eaten, keep in mind that judges are scoring as if it was real cake at a real event. If your design incorporates inedible elements, they should either be easily replaceable with edible elements (i.e. using a dummy instead of real cake) or be easily removed (i.e. a spray of wired flowers that can be lifted off). If you wrap satin ribbon all around your cake instead of making an edible ribbon, judges will see that as a barrier to serving even though the cake will never really be served.
Using more techniques gets you more points, but only if you do them well. You will score more highly with three perfectly executed techniques than fifty mediocre ones. Similarly, our show loves innovation and the pushing of boundaries, but only if it’s done well. A new technique done sloppily will not increase your score. Perfect your techniques to the best of your ability before adding them to your entry.
Any entry has a better chance than no entry, especially in the lower Divisions, and you can learn a lot from judges even if you don’t place. Don’t get discouraged and think your entry isn’t good enough to bring, even if you didn’t finish it to your original plan. Bring it anyway, let the judges comment on what you did get finished, and use it as a learning experience for next year. Plus, we’ve had multiple medal winners over the years who brought an entry they didn’t think was worth much, so take a deep breath, bring what you’ve got, and let us all celebrate your achievement together.
Your goal should never be to win. Your goal should be to push yourself to make something amazing that you want to share with the world.
Check in will take place at Contra Costa College, 2600 Mission Bell Dr, San Pablo, CA 94806 Fireside Hall, near the Culinary Building. See Map for assistance
Contra Costa Cake Club // 1647 Willow Pass Road, #447 // Concord, CA., 94520