this month, back in August, pastry live, had a 3 day event comprised of seminars, workshops and competitions all for the glory of sugar and chocolate. not sure what bug got in my bonnet, but i decided to throw my hat into the ring for “the art of cake” competition. they had a pretty cool concept – take your favorite artistic inspiration – art, artist, or time period – and translate that into a sculpted cake creation. piece of cake! not. at. all.
first of all, we had to submit both the artistic interpretation and cake flavors for the tasting cake waaay ahead of time. not so great for a procrastinator. or maybe that was great, since it forced me to get my butt in gear early. i decided that since the competition was taking place the same weekend as the occasion for the 50th anniversary of jamaica’s independence, i would select a jamaican artist.
whenever i visit jamaica, i spend lots of my time at my aunt’s house in new kingston. not too far from her home is emancipation park, and central to that park is the bronze statue by artist laura facey – redemption song. at the time it was unveiled, there was quite the uproar about the nekkidness of the man and woman. i mean, di people nuh hav on no clothes! controversy aside, it is a larger than life piece that always speaks to me about the steadfastness, determination, perseverance and pride of the people of jamaica.
i decided i was going replicate he and she out of modeling chocolate, never mind that i had never used that medium before. you mean it’s not a good idea to try something brand new, when going into competition?
fyi, modeling chocolate is basically melted chocolate and corn syrup, which magically turns into a malleable chocolate clay. it’s different that fondant. very different! it required a whole new set of tools. introducing the newest member of the not a crumb toolkit (drumroll) – a hair dryer! it totally helps to soften the surface of the modeling chocolate so that it is easier to smooth and sculpt.
anywhoo, back to the fantastic inspiration. i didn’t just want to do 24″ of people (that was the height requirement), i thought that would be boring and too simple! (if i had known how much work sculpting he and she would be, believe me, i would have totally only done the people!) mad props to laura facey for making he and she 20 feet tall! my likkle 12″ people almost killed me! from start to finish, they took about 12 hours to complete.
i wanted some color, and representation of the land of wood and water. i looked no further than the artisans of wassi art. they make the most beautiful pottery. it’s handcarved and handpainted, and gorgeously colorful and vibrant.
what happens when you combine pottery and nekkid people…
not too shabby right? i want you to know that at turns during the creative process, i was filled with pride, self-loathing, nausea and delirium. and apparently short-term memory loss, because i didn’t take a single picture until it was done. sorry!
i mean, this competition was not televised, and didn’t have $10,000 prize money, yet i was nerve-wracked! i mean, how do the food network challenge people do this?!
on friday, august 3rd, i headed on over to the summit at perimeter, to set up my cake. there were 8 other competitors, some local, and some not. all of the cakes were awesome, and a testament to all the fantastic things you can make out of cake, sugar, fondant and chocolate. there were piped, carved, and handpainted cakes. all in all, it was a confectionary gallery d’art! once i saw the work of all the sugar savants, my nausea returned with a vengeance! and because the folks at pastry live are so kind, they wouldn’t reveal the winners before sunday afternoon. sigh.
i returned on sunday with my mom in tow (the DH stopped by on friday to support and help ease my nerves). spoiler alert – i didn’t win. 😦 my mom was kind enough to point out “you’re not the only one who didn’t win.” thanks… i think? jamaican parents have weird ways of reassuring you. in any case she was right. i still didn’t feel better about not being the only loser, but felt pretty good about my first foray into the world of competitive caking.
fast forward five days – i get an email from pastry live. inside were the judges’ scores from the competition. i mean, the competition is completely over, but guess who stops by for a little visit? my nausea from the weekend. talk about an unwanted guest! at any rate, i finally got up the courage to look, and guess what! i came in 4th out of 8! and i think that is pretty darn awesome! gold, silver, bronze… tin? DH says 4th should at least be copper. either way, i don’t care. I think I did damn well. Well enough to brave gastrointestinal distress and try again next year!