Saturday, November 17, 2012

Progress and success

 Has it really been only a month since I moved to Finland?  So many things have happened in such a short time that I'm quite out of breath just thinking about it all!  After my post-Hamburg euphoria, reality hit me like a slap in the face.  The moving men had left ALL my possessions piled to the ceiling in only one room of my new home.  It took me until midnight to find a set of sheets and blankets so that I could go to sleep!  I was already resigned to sleeping fully clothed on a bare mattress before I found a set of sheets and a blanket.

Despite needing to unpack all those boxes and get my home in some semblance of order,  I needed to get going with setting up the business and preparing for my final show of the year, Cake International at Birmingham.  So on the 29th of October I took the hygiene exam required by law for anyone working with food in any capacity in Finland.  Happily I passed with flying colours!

With only a few days left before my departure to Birmingham, I finally had time to start my competition piece.  This time I made a wedding cake, feeling that if I'm going to be in the cake business, I need to compete with more than just flowers.   I'd had the design in my head for a long time:  I had even commissioned a cake separator from Bianco Blu glassworks last summer to complement the cake.  My aim was to give the impression of splashing water and Tarmo Maaronen did a great job!
Unfortunately I had not left myself enough time to really perfect the details of the cake, failing to allow for things to go wrong.  And go wrong they did! I could not get my borders even and smooth to save my life, and the fondant refused to cooperate for the gilt "picture frames" around the paintings.  Even getting the panels for the paintings on the cake proved to be a nightmare!  Everything had to be perfectly even, perfectly in line and perfectly balanced.  Well, they stretched and warped and slid when I went to put them on the cake.  Fortunately I was able to trim the edges with a scalpel.  In the end the waterlilies themselves and the painting were the easiest part of the cake!  My only frustration with the flowers was making the flower to go inside the separator too big, meaning I had to stay up late the night before my departure to make another bud.

Let me tell you, flying with a wedding cake, even if it is made from styrofoam is unmitigated hell!  What on earth posessed me to decide to not only have a glass separator, but also a heavy glass cake stand?!  So I had the cake packed in individual boxes with each waterlily individually wrapped in another box, my big camera, my laptop (seriously dumb!) in hand baggage.  I managed to stuff my little handbag in my laptop bag, but even so, it all weighed a ton.  Then I had a big suitcase as I had packed all sorts of goodies for my daughters.  Still, going there was just about OK, although my poor arm with tennis elbow suffered quite a bit.

Having never been to Cake International before, I was in for a bit of a shock, as it were.  Glancing around at my fellow competitors as I was setting up my cake I suddenly felt completely out of my depth.  The standard was so very high!  it seemed each masterpiece was better than the last.  It was as if I had gone to see some decorated easter eggs, only to be surrounded by Faberge eggs, each and every one exquisite.  I was shaking so hard with nerves that one of the stewards took pity on me and helped me carry my cake to it's designated table.

Despite my nerves I ended up getting completely caught up in the moment.  So much to see!  So much to learn!  So many cakes celebs!  So much to buy!  I attended demonstrations by Alan Dunn, Debbie Brown and Tombi Peck.  I got to shake hands with Eddie Spence, the undisputed king of royal icing, Christine Flinn, the queen of royal icing, Carlos Litschetti, a wonderfully talented sugar artist from south America.  He will send me a signed copy of his new book!  There were so many talented faces there and I tried to have a word with as many as I could.  The consummate groupie!

Saturday was spent driving all the way up to Newcastle to see my daughters.  Mad in a way as I spent nearly 8 hours behind the wheel in order to spend 5 - 6 hours with them.  But of course it was worth it!!  We had a lovely time together.  Such a happy day!

On Sunday I was almost too nervous to check my cake to see how I had fared.  Honestly, I didn't expect anything at all, but after all that hard work and effort, I still wished for something.....  So I was ridiculously happy when I saw the certificate of Merit by my cake!  I cornered the judge for some constructive feedback and she was awesome.  She managed to point out all the places where I lost points while being incredibly kind and supportive at the same time.  She gave me valuable tips for improvement and praised my design.  So now I know what to do the next time......

Now I'm done with competitions for a while.  Time to focus on my business.  I'll save the news on my progress for the next post, but please check out my business page on facebook for more pics from Birmingham and news on the status of my business.  Just click on The Art of Cakes tab on the upper right side of this blog.

Thank you!

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