hearth & home
"IN MY SHOES"
1:00 "You may begin your set-up. You have 10 minutes until your start time." The competition has officially begun. I have 60 minutes to completely decorate a cake for an autumn celebration. It has been almost 12 years since I was in a competition setting. Though older and wiser I still have butterflies in my stomach and I can feel my hands shake.
1:10 I am heating a clear jelly to cover several cakes I will use for my main display. I have designed, on paper, a pumpkin patch to include chocolate leaves, vines, gum paste squash blossoms, and two, fondant-covered pumpkins.
1:14 I look at the clock. I start to tint my gum paste yellow with swirls of orange for the squash blossoms. The judge asks me about my technique. It is an opportunity to display my knowledge of these skills (5 points toward a medal). Now there is a crowd collecting around my station to see what I am doing.
1:21 I have begun melting the chocolate for my autumn leaves and start trimming my cakes. I am restricted to a 10" x 3" filled cake. I cut the grooves down the sides of the cakes and make my first mistake. I throw away my cake trimmings. (Lesson #1...donít throw anything away if you can use it later.)
1:27 I begin to cover each cake with orange fondant and trim it to fit. Each pumpkin is then hand painted with food-safe dyes, petal dusts and vodka. My chocolate stems have set up and I peel off the foil form I made. This gets a comment out of one of the judges. He likes the technique.
1:35 My chocolate is melted and I pull out lemon leaves. I begin to paint chocolate on the back of each leaf and I notice I have burned one of the colors. My leaves will now be yellow, orange and red with no light brown. It is a congealed mess in the bottom of my bowl. The leaves are ready for the cooler.
1:47 It is time to transfer the pumpkins to my base. I have made the base out of plywood covered in a marbleized fondant to resemble burl wood. Five minutes before the start of the competition I spilled some water on the base ruining part of the surface. Though I have brought a wood tray as a back up I decide to use the original, hand-made base. My pumpkins will sit over the damaged parts of the fondant. It is my hope the chocolate leaves and vines will prevent the rest of the damage from being detected.
2:05 I have 5 minutes left. I can see my husband and my son watching me finish the display. "Time", the judge says and I am done.
4:30 My competition piece is critiqued. Yes, I have lost points for throwing cake scraps away and my chocolate leaves should have be thinner. One judge questions the practicality of plating my dessert, but since this is not a stipulation I donít believe I am penalized for it.
5:55 The awards ceremony started at 5:30 and they are now calling my category. I am more nervous now than I was during the competition. My husband gives my hand a squeeze. The judges call all the contestants who receive a certificate of participation. My name is not called. Several bronze metal winners are announced (28-31.99 points out of 40). Again my name is not called. Now my stomach is in knots. The first winner for silver with 33 points is called...it is not me. Then the judge looks directly at me. With 33.25 points I have also won a silver medal. All I can hear is my son say, "Good job, mom" and I go up to get my award.
NOTES FROM the A.C.F. Certified competition at Delhi October 23, 2005. Because these competitions are judged on a point basis it is possible for several contestants to place in the same category. There are times when no contestant will receive a gold medal.
Ann Pellegrino - The Gingersnap Bakery - Professional Contemporary Patisserie