Tag Archive | classes

Hang ‘Em High

There’s a new breed in town. I call them the Cake Rustlers. They are a smarmy breed of folks. You will recognize them as the folks who attend your demo then do a tutorial on your exact demonstration. They are the ones who scrub off your logo and replace it with theirs on cake photos. They buy your video, then do a knocked down version as a free or paid tutorial.

In the old days, there were similar folks in the Wild West. They were cattle rustlers and the good people of that era considered cattle theft a hanging offense. Remember, they had to go grab someone’s cows, alter the brand to be theirs and then sold the other person’s property to line their own pockets.

I feel much the same about some of the activity going on right now. A photo of your cake, with your watermarked logo is a sign to the world that it belongs to YOU. For some reason, people don’t think taking a photo is stealing, but it IS. I actually fired an employee for setting up a competing web site using photos that belonged to me. Because that was blatant theft, she was not eligible for unemployment benefits.

I’ve had a friend discover that her custom designed logo was being used by another company. I’ve had a friend do a video and someone copied it almost verbatim to create her own for sale. I had a friend get video taped as she gave a demo and the person then made their own you tube video using her words and process. I’ve seen countless friends have their photos stolen and passed of as the thief’s work.

Until the law really catches up with the internet revolution, we have to be vigilantes. I don’t like doing it, but we honestly have no other recourse right now. I see friends share the names of the crooks and then a “posse” of deputized citizens take action. It truly seems to be effective and about the only thing that works!

There will always be thieves. There will always be trusting souls who share their work with the world. Maybe someday the law will help us fight these cake rustlers. In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears open. And DO NOT support these thieves financially…no matter how good their prices are. A knock off will always be just a cheap imitation. You are all officially deputized. Let’s clean up this industry!

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The Forest and the Tree

I started a new leukemia medicine about four months ago. As with each of the leukemia drugs, I turn out to be allergic to it. My entire body is covered in an itchy, bumpy rash. And new for me, this version has caused my hair to start falling out. It is dramatically thinner, so my hairdresser cut it shorter to minimize how that looks. Every time I look in the mirror, all I can see is the rash on my face and the thinness of my hair.

I was at a meeting for my marathon charity event (Www.teamintraining.org) the other day. I’d been having quite the pitty party lately about how this drug was affecting my looks. At the end of the meeting, one of my girlfriends came over and told me that I looked amazing and that my skin looked great. She hoped I was feeling as good as I looked. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

On my way home that day, I realized that I was guilty of not seeing the forest for the trees. I was so focused on something that most people don’t even notice, that I could not see that I really did look healthier on this new medicine. And, even worse, I wasn’t looking at myself with love like my friend was. I was looking with the expectation that something was wrong.

I then realized that this is what so many of my students do in class. It is what so many decorators do while working on our cakes. We judge ourselves harshly. We critique every single thing we do. We look at the sub parts of the cake or class project so closely that we totally miss the beauty of what we are creating.

I was teaching in Louisiana a couple weeks ago. One of the students was totally hating her lace work. I took the project from the table, told her to close her eyes, then stepped back a couple paces. When she opened her eyes, she exclaimed “oh!” She could finally see the beauty in what she was creating.

Often we need to look at our work with fresh eyes. I used to make myself do this in competition work, but I totally forgot to do this in classes and in my personal life. So my words of wisdom for you today are to look for the forest. Look at your projects with love. You might be pleasantly surprised!

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A Word for the Little Guy

I’ve been promising to write this blog for quite a while, and I think the time has finally come.  When I started decorating about 25 years ago, there were very few places to buy cake supplies.  You HAD to go to cake supply and restaurant supply stores to buy things.  Then Wilton products moved into Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Walmart and other craft stores.  Decorators rejoiced.  We could use coupons on our products and were so happy.  I remember going every week with a 40% off coupon and buying one pan…for months…back when having a bakery was just a dream in my heart.  I never once thought about the lost sales for my cake supply store or how it might affect them.

These days, Satin Ice is now available at craft and grocery stores.  Hobby Lobby has created their own tool line and are selling products incredibly cheap.  At first, we all rejoice.  Then I started talking to the owners of cake supply stores.  Many are barely getting by.  Some have closed over the last few years.  This makes me incredibly sad.

“But the cake supply store charges too much for the products”.  The supply stores don’t have the buying power of a Walmart and they never will.  Sometimes the big stores are selling things for less than the cake store buys it for.  Can you imagine?  When the cake store adds a reasonable profit onto the price they pay (remember, they have just as much right and NEED as you to make money), it looks like they are gouging the customer.  But they aren’t.

I’m writing this to ask you to keep shopping at your local cake shop, even if it costs you a little more.  Think about the extras you get from your local shop.  They help you figure out what you need to buy to create the cake in the picture you bring in.  They dispense advice on a regular basis and you don’t pay a dime for that.  They tell you how to use the products.  Guide you so that you don’t buy things you don’t need.  Help you find the tools that make your life easier.  I’ve been in my local shop many times and watched them walk people through making their own wedding cake, figure out what items are worth buying in bulk, and so much more.  They placed special orders for me and other customers so that we could get the products we needed.  Isn’t that worth paying a little extra?

Think about all the shops that have disappeared because of Target and Walmart.  What if that happens to your local cake supply store?

Your local cake shop is also the main place people learn cake decorating.  Yes, you can take Wilton classes at other places, but many people hunger for more after taking those classes.  It is the local cake shop that brings in the teachers from out of state.  It is the local supply shop that offers holiday themed classes.  It is the local supply shop that teaches you how to bake, to decorate, to run a cake business

I was at one shop in another country.  It was very small…no larger than a converted garage (which is what it was in) and the owner told me she had over $10,000 in merchandise in there.  She had made a huge investment on behalf of her students and local decorators.  Now think about the medium size shops and the large shops…how much money do they have tied up in the shop?  Can you imagine what their monthly overhead is?  They need your patronage.

