Why, Ruth, WHY???


Following my last blog on choosing your division for cake shows, people started asking me why I made certain comments. They started writing my friends to see whether they agreed with me and some wrote to tell me I was wrong. I decided that maybe you guys could use a little clarification on my opinions. And they are just that….MY OPINIONS. I am not saying this is the rule; rather, this is how I have interpreted things for my many years of competing. As I said in my last blog, to know for sure, you have to contact the show directors for the show you want to enter. Every show has different definitions of the divisions. Only the people who wrote the rules can tell you what they truly mean.

WHY DON’T YOU COUNT BEGINNER CLASSES LIKE WILTON?

I had people thinking I was bad mouthing Wilton teachers by saying this and nothing could be further from the truth. Let me start with where my opinions came from and go into more detail from there. When I was first starting to compete, I was talking with a well respected show director for one of the major US shows. She told me that for her show, she did not count demos, days of sharing, or beginning decorating classes like Wilton. Back when we had this conversation, there was no such thing as Internet videos and Online classes.

So why don’t we count these? Remember, we aren’t saying they aren’t valuable or that they aren’t good…we are saying not to count them in determining whether to move up a division. Many decorators have a great fear of being bumped up to the next division. They worry that they don’t have the skills to compete at that level. They consider it a bad thing to have to move to a higher division. Since people consider the classes as counting “against” them, we only want to count the classes that legitimately SHOULD push them higher.

The best way to think of it is that we only want to count the classes that give you more skills, that could enable you to compete at a higher level. Beginner classes just put you on the playing field as a beginner. For that reason, I personally do not count the first two Wilton classes and the introductory classes at many cake supply shops. They INTRODUCE you to the skills and techniques for cake decorating. Those beginning classes should not be used to move you up a division. If you continue on to Wilton 3 &4, you can count those hours towards moving up, since they are teaching you ADVANCED skills.

WHY DON’T YOU COUNT ONLINE CLASSES?

I have written before about online classes and how they can be incredibly helpful. Many of the ones today, especially those from Yummy Arts and Craftsy are well made with quality instructors. They are certainly worth your money. But, should they count “against” you to move you to a higher division? My personal opinion is that they should not. If you just watch the class, it is like watching a demo…you have not done the technique yourself. I have only seen a couple people post on Facebook that they worked alongside the video to create the class project. There is not a teacher there to correct you if you hold your hand the wrong way or do the technique wrong. No one is at your house to tell you if you got it or not. So, use these classes. Learn from them. But I don’t think you have to count them against your class hours when looking at cake show divisions.

WHY DO THEY HAVE TO BE ICES APPROVED TEACHERS?

Oh people, I did not say that…I said that was a STARTING place! You just want to be sure that you are counting classes from respected, knowledgable teachers. I don’t want you to feel like you have to count a class with a teacher that YOU thought was inadequate. I’ve read the students’ thoughts on teachers and know that some of you have taken classes that you believe were a complete waste of your money. For God’s sake, don’t count those. Count the classes that enhanced your skills as a decorator.

WHY DON’T YOU COUNT DEMOS AND YOUTUBE VIDEOS?

Just like with the online classes, you are just watching these things. You aren’t practicing under the supervision of an instructor. These are great and valuable tools to use as a decorator…watch them all! I just don’t think you need to count them against you for moving up a division.

WHY SHOULD I MOVE UP?

You should compete against people at your same competency level. In my opinion, that is what you really want to focus on. If you have very rough, beginning skills, enter Beginner. If you are becoming proficient at several techniques, I think you should look at Intermediate or Advanced. If you are proficient at many skills or do cakes for a living, I think you should enter Professional. If you are a teacher, author or recognized expert, you need to be in Masters. In the end, you are answering to yourself and your conscience. Where do YOU realistically believe your skills fit?

WHO APPOINTED YOU THE PERSON TO TELL US WHAT TO DO?

Not a soul. I never said I was right, only that I was sharing my opinions based upon many years of competing. I know enough to know that I don’t know everything. I am always willing to listen and revise my opinions. I offered my opinions at the request of many people who told me they had trouble figuring out their division. I am just trying to be helpful. If you disagree with me – fine. Do your own thing. That is the beautiful thing about America!

In the end, I get back to my same old preach: enter the cake shows! Attend the cake shows. Support the sugar arts. And thank you for reading my blog and letting me express my opinions.

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14 thoughts on “Why, Ruth, WHY???

