When the Lights Go Out


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Yesterday, the organizers of The Art of The Cake Show announced that, due to low registrations, they were canceling the show. They didn’t just cancel the 2013 show, they canceled it forever. Many of us who have supported this show were heartbroken. Not all shows are created equal. Each has something that sets it apart from the others for me. For Art of the Cake (AotC), it was their “Most Artistic” category.

While they judged the cakes on technical merits like every other show, they wanted to reward someone who designed a cake in a non-traditional way that really showed off the ART in sugar art. Becky Rink and Anna Weisand, organizers of the show, are both well known for being inspiringly creative, out of the box designers. They brought their passion to their show. They brought their love of sugar to the competition and encouraged everyone who entered. They honored traditions of old with their buttercream only live competition and they kept their show on the forefront by bringing in teachers that were not on the “sugar art teaching circuit”.

The people who have been to this show know what a loss this is for the sugar art community. In our current world of “let me tell you what you did wrong” mentality, people wrote them emails telling them how they messed up. Seriously? Who does that? These two fabulous women just had to lay to rest one of their dreams and people take this opportunity to judge them? So wrong and sad.

Yes, there are lots of shows, but there have been for a while. Yes, the economy is tight, but it has been for a while. Yes, cake tv has changed the landscape of sugar art, but that started years ago. The plain and simple truth is that everyone loves to go look at the cakes, but few are willing to bring their cakes. I have written several blogs about why we need to enter cake shows. I still believe it to be true. If no one brings a cake, there is nothing to look at.

People thought this was about low class enrollment (which might have also been true), but the simple fact is that there weren’t enough cake registrations to make the show break even. They offered goody bags and prizes and other incentives to get people to sign up by the date when they HAD to know whether the show was viable. On the last day of registration, there were still bags available, which means that less than 50 people had registered. There were more people planning to enter. For some reason, we cannot seem to register early for things. I wrote about this the other day in my Pot Calling Kettle blog. We cannot procrastinate. Shows, cake classes and events have hard deadlines for when they look to see if the event should take place. With money so tight, organizers cannot take a chance that the numbers will improve. Because sometimes they don’t and the event will take a loss.

Someone wrote me saying that it was too expensive to enter without wanting to win. Fine, want to win. I don’t care what gets you there. Just get there. Think about it this way…if you don’t practice a new technique on a show cake, then you are practicing on your customer. I, for one, think my customer deserves my best. I wanted them to have work that I KNEW I could do. A competition cake was my only chance to stretch and grow as a decorator. It made financial sense for me to build my portfolio by doing competition cakes. It made sense for me to become a better decorator. I consider myself to be a pretty well rounded decorator and I owe that ALL to cake shows and the mentors I met at them. I had to invest in MYSELF and my SKILLS.

I entered shows while working at a grocery store bakery and while running my own bakery. It was not easy. I will not lie to you about that. I would work long days at the bakery, then lock the door and start working on my show cake. The week before a cake show I was incredibly sleep deprived. The hardest time I had, I drove 90 minutes to the show on a Friday night and set up my cake. I drove 90 minutes home, then worked all day Saturday on my weddings. I had a bridal show on Sunday. The second it ended, I drove 90 minutes back to the show to pick up my cakes. I didn’t see any of the show. But I contributed to the show. And, more importantly, I learned new techniques that year. I would never recommend that type of schedule, but want you to understand that I do get it. I had to weigh business against cake shows every time I entered.

There are a number of cake shows on the horizon. Off the top of my head, there are shows in New Jersey, Austin, Colorado, San Diego, Virginia, Kansas City, Manchester, London, Germany….just between now and April. I hope that you will consider attending one. If you sign up for my newsletter, I list all the shows, dates and web links so that you can get more information. What one technique have you been dying to try? What flower have you always wanted to make. What do you wish you had a display of for your customers to see? This is your chance to grow. Just so you know that I will lead by example, I took my AotC refund and used it to register for That Takes The Cake Show in Austin in February. I cannot wait to try something new.

To conclude, please mourn with me the end of an era. The AotC show was a great event. Becky Rink and Anna Weisand were great show organizers. I hope that someday their show will be resurrected, but in the meantime, I want to thank them for great times and great memories.

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7 thoughts on “When the Lights Go Out

  1. I, too,mourn the loss of the cake show. Becky’s eyes sparkled when she spoke of this show. I cannot even tell you how much I have been looking forward to next year, when I was planning to go. I am only sorry that with medical expenses and a new business, I could not afford to go this year.

  2. I’m very sad that something like this can’t happen due to lack of interest. I wished I lived closer to many of the shows that you have listed, I would enter every one of them. I drove 16 hours one way just to go to Branson and loved every minute of it. Sure I was exhausted; but it comes with the territory. Perhaps this show could happen every other year and still exist. I think shows like this are very important to everyone as you can always pick up some new technique or hint along the way.

  3. I know the feelings of Anna and Becky – I’ve had them when watching enrollment for Cake Love. It is scary, the thought that I might have to dig into my own pocket and personally pay for expenses is terrifying (especially since I am now self-employed)…and the best part (sarcastically) is when people give feedback that the show is just way too expensive or the beds at the hotel were too hard or the food venues were no good. I know that Becky and Anna poured their hearts into this Show and have a lot vested in it, personally. Any complaints about the show are taken personally by organizers…people should think long and hard before sending un-constructive criticism. Always easy to complain than volunteer to help make it right.

    Good luck to Becky and Anna in the future (though you will be successful without luck) and I am sure that we will see your names attached to some show or other in the future. The experiences that you have had would be invaluable to those of us organizers muddling our way along…

  4. there is only 1 cake show left in California, I hadn’t entered it before for a bevy of excuses. No More, in 2013 I will enter at least one cake in Cakes for a Cause, so that Ik now I did my part so that this doesn’t happen again. Thanks Ruth!

  5. Thanks, Ruth–so well said. I , too, was brokenhearted when I got my e-mail notification of the cancellation and my entry refund.
    I talked this show up all the time, always trying to convince people that Cleveland is not some snowy tomb in Jan. (it’s NOT). I also told them that if they were going to attend, they should enter something/anything because the goody bag was always well worth it, not to mention getting a judge’s score sheet–the most valuable souvenir of every show I’ve ever entered.

    If you want attend a show, find a project that you want to do for purely selfish reasons and then go NIKE on it–JUST DO IT! Share a ride, share a room, share a cooler of snacks and food, and have a wonderful time sharing the learning and loving of decorating!

  6. I, too, love cake shows. I wish I could enter more of them. Due to my work schedule, my travel time is limited but I enter the one closest to me every year and have since I started decorating. While I was still an amateur, I entered my state and county fairs.

    I KNOW how much work and effort those two women have put into their show already. It breaks my heart that they had to cancel. I’m now involved with my ICES chapter and our show, and I’m worried about it. Not just about the registrations, but every year it gets harder to find people willing to help.

    Thank you for all you do to promote cake shows, Ruth.

  7. Way too many shows. People don’t know where to go anymore. New Cake shows trying to do a show the same month of other established shows. Or people creating new shows to see if other shows will fail. Seem people have no respect for the people who started this and they are doing it for all the wrong reasons.

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