This is my plea for your local cake shop.  The next time you head out for fondant, cake boards and such, I hope you’ll drive past the big box store and give your favorite cake supply store your business instead.  little guy

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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Are You My Mother?

I just got home from the Austin cake show (That Takes The Cake). One of the coolest parts of it for me were the sheer number of decorators who came up to me and said they entered because of my encouragement. They had read my blogs and realized that cake shows would die without people bringing cakes. One of the biggest questions I get is from people asking me what division they should enter. Are they Adult Advanced? Professional? Beginner?

Judging this weekend, I saw several instances of people entering below their skill level and/or below their professional level. Did they do it out of ignorance? Maybe. Did they do it out of fear that they weren’t really a “professional”? Maybe. Did they do it to win lots of awards? Makes me wonder….. I decided that maybe you guys needed help figuring out your divisions so that people don’t think you “entered down” in order to win.

Here are the divisions from the recent Austin show.

While the shows are similar, each show will have its own particular guidelines and you need to follow those. I want to walk you through reading these divisions so that you understand how to classify yourself.

Adult Beginner
In Austin, this means you have basic skills (think Wilton first class), have been decorating less than 2 years, have taken less than 30 hours of classes. If you exceed any of these three elements, you should probably move up. If you have only decorated six months, but are a natural and able to make cakes with very few flaws, you aren’t really a beginner in my eyes. I would not say that you had just basic decorating skills. For me, that is the most telling part of the qualifications. BASIC skills. If you know in your heart that your skills are beyond the entry level basics, you need to move up.

Adult Intermediate
In Austin, this was for people with developing skills, 2-4 years of experience and and 30-60 hours of instruction. I judged this division. I was surprised at the people who entered this category, even though their skills were clearly beyond the “developing” stage. This is not a category for anyone who owns a bakery business or who makes most of their income from cakes. It is unfair to the people who really do have developing skills if you walk in with your refined skills and sweep the awards. If a doctor entered the science fair against your child, you would be pissed. Well I am the surrogate mother of the new, developing decorators and want them to only compete against others of comparable skills. “But I’ve only been decorating two years” you say. I understand. But the length of time you’ve been a decorator is not the only guideline. You cannot pick just that to focus on.

Developing skills means that you have moved beyond the Wilton yearbooks and are trying your own designs. You might do a thing or two pretty well, but your skills across the board are still developing. You know that you have a lot to learn and are willing to admit it. You look at the cakes in higher categories and study them to figure out how they did things, because that knowledge is just beyond you for now. If you can look at the work in higher divisions and realize that your work is equal or better than that…then it is time to move up.

This is where my “Are you my mother” symbolism comes in. Just like the little bird, you have to walk up to each category and say “is this the type of decorator I truly am”? Pay particular attention to the skill level descriptions and less to the number of years or hours of classes. I know people who have taken boatloads of classes, but still have developing skills. I know someone whose first cake in her life won Best of Show. I know people who are entirely self taught, yet incredibly brilliant. Those of you holding your hand out to a customer for money for your cakes, would you feel good justifying your price by saying that you have basic skills? Or developing skills? You should not “enter down” just to win a prize.

Adult Advanced
In Austin, this was for people with more refined skills, 4-6 years of experience and 60-90 hours of classes. These are folks who are considered good decorators by everyone who sees their work. They still do it for friends and family, not for a paycheck. They have really gotten the hang of several different techniques. At the lower divisions, someone might be a one trick pony…be good at just one aspect of decorating…not these folks.

Let’s also talk about classes. What counts towards your hours? Wilton classes and other beginner level classes taught at supply stores do not count. Online classes like Craftsy do not count. You only need to count classes with recognized teachers. An easy way to figure that out is to look at the ICES Approved Teacher list. That will give you a good starting list.

Professional
In Austin, this was for decorators with a high level of skill, who have decorated more than six years, have taken more than 90 hours of classes or who work as a decorator. My very first cake show, I had only taken the three Wilton classes and been at the grocery store bakery for a couple of weeks, but had to enter this level at the Oklahoma Show. Was it fair to make me jump all the other levels? Yes. It truly was. I took money for decorating and that made me a professional. I know my skill level wasn’t that high at that time, but it forced me to work harder to do work befitting that division. If you took money once or twice, I probably wouldn’t move you here, but if you get most of your income from doing cakes, you need to enter this division. I personally think that if you have a Facebook or web page dedicated to the solicitation of cake orders, you are a professional.

Masters
In Austin, this was reserved for teachers, authors and people considered experts in the sugar art field. This includes people with more than 120 hours of classes. These decorators are known to have mastered several aspects of sugar art. If you take people’s money as a teacher, we should see you here. I do not include Wilton instructors in this statement, just those teaching advanced sugar art skills. I personally think that if you have a CMSA certification, you need to be in this division. If you have DVDs for sale, this is you. If you sell tutorials online or filmed a Craftsy class, this is you.

I was looking at the Divisions for the upcoming North Texas Show and have to say that I love how they described the divisions. I wish I had seen it before I was almost finished with this blog…but they are awesome. Check them out at http://www.northtexascakeshow.com. They are common sense wordings!

North Texas includes hints for entering. They say that if the category seems like it would be too easy, even though you technically could fit there, then enter the next higher category. If the category seems too hard that you should be in, then enter one lower. You are allowed to move yourself higher at any time. You cannot enter lower than you did prior years.

In the end, you have to do what is right for you. If you aren’t sure, ask the show organizers or someone who regularly judges cake shows. In the end, you have to go with your gut.

I want to end telling you about two seventeen year olds at the Austin show. Tyler Gary entered a spectacular wedding cake in the teen division. Could he have entered a higher category? Yes. With his skill level, he could easily have placed in Adult Advanced or Professional. But he was ALLOWED to enter as a teen and he did. Sidney Galpern, also 17, entered Masters. Why? Because she looked at the categories and knew that it was the right place for her. She teaches internationally. She has her own product lines. She sells DVDs. She is exactly who needs to compete at the master level. The point of this story is that you must look beyond the surface to see where someone really fits. Think about what is fair to you and about what is fair to your competitors.