  1. A positive note.. I totally appreciate your opinion & your ideas & your friendship! I copied & posted that blog on Icing on the Cake facebook page & I have already gotten several emails from people telling me thank you for posting that! They said it was so helpful to them to help them pick which category to put their cakes in! I always enjoy your blogs~

  2. No matter what, there will always be someone to criticize what anyone does. That’s life! I thought it was a good article and didn’t see a thing to take offense to, but then I’ve been around for a long time so I pretty much take everything with a grain of salt. Actually, I’ve seen beginners that I considered professionals – they just have a God given talent and then I’ve seen others that have worked for many, many years doing cakes for others and yet, their work is not what I consider professional. It’s all in the eye of the beholder! Some people think Wal-Mart is professional – NOT! There are some professionals, though, that work at a grocery store or Wal-Mart and that is the way they prefer to do it. You’re talking from the heart Ruth so not everyone is against you!! Thanks for what you do!

  3. Ruth, I found it disheartening to hear that so many people had a problem with your original post. It actually answered a lot of questions that a novice, like me, wanted to know. Anyone with half a brain should know they need to follow the guidelines put forth by the organizers of each competition that they plan to enter. Sheesh…. people will argue over about anything! It is not like you are asked to submit a transcript of classes you have taken along with your entry form. Your entry should speak for itself and, as in everything else in your life, you should let your conscience be your guide. Don’t let the skeptics discourage you. There are many people who enjoy and look forward to your blogs.

  4. Goodness! I thought your article was great. It covered all tht bases and expalined all the ins and outs of choosing a catagory. As someone that would be in the masters catagory I’m still not as good as some others in the same catagory. However, at the same I know it would be unfair for me to do a lesser catagory just so I could win. Does it push me to be a better decorator? Sure! That’s what it’s ment to do.
    Keep doing what your doing and don’t worry about those that over think it all. Life’s too short.

  5. I appreciated your posts – both of them – as a way of helping me think through the process of deciding where I needed to be. At the end of the day, I discussed it with one of the show organizers and we decided where I should be. Since I’ve never entered a show before, we’ll see how that goes. This isn’t life or death. Maybe we’re right – maybe not. I will do my best and I look forward to hearing what tips and suggestions the judges have so I can grow and improve. I’m not there to try to beat anyone. This is supposed to be fun! I hope my cakes are pleasing to others and maybe inspire someone’s creative process or make them want to try something new. At the end of the day, it’s just sugar and art…and styrofoam! Which reminds me, I need to make some REAL cake! Happy baking, everyone. Come play in the sugar with us!

  6. Wow!! I can’t believe that people would take things so literally. As the old adage goes, opinions are like a**holes – everyone has one. Just keep doing what you are doing because you are helping the people who want to be helped. Let the others take care of themselves.

  7. I really liked the blog, I have done cakes for my kids and family for a while (mostly star tip wilton pans) but since the cake shows on tv I have started playing with fondant and gum paste. I’ll try something I see, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t lol. I have not had much Formal training, I have taken a few classes at cake shows (your Steam Punk in Austin and Susans Cowboy which I REALLY ENJOYED). Do I think I am a beginner, in some things yes, others no. I usualy enter Intermediate because I like to push myself and strive to do better each show, and the comments from the judges in that group I think maybe a little tougher than beginner. I will be at the North Texas show I have some cool Ideas in my head (hope they come out how I want them to lol). I try and take the comments from my last show to improve for the next show. I really enjoy the things you post and look forward to them.

  8. I’m sure you’re not letting the Negative Nellies really get to you, but this is the frustrating side of what you’re doing. I think just about every topic you’ve written has been SPOT ON. It’s good to be competitive, but some people take it too personally. I attended your class in Ocala about competitions, and it truly opened my eyes. I had never seen a place for “Comments for Judges” on the form before, so I didn’t put anything, thinking it was pretty much self-explanatory. When I looked at it through your eyes, it was an “AHA” moment. Since my cake and the one that ultimately won it were just tenths of a point apart, if I had just just made comments about my cake for the judges, I could have possibly taken top spot! It went from, “Oh, man! I wish I had done that!” to “Okay, I’ll be ready next time!”

    I realy find it refreshing that someone can express their viewpoints. I don’t know many who have done that before. They’re too afraid of how people might respond. You go, girl!

  9. Thanks for all of your input. Even though my family has a small cake shop now, with my disabilities, I still do not believe that I could enter on a Master’s division because at this point, I don’t have feeling in my hands and have to guess the texture or the pressure with which to apply. This is one reason that I have not entered any cake shows, (other than a local charity event) however, I do understand your views and appreciate them. Obviously, I have seen cakes that even as a first timer at ICES six years ago, I knew which were beginners and which were masters or professionals. It def. would not be fair to a beginner to compete with those whose cakes are at a master’s level.

  10. Ruth, please don’t let the minority stop you from voicing YOUR opinions. It’s just like when I teach a Wilton Basic’s class. I constantly get asked who says Wilton does it the right way. I don’t, I tell them I am there to teach them the very basics and where they take it from there is up to them. I tell them they will learn their own styles and techniques once they expand and do more and more decorating. It bothers me to no end that people that have been entering cake contests for the past twenty-five years are still trying to enter a novice category. Thank you for your blogs and thank you for giving us your side of the cake world!

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