Are you new to the cake competition circuit? Perhaps you're prepping for your first cake decorating competition, or you're a seasoned pro just looking for a few competition tips to refresh your style? Fear not, when it comes to cake decoration contests, CD&S are pretty accustomed to cake competitions big, small and all sizes in between.
1. Choose wisely
The term 'cake competition' is really pretty broad and, once you start entering cake decoration contests, you'll find there's a whole load of classes to enter that you didn't realise needed separating. Make sure to read the competition rules through thoroughly before choosing your class. Say you're wanting to enter Cake International and your work is primarily in sugarpaste flowers, you'd enter the 'Sugar Floral Arrangement' category right? Or would it be 'Floral Sugar Craft'? Then of course there's 'Floral Inspirations' to consider too. Intricate cake decoration requires carefully considered categorising and specifications, so make sure you thoroughly inspect each category around your skill set before choosing your class.
2. Read the rules
This may seem super obvious but you'd be amazed how many cake decorating competitors have their entries rejected due to not being precisely to specification. Just reading the rules when you first enter isn't enough, as you'll inevitably get carried away while creating and go off spec. It happens to the best of us - save the on-the-spot creativity for another time! Be sure to keep checking the rules throughout the process, including just before you submit the final piece. Pin them all over the house if you have to!
3. Invest in a ruler
No matter how many people try to say it, size absolutely matters. In cake competitions, of course! Most, if not all classes of cake entries in cake decorating competitions have very strict size rules and even if you're just a few millimetres over the limit, your entry will be disqualified. There's nothing more heartbreaking than seeing judges place an NTS sticker on your entry (Not To Specification) and see all of your hard work go to waste. Check, check and check again!
4. Consider transport
Picture your final cake. Then, picture how you're going to transport it to the venue. Will it fit out the front door? Will it be safe on its journey? Can you get it safely to the table to be judged? Don't forget you can always perform some final touches and additions once you reach the venue, so don't worry about having every single element correctly placed before you travel. Check out our article on How To Transport a Cake for more information and advice.
5. Take a repair kit
You never know what can go wrong, so it's always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared! Key items to include in your kit are royal icing, water, sugarpaste and edible glue. Plus, don't forget a few cake decorating equipment essentials!
6. Find a support network
Getting involved in cake decoration contests can be isolating and overwhelming, especially if you don't have many other cakey friends. If you're elbows deep in a creation for a cake competition, chances are your non-cakey friends will have no idea what you're going through and won't understand the dedication you'll need to put into your work. Entering cake decorating competitions is far more fun with cake friends plus, online forums share their experiences and tips to help make your entry the best it can be. We recommend checking out some cake competition and show groups on social media.
7. Handmade is best made
Entering a cake competition is all about technique and artistry, so be sure to show as much technique and artistic flair as you can! If judges look at a perfectly made sugarpaste lily with precise, matching petal tips and no imagination, they're far more likely to give points to one that has clearly had more handmade techniques worked into it. You don't want your entry to look messy, of course, but sometimes perfection isn't everything.
8. Keep it to yourself
This is a pretty simple competition tip: you cannot share any images of your entry prior to results on social media or your website. Don't jeopardize your chances for a few likes on the internet, save that for when you win! Then feel free to download your 'winners' badge for use on social media, celebrate your skills on your business website, business cards, everything!
9. Be unique
Make sure your design is original and all your own work. Again, we're not saying cakers would actually intentionally use someone else's design and use it as their own, but it's very easy to find yourself accidentally copying a part or whole of something that's already been created. Do your research and make sure you know what else is out there to be sure your piece is truly individual.
10. No such thing as too soon
A big question people ask when looking for cake competition tips is when is best to start? In all honesty, there's no such thing as too soon. Start early, as it gives you plenty of time to tackle unexpected issues, either with your cake or in your own personal/professional life. Leave it too late and you can guarantee something will challenge you and you’ll wish you had more time. It's pretty difficult for a cake decoration contest entry to 'go off', so as soon as you know you're in the competition, get started!
11. Be kind to yourself
Don’t compete against others, compete for and against yourself. Every entry starts at full marks, so don’t waste time comparing your work to others in the same class. Throughout the process of creating your masterpiece and then waiting for judging to happen, be sure to take care of your mental health and don't let the contest consume you. If it all goes horribly wrong, there's always next time!
12. Learn and grow
No one likes to be criticised, anyone that says they do is lying through their teeth. But, even we will admit that, no matter how hard it is to hear, criticism is essential in the journey to becoming a cake decorating master. Be sure to get and really listen to judges' feedback, it's invaluable for learning what they are looking for and how to improve for the next competition.
We recommend reading our other great article on participating in cake decorating competitions, where CD&S contributor, cake professional and seasoned cake competitor Laura Dodimead gives her first-hand advice on how to Eat, sleep, create and compete!
So that was CD&S's list of the top cake decorating competition tips for beginners and experts alike! Now all that's left is to wish you the best of luck and make sure you enjoy the journey, the cake competition exhilaration starts the moment you fill in the form!
If you're looking for more handy hints and tips for how to make the most out of your caking and baking, be sure to check out our article on How To Price Your Cakes. Your time and work are valuable, so make sure you're not selling yourself short!