Wherever you fit, I am glad that you are entering. I cannot begin to tell you how amazing it felt as so many of you came to me at Austin and said you entered because of my encouragement. Together, we are keeping cake shows and the future of sugar art alive!

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Now Boarding

now boarding

I am embarking on my long series of flights to England for the Cake International show as I write this. As always, I seem to find myself writing blogs during this time. Someone commented to me that I must be really good at flying to events with cake things and that I should share my tips. I know I did my tips on Traveling to Cake Shows, but that was really written for people who drive, so I am going to share what I have learned over the past year of constant plane flights.

1. Get the app for your airline.
If you have a smartphone, download the app for Delta, Southwest or whichever airline you fly. It is a quick way to see what gate you fly into and which one the next flight leaves from. You can check in on it, book flights on it and check your mileage balance. For instance, today four of us are flying to Birmingham from three different airports. We all meet up in Minneapolis. I was able to check the gates for everyone, since they have tight layovers. They got my text and were able to head to the right gate area as soon as they landed.

2. Pack intelligently
We have all learned the hard way what we can and cannot pack. Here is what my sugar teaching sisters and I would recommend. All fondant, gumpaste, modeling chocolate must go in the checked luggage. Know that you will be inspected by the TSA if you carry these. The glycerin will make them go through your luggage. If you carry airbrush or liquigel colors, glaze or piping gel/glucose, you should double bag the items. I promise. Those leaks are terrible! I always bag my tools in ziplocks. I tend to wrap my large rolling pin inside my FondX mat, to keep it from getting beat up.

3. Introduce yourself.
For some reason, all these cake tools look like weapons to the TSA. Since we know they are going to open our bags, the smart choice is to let them know who you are and why you have this stuff. I have a sheet that includes my logo, explains who I am and that these cake tools are for my classes and demos. I include my cell phone number so that they can reach me quickly if they have any questions. I put the sheet inside a page protector and put one in every piece of luggage I check. I have never had a problem since I started doing this.

tsa letter for luggage blog

4. Fire bad.
If you use torches on isomalt or sugar, you have to make sure that the torch is completely empty. This means not just pouring out the liquid, but actually turning your torch on and letting the fuel burn dry. You cannot carry any of the fuel in your luggage. You must buy it at the destination. The TSA will call you to security if you don’t do what I wrote. Just ask Peggy Tucker! She is the one that shared the information with me. The fuel is considered combustible and they aren’t going to look friendly upon it in your suitcase.

5. Protect fragile items.
When I pack, I always put the heaviest items at the bottom of the suitcase, closest to the wheels. I see people lay their cases out flat and they put a full layer of heavy down then put other things on top. When they tilt the suitcase up to roll, the heavy things all push down towards the wheels and settle. They can damage your fragile items if you do that. I always put the icing down by the wheels, veiners and molds above that, then cutters on top. I want to be sure my cutters do not get bent.

6. Carry on my wayward son.
If you are taking an entry or display on a plane, it is almost always best to carry that onto the plane. If possible, use a plexiglass box or clear container so that the TSA can see what it is and why it cannot be turned on its side. You can create a carry strap for your box like Susan Carberry did

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or buy a commercial one like Kathy Lange did.

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Often, I have to put the Tupperware into a rolling duffle because of how much I need to carry on. In that case, I fill the box so full of tissue, foam or packing material that my pieces cannot move no matter how I turn that box. My friend Kim Denis actually packed a cake so well in his checked luggage that it made it from London to Vancouver without damage! If you put your item in a regular box, consider cutting a peek hole on one side and taping Saran over the hole so that the TSA can see inside without completely unpacking the box.

7. Tears for tiers.
Usually, single tier cakes are best for airline travel. Some folks have been brave and check the tiered cakes inside a large box. They mark what side is up and think it will be fine. Unfortunately, the guys moving your luggage around are usually in a hurry and may not handle your piece the way you ask. I have been at the Oklahoma show several years where people opened up their checked wedding cake entries only to find shattered messes. This might be a good time for the Cake Safe! Barb Evans flew to the Virginia show one year and put her cakes in photography (Pelican) cases, lined with industrial foam. She had ridiculous oriental string work safely fly to Virginia this way!

pelican case for blog

Mike McCarey ships real cakes across country. He advises a sturdy box with the peek hole. He says that choosing to ship cake orders or other supplies is an expensive proposition.  He is a “known shipper”, which means he has paid a fee and passed security tests.  He must ship a certain volume each year to maintain this status.  He can ship counter to counter, but it is only for those who know they will be doing this a LOT.  It is not cheap.

8. Southwest and Frontier are your friend.
Luggage costs money to check with most airlines. Southwest and Frontier are the real exceptions. If you are hauling a bunch of things to Cake Camp or a competition, you may cherish having up to 100 pounds of free luggage!

9. Bag in a bag.
When I go to convention or the NEC, I either take a larger suitcase than I need or I pack a smaller carryon inside my checked bag. You know you are going to buy things. You are. So plan ahead for it. At the NEC, they do not give out the awesome bags we get at convention, so I had to buy one last year. This year, I have two of the purple Choco Pan bags from ICES in my checked luggage. It will make it so much easier as I purchase items at the show. The plastic sacks just don’t hold up as well, especially if your purchases are heavy.

10. Cart it.
I never used to use the luggage carts. I was stubborn and certain that I could handle things. I remember pushing four bags and two carryons through the Orlando airport for Florida Mini Classes one year. What was I thinking?!!! It is worth the $4 or $5 to not kill yourself or damage a display.

11. If it fits, it ships.
Consider shipping item separately. If your hotel will allow it, it can make your life much easier! The day after convention, there is always a line of people shipping their purchases home.

I hope that some of these tips will help you.  I will see you on the road, or at an airport somewhere down the line!

Ruth’s Top Ten

I’ve been blessed to go to a whole lot of cake events in my decorating career. Decorators always ask for my opinions on “x” show or “y” show. I started thinking that others of you might wonder what I would put on my list of the Top Ten Cake Events. I thought it might be hard to make such a list, but it seemed to fall into place with no real effort. You might have a different list, but this is mine. If a decorator wanted to put together a bucket list of things to do before they die, I would include these ten things.

I am not presenting these in any particular order. Number ten is just as important as number one. I will try to explain why I ranked it and give you a fair assessment of each event. Please let me know your thoughts…even if you disagree. And let me know your number – how many have you attended? Did I miss a major event?

top ten

Number One: Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show.
Www.oksugarartists.com. September 28-29, 2013. Tulsa, OK
Long considered the preeminent cake show in the US, this show definitely has the largest prize packages anywhere. I once called it The Superbowl of cake. It would be closer to call it the Pro Bowl. Over the course of its history, the best of the best decorators have competed there. While the players change from year to year, you will always find some incredibly talented decorators there. The show was covered for four years by The Food Network in specials about the competitors and the event. The raffle ticket prizes for the entrants would make any decorator’s mouth water.

On the down side, the event is held in conjunction with the Tulsa State Fair. While thousands of people will see your entries, you will not be in an area with just decorators. Cakes have been damaged in the past by the turkey leg eating crowd. One year, a drunk lady in a scooter took out a table full of displays before they could even be judged. While the building is massive, it is often very crowded at the awards ceremony and sometimes hard to hear, due to the ambient noise of the building. There are very few vendors, due to the lack of space. There are amazing free demos, but only one hands on class. The class is usually with a “name” cake professional and will run the two days after the cake show.

I participated in this show for about ten years. When I first attended, it was held in a horse barn. The show has grown in size and prestige until it has become one of the “must attends” for many decorators. I was excited to receive a gold medal three times and to place repeatedly in the divisional portion of the show. I always encouraged my employees to attend and paid their entry fees. We took 42 cakes from my bakery one year. A lot of what I know about competing, I learned at Oklahoma.

Number Two: National Capital Area Cake Show.
Www.cakeshow.org. April 6-7, 2013. Fairfax, VA
This show is the largest show on the East coast. The show is always in private venues, where the public pays to view the cakes. You will only be around people legitimately interested in cake decorating. There will be vendors…great vendors. There are numerous great demos and mini classes. Even better, the best live challenges I have seen at a cake show have occurred here. While it isn’t exactly a tv challenge, you will find quality similar to the original Food Network Challenges everyone fell in love with. While you have to pay to watch these challenges, you will be glad you did.

The quality of the entries is outstanding. Many of the top decorators at this show either have won at Oklahoma or earned medals there. The prize money isn’t like Oklahoma, but is enough to tempt anyone to enter a cake. The divisional competition includes areas not typical in cake decorating circles like pastillage, chocolate and sugar show pieces. If you want the chance to really be around decorators, this is a great show. One of the cool things they do for the general public is to give “cake tours”. Volunteers walk the public around the event, explaining techniques and educating them on how exceptional the sugar art truly is.

I have never missed this show. It has grown in size and prestige. In some years, it has more cake entries than Oklahoma. I was honored to be named to The Sweet Life Hall of Fame at this show. It will always have a special place in my heart.

Number Three: That Takes The Cake Show
Www.thattakesthecake.org. February 23-24, 2013. Austin, TX
I love this show. I always call it “the fun show”. When I first attended, it was fairly small, but this show is now firmly established as one of the three American cake shows you have to attend. The show is at a private venue and, like Virginia, you are only around people who came to see cakes. They promote the show heavily and have a tremendous attendance from the general public. Thousands of people show up to see the cakes. I could not believe the lines.

The show has killer demos, mini classes and celebrity classes. You need to take a week to experience everything this show throws at you. Plus, you are in Austin, where the food and music are legendary. The neighborhood of the event may not be super cool, but it features a Chuy’s across the street, so you are always assured a good meal. They have a full house of top notch vendors. They celebrate showcakes. Instead of a Wedding Division like numerous other shows, they look for cakes for an event, more like you would see on a tv challenge. I have seen some of the most creative, jaw dropping work in this category. Like at Virginia, everywhere you turn, there is another cake celebrity. If you get high on cake, this is one of your Meccas.

My absolute favorite thing that they do is reserved for the children who enter. They do not select first, second and third. Instead, each child’s cake receives an award…Best Cake For Under The Sea, Best Use of M&Ms, Best whatever that celebrates one element of that child’s work. The ribbons at this show are actually medals, placed around your neck. I normally am in tears watching these children receive their medals with the most joy filled faces ever. I know that they are building the future generation of cake decorators through this program. I work never to miss this show and it replaced Oklahoma as the favorite for my bakery. My girls would pack up their cakes and a few of us would make the drive to Austin.

Number Four: ICES Convention
Www.ices.org. August 8-11, 2013. Lexington, KY
ICES is the International Cake Exploration Society. There are thousands of members from all over the world. Each year, they hold a national convention in a different city. The convention is in July or August each summer. Many of us feel like Convention is a family reunion. Each convention features the most impressive room of vendors I have seen outside of the NEC. There are vendors from all over the world with products you’ve never been able to buy before. It is intoxicating your first year! The vendors and authors plan to debut products there to maximize their exposure.

There are hundreds of demos at an incredibly low price for registered attendees. You can watch Mike McCarey build a stand, James Roselle make a flower and a British royal icing expert like Christine Flinn pipe extension work. There are some bilingual demos offered each year. For the last few years, ICES has also offered hands on classes. The teachers supply everything and the classes are only $75. You can get two hours of instruction from folks like Nick Lodge, Susan Carberry and Norm Davis. You can watch or participate in a live cake challenge.

The one thing that really draws people in, is the cake room. On a good year, there can be over 1000 cakes from every part of the world on display. It is a sharing only show, so no one has to worry about being judged. The inspiration in that room is dazzling. People pay just to go see the cakes. There are lots of other things at Convention, from certification testing, to awards, to elections, to celebrating with friends at the annual banquet. There is always a friend waiting for you at ICES.

Number Five: Cake International (the NEC)
Www.cakeinternational.co.uk. November 8-10, 2013. Birmingham, England
This show has been called the NEC for years by many of us in America. Its proper name is Cake International. The show hosts tens of thousands of people daily…who are there just to see the cakes and shop from the vendors. The event often sells out and there is sometimes a line waiting for people to leave so new people can go in. Incredible. This show has become so popular that it has expanded to Manchester and London, with other countries to follow.

The vendors portion is outstanding and you have the opportunity to shop from suppliers and authors that you could not find at other events. There are demos, but not as many as at ICES. There are touching tables where you can learn to work with different types of mediums like gumpaste and fondant. But the thing that always draws my attention is the incredible sugar art entries. The cake competition is outstanding and the level of work is often very high. There are displays from colleges, guilds and branches where cake decorating is taught. I have spent hours photographing the cakes during my two visits. This, for me, is the real reason to attend this show.

Number Six: Cake Camp
Www.cakecamp.com. July 19-21, 2013. Las Vegas, NV
Held every other year, this is a must for many decorators. Over the course of three days, there will be hundreds of hands on classes with many of the best teachers in the industry. People fly in from all over the world to study for one glorious weekend in beautiful Las Vegas. People save up for a year to take as many classes as they can schedule. The event is now held at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, NV. This resort is nice and has the comfiest beds! I never had a bad meal there…and I don’t like anything!

The vendor room rivals that of the Virginia and Austin shows and has something for everyone. The majority of the teachers provide everything you need for the class. You just show up and create. Since you are in a popular destination spot, there is always something to do when you are not taking a class. But seriously, most of the folks forget to sleep and eat because they take so many classes! There are always new classes and techniques debuted at this event. I have been lucky to teach at Cake Camp for a number of years and have to say that it is incredibly well run and supported. Add this to your bucket list.

Number Seven: ICES Day of Sharing (DOS)
Www.ices.org. Check for your state chapter.
There are ICES chapters all over the world. Some chapters meet once or twice a year and some meet every couple of months. These are normally one day events where you pay a registration fee to come and see 4-7 demonstrations on sugar art techniques. Some states even do hands on demos. The chapter either includes lunch in the fee or people bring covered dishes to share. I have attended events as small as 12 and as large as 200 plus. This is a great time to meet people in your area and build a network of resources. Some shows have vendors and you can buy those tools you’ve been needing.

Some chapters have Weekends of Sharing, which offer you the chance to take classes or attend numerous demos for a small charge. Missouri has one of the biggest of these that I have attended. ICES is an invaluable resource and you only get the most of your membership if you attend the DOS. Non-members are welcome, but pay a slightly higher registration fee. Many chapters bring in a featured “name” decorator to headline the DOS. It is often the least expensive way to get to learn from these folks.

Number Eight: Regional Cake Show
See the list in my Newsletter and specifics mentioned below.
I feel like there are The Big Three cake shows (Oklahoma, Virginia and Austin), but there are also some absolutely wonderful smaller shows. I call them regional shows, because they typically draw in a more local crowd. Some of these definitely have people enter from outside the region, but just haven’t grown as large as the Big Three yet. I made a list of the cake shows I have attended over the years and was stunned to find that I had attended 23 different cake shows over the years. This year, I will be attending at least two new (to me) shows. I am hoping to make it to every show in the US before I am done traveling. I also hope to attend more international shows to expand my world view of the sugar art industry.

The benefits of these shows is that it is a great place to get your feet wet. There are not as many entrants, so decorators often feel less intimidated. These shows still do the cool things; don’t be fooled by me calling them regional. They have hands on classes, demos, live challenges and great prizes. Many have vendors and make it a weekend of fun. I highly, highly recommend these shows. We have lost one Regional Show this year (The Art of the Cake in Ohio) and have another that has to take 2013 off (KC CakeFest). I constantly update my list of shows and events in my newsletter. Here are the ones I know about:

Feb. 8-10 – Denver Cake Show – Colorado
Feb. 16 & 17 – Connecticut Cake Show – Hartford, CT
Feb. 23 – Panhandle Cake CRUMBS Show – Cantonment, FL
Mar. 2-4 – Mike Elder’s CakeFest – KC, MO – on hold…plan for huge show in 2014
Mar. 8-10 – Cake International – Manchester, England
Mar. 9-10 – Garden State Cake Show – NJ
Mar. 16-17 – San Diego Cake Show – SD, CA
Apr. 12-14 – Cake International – London, England
Apr. 27-28 – North Texas Cake Show – Dallas, TX
Apr. 27-28 – Washington State Cake Show – Everett, WA
May 5 – Kentucky Cake Show – Kentucky
July 13 – Quota’s Icing on the Cake – Shreveport, LA
July 20-21 – Florida ICED Cake Show, Ocala, FL
Aug. ?? – Cove County Cake Show – Bedford, PA

Sep. 5 – West Tennessee Sugar Artists Sugar Art Show

Sep. ? – Sweet Treats Cake Competition – NJ

Sep. 27-29 – River City Cake Show – Omaha

Oct. 6 – CNY Cake Show – Ithaca, NY

Oct. 19-20, 2013 – Great American Cake Show – Maryland

Oct. ?? – Cake Decorator’s of Tidewater Cake Show – Va. Beach

Oct. 26? –Montreal Cake Show – Canada

Nov. ? – White Rose Cake Show and PA DOS – York, PA

Nov. ? – National Gingerbread Competition – Asheville, NC

Did I miss your show? Send me a link and I will include it in all my Newsletters!

 

Number Nine: Mini Class Event
See the list in my Newsletter and specifics mentioned below.
I have to confess that I don’t know if Cake Camp was the first mini class event, but it seems to be the most widely known. It is not, however, your only choice for the opportunity to study with a bunch of teachers. Most of the mini class events are held biannually, but you should check each web site to see their schedule. I have taught at or attended most of these events. The general schedule is classes on Friday, a banquet Friday night, classes all day Saturday and then a shorter class day on Sunday. These are incredibly well run, organized events and offer the best and most affordable choices for classes in bulk.

These are the ones I know about: Florida Mini Classes, CakeLove Vancouver, Oregon Sweet Retreat, Branson Cake Retreat, Michigan Mini Classes, Daytona Florida Mini Classes. I love the mini class environment. You meet people from all over. You can shop from vendors. You get to really hang out with your sugar friends, often in cool locations. Find the one easiest for you to attend and start saving.

 

Number Ten: Local Cake Club Meeting
Check with supply shops in your area or ask around on Facebook
One of the great things about my travels is that I have gotten to attend local cake club meetings in Odessa, Dallas, Vancouver and Louisiana. Sometimes the group is tied to a cake supply shop. Sometimes, it is a group of sugar friends who decide to start a support group. These groups meet every month or two. They may have a yearly fee or a meeting fee. These groups usually do member driven demonstrations and sometimes prepare cookies or cakes for charity. They become your local lifeline! These are the people who can loan you a pan or cutters, step in to help if you have an emergency and can refer business to you when they are booked. I always wished for one in my area. Maybe someday….

Conclusion
You may not be able to make it to all these events, but even my husband agreed that it is a good list. Remember, you have a lifetime of sugar to explore. You don’t have to make it to everything on my list and you sure don’t have to make it in one year! This is more of a life goal of events that will all make you a better decorator. How many have you attended? What did I miss? Which is your favorite?

Putting the Teacher in Detention

Recently, I attended a cake Guild meeting in Canada, following the Cake Love mini class event.  One of the things that I loved that they do, is they discuss what they liked and did not like about the classes they took.  If only all of us teachers could hear what people REALLY thought of their time with us, perhaps we would all be stronger teachers.  I was told of some things that people did that truly upset their students.  It made me wonder…what else are we teachers not being told?

I sent out a request on Facebook for people to let me know what aspects of classes they had not liked in the past.  Oh my goodness.  I opened a can of worms!  My Facebook inbox filled up quickly.  Some named names (but I won’t here).  I even received calls about this.  People pay good money for classes and do not take that lightly.  If they pay you to learn something, you need to TEACH it and you need to NOT do some of the things that I am about to list.  I don’t care how long you’ve been teaching, there is really good information here for all of us.  To make it easier, I’m going to divide the causes for putting a teacher into detention into little topic areas.  Some of the worst of us may fall into more than one of these categories.  Hopefully, some of us fit into none of them.  Regardless, we can all do better.

I Wanna Talk About Me, Me, Me

I love this song by Toby Keith, but we need to remember that this song pokes fun at someone who only seems to focus on themselves.  Students tell me that there are some teachers out there who spend a considerable portion of the class time “introducing” themselves, or telling the class why they are the perfect person to teach them or who give their entire sugar art history.  If the class is two hours long and the teacher spends 10-20 minutes listing all their qualifications, the class has been shortchanged on what they could have been learning.  I’m going to be blunt here.  If people have signed up for your class, they either A) already know about you and don’t need to listen to you prattle on about how great you are or B) they are there for the project and could care LESS who you are – just teach!  I personally find that I often forget to even say who I am at the start of a class!

I believe that some of the folks who overexplain their qualifications are simply people who are a bit insecure.  They might believe in themselves, but they aren’t sure you will.  Or they truly might be worried that you don’t think they are worthy to teach.  They want to lay a foundation so that you BELIEVE in them and their right to be there as a teacher.  And this just isn’t necessary.  If the students have shown up, they clearly believe that you have something to offer them…so just get to the subject matter.  This isn’t the time or place to work on your self esteem issues.

Bad-Mouther

All decorators have a brand of fondant they prefer, a brand of gumpaste they prefer, a brand of EVERYTHING they prefer.  That is normal.  It is perfectly fine as a teacher to say “I prefer to use Brand X”.  What is NOT ok is to tell your students that Brand Y is “crap”, or something even worse!  You should never, ever waste class time telling people how bad other products are.  Instead, you need to remember that these people might only be able to get Brand Y where they are….so you need to teach them how to work with whatever brand they have.  I always say that I prefer Brand X fondant, but that if they use Brand Y, they need to do a,b,c to achieve the same results we will get in class.

Some folks love to start telling students that their product is the best and that others are not food approved or are made in awful facilities or some other crazy story.  You cannot build yourself (or your product) up by tearing someone else down.  You’ve left all your students with a bad taste in their mouth.  Doubt me?  They wrote to me about how much they hated it!  A bunch of students complained about this!  You only make yourself look bad and people are LESS likely to become loyal to your brand, and, consequently, to YOU as a teacher or demonstrator.

The SoapBox

Teachers get into disputes with other teachers about the right way and the wrong way to do something.  Fine.  It happens.  But that is something for those teachers to discuss between themselves, not to get up on a soapbox and preach about during class.  I don’t care if you think teacher X is crazy to say you can’t support a cake that way or you think person Y is a *itch and you hate them personally.  Your private grievances are not to come out during class time.  A surprising number of students wrote in to complain about teachers who complain about other teachers and sugar artists.  This is one of the big pet peeves out there!!

I need to be even more clear…Facebook is not the place to air these grievances, either.  It doesn’t do good for anyone if you go on Facebook and bad mouth another teacher or decorator.  It reminds me of one of those sayings I had on my notebook in high school:  “Confuscious says ‘He who throws mud, loses ground'”.  It may sound funny, but it is the truth.  If you go negative, people will start to think that way of you.  Studies have shown that people associate YOU with the things that you say about others.  So, if you talk about how sweet and talented someone is, the person who hears you will imprint those traits into their thoughts about you.  And if you talk badly about someone, people will think those things about you.  Frightening, huh?  Maybe there was a reason we were told not to say anything if we couldn’t say anything nice.

The Superior One

I had several people write about instructors who talk down to the students, yell at them and are impatient with them.  I keep picturing Hell’s Kitchen and Gordon Ramsey.  Oddly enough, most of these stories from students arose from studies in culinary programs.  I tend to believe that this type of instructor is motivated by one of two things.  Either the instructor is insecure and tears the students down to build themselves up, or they are poor communicators and, as such, unsuccessful in teaching easily.  If you struggle to explain your technique to your students, they won’t get it and you might get impatient and feel like they are stupid….when the source of the problem is actually your ability to reach the students.

You’re The Best, And You…And You

This one surprised me.  People want you to actually tell them how to improve if you see them doing it “wrong”, or to give pointers on how they can do it better.  They are smart enough to know that not everyone in class is the best at something.  If you praise everyone without any true feedback, they feel like you are not genuine as a teacher.  This is not permission to start criticizing everything your students do (more on that in a minute).  If someone asks how they did on something, please honor that question with a realistic appraisal of their work.  Tell them what they did well and what they could change or work on next time.

OverPromiser

People like to write great class descriptions.  They like to tell you they will give you the sun and the moon and only in two hours or whatever.  I touched on this in the blog about what class organizers hate…and here it is again.  If you say you are teaching an advanced airbrush class, they need to learn advanced techniques.  If you say they will finish a three tier cake in class, they should not walk out with half decorated cakes.  If you say all supplies are included, don’t make 10 students share one tool.  You need to be realistic about what you are going to show them and what they will leave with at the end of class.  I started trying to make sure that I put this in class descriptions now…”students will leave with x and instructions for x,y,z”.

The Bully

This is similar to The Superior One, except this person is mean.  And publicly abusive about your work in class.  This person takes joy in making someone start over, re-do something or scrape something off.  This teacher will make people feel bad if they don’t already know how to cover a cake with fondant or use a ball tool or whatever.  I heard stories of famous teachers and less famous doing this.  This person is a bit of a tyrant and believes it is their way or the highway!  I am sad to say that I know some of the bullies I was told about, and that the surprising thing is that these are incredibly sweet folks.  It makes me wonder what causes the meanness in class?  I wonder again if it stems from insecurity or the inability to teach as well as they wish.

The MultiTasker

You might think that someone who could multitask would be great, but not this one!  This is the person who is constantly on their phone instead of teaching.  They are texting, emailing, checking facebook, returning calls and doing all aspects of business while they are supposed to be teaching you!  If your face is in your phone, you aren’t seeing what your students are doing and might miss when they go off track.  We are a very media oriented society and I know how hard it is to step away from that connection in class.  If the students have to put their phone on silent, then the teacher does too.  Remember…the students PAID you to be there for them.  Put down the phone and engage.

The Fake Out

You sign up for a class, only to find that the teacher demos one or two things and tells you to play.  It is almost a bait and switch.  Demos are traditionally less expensive than a hands on class.  While it is ok to allow students some freedom in the design process, a proper teacher should be guiding the students at various stages in the process.  If you say you are going to teach, say, airbrushing, you cannot spend the entire class time working only with those who purchase your airbrush or fixing everyone’s airbrush.  You need to take those variables out of the class so that the time is spent with the students actually getting to airbrush.  It is fine to demo some things that won’t be finished in class, but make sure that people know that ahead of time!  Make sure that all hands on classes are truly hands on and that the students walk away feeling like they’ve participated fully.  One of the first signs that you are doing a fake out is if you don’t have any class instructions to give your students…that tells me that you didn’t pass on technique or project knowledge for them to take home.

The “Feeler”

I know, you’re thinking this one is something naughty.  Nope.  This is the teacher that is feeling out a market for a product or class idea and offers a class.  While there is nothing wrong with this, per se, you have to tell people ahead of time that this is a test market class if that is what it is.  You might tell them once they show up, but you need to have told them before they paid their money!  I do know folks who have publicly said they were doing classes at a reduced price as a test.  That is absolutely the way to go!  If they cannot buy the product or you are not sharing your recipe in the class (forcing them to buy your book to get it), then students must be told this ahead of time!

The Time Waster

This one takes a couple forms.  A bunch of the teachers out there have people cover their cakes in class.  Day 1 of a 3 day class might be totally taken up just covering cakes.  A four or five hour class might lose 30 minutes to an hour to this.  Students wrote to tell me that this is NOT something they want to be part of their classes…unless it is a class about covering cakes successfully.  They asked to be able to bring in the cakes covered themselves or for the teacher to have them covered ahead of time.  I have to tell you, I am one of the people that covers the cakes for my students, but teachers have criticized me for it.  I felt a bit better after reading comments from students.

Another form of the time waster is the teacher that cannot stay focused, so class gets off track.  Unfortunately, I heard this most about celebrity teachers.  I don’t know if it happens because of the “fan” students who are there more to rub shoulders with the famous person and engage them about their time on shows and things, pulling them and the class away from why everyone is there.  Teachers have to be organized and must know how to “run” the class, guiding people back onto the time frame so that they finish.

Censor Warning

I was really surprised by this one!  Some teachers make socially inappropriate comments (a little racy or sexual) and while the bulk of the class may laugh, you could easily have a couple of folks cringing as they work.  I know that sometimes we take political correctness too far, but there is probably no real reason to be making sexual laced comments in a class or allowing that to become the theme of the class.  I heard a number of complaints from students about teachers cussing in class.  These students weren’t talking about an occasional bad word, but classes that become dominated by F Bombs and the language becomes the entertainment and focus of the class more than the project they are there to learn.  The people who wrote me about this are not prim, propper, prissy folks.  They cuss.  They enjoy sexual innuendo.  Not in classes that they paid for.  Not when the language and behavior of a few in class becomes the dominate aspect of the class.  Remember, these folks paid good money to learn a project or technique.  You must be sure you are sharing your focus with everyone and not just a couple that are joining in your laughter.

The Price Gouger

I was surprised at how few people mentioned this.  I hope that means that most teachers do a good job of setting prices for their classes.  I did receive a few complaints about charging high fees for classes AND having a long supply list for the students to bring.  People especially hate bringing things that they never even use in class!  I’ve had to do that before and still have some of those items new in package…untouched to this day.  That is a real rip off.  I know that most teachers don’t make a lot of money, but some do and some charge prices that the classes feel are too high.  Maybe they didn’t think that going in, but they sure did on the way out of class.  I would so much rather have people walk away thinking they would have paid MORE for a class than wishing they would have paid LESS.

The “Do It For You”

Sometimes, students don’t get the technique right away.  Sometimes, the teacher has to show them or explain it again.  Unfortunately, sometimes the teacher takes it from the student, makes the object or does it for them and hands it back.  What did the student learn there?  The student has to take away the knowledge to do it themselves.  One of the toughest things for me is to show someone, then scrunch up the ball of paste to make them do it.  You want your students to be successful and, I think, that makes some of us “overhelp”.  We have to remember that we are not helping when we do that!  I had one person say that they hated when a teacher put their hands on their hand to show them how to pipe.  I know that I am guilty of doing that, as some people learn from touch and others from words, depending on whether they are right or left brained.  I now know that I should ask if it is ok before grabbing someone to show them how to position their hands.  There are some times that you NEED the teacher to demonstrate pressure and angles and students have to be open to that fact.

Chained to the Desk

This one I heard quite often!  If you are staying at your desk or the front of the classroom the entire time, do you really know how your students are doing?  If you pack in 20 people into a room that should hold 12 and then never move around, how valuable is that class?  I’ve taken these classes before and discussed this in earlier blogs.  I cannot believe that people are still doing it, but it has got to stop!!  The students are speaking out!!  Part of being a teacher is being engaged with your students!  You have got to get up and go see how they are doing as they work on what you’ve taught.

Survival of the Fittest

Sometimes, folks just cannot move as quickly as others in class.  While we cannot hold up an entire class for one person, we do need to be sure that we are cognizant of people who need a little more time.  We need to adapt the “no man left behind” mentality.  Students said that once they fell behind, the teacher just ignored them and went on with the rest of the class.  The students had to rely on other students to help them get caught up.  I am certain we can all do better on this and we need to remember how we would feel if it was us!

Closing Thoughts

I know that being a teacher is an incredibly hard job.  Most of the teachers I know are riddled with doubts about whether they are good enough to teach, whether students like them and whether we are worth what we charge.  I am not writing this to make any of us have more doubts.  I’m sharing this because the students’ complaints were valuable insights into what they NEED from those of us who teach.  I’m sharing because some of these things were mentioned about multiple teachers, so it isn’t a one person issue.  My only fear is that some of the people who need to take heed of this advice, will not think that I am talking to them.  I know that I learned lessons that I will take forward as I teach.  I hope others do, too.

I would like to end with a Thank You to the students who trusted me to tell their stories.

The Library. Quiet Please

I wrote this as I was flying home from attending Cake International at The NEC in Birmingham, England. I know that people will ask me about the experience and decided that I should share my thoughts with my blog readers.

Before I went the first time last year, friends told me that the crowds would shock me. More people than I had ever seen before at a cake event. They told me that the queues for the restrooms, for food and especially for shopping from vendors would be unbelievably deep. To some extent, that is true. I understand that it is worst on Saturday, so I have skipped Saturday both visits. Saturday commonly sells out, so you will deal with the maximum crowd that day. I found the late afternoons to be brilliant times to actually get to speak to the vendors and make purchases.

Despite the thousands of visitors, there are only a few demonstration rooms open at any time. Many of the demos repeated twice throughout the weekend – which is great if you cannot attend one , but is disappointing if you want to offer visitors the most possible choices. The only demonstrators are those decorators “sponsored” by a vendor. At ICES, you are not allowed to push your products during a demonstration – the demo is to be about the technique. But that is far from the largest difference. At Cake International, the demos can be more like a commercial and can really promote specific products and booths.

In England, the presenters must present their information without letting in too much personality, it seems. Presenters are shushed if giggles or laughter breaks out in the rooms. One of my friends was actually told NOT to be himself…the exuberant, funny guy that he naturally is. Even one of my quieter friends was told to keep it down. I cannot decide whether it is caused by the environment for the demos or if this is just how it is in England. The demo rooms are essentially temporary boxes, all connected by thin walls with no roof. You can sit in one and hear the demo on either side as well as the one you are attending. I hope that this is why you are made to feel like you are in a library.

I desperately hope that the British do not expect all classes and demonstrations to be serious and quiet. I have not had the honor of teaching or demonstrating there, but I hope to have the opportunity some day. Can I be my goofy self? I believe that humor and laughter relax students and make it easier to learn. Some of my friends and I worry about whether we would be accepted in England. Does the American teaching style buck too many traditions for the British?

I spoke with the organizers for the Cake International last year and expressed surprise that they did not offer true hands on classes and more demonstrations. At ICES, there will be 35 hands on classes and hundreds of demonstrations. At Cake Int., there were 42 demonstrations, of which 10 were duplicates. ICES has about 1000 -2000 attendees, while the Cake Int. has about 10,000 – 15,000 per day!! With those numbers, so much more could be possible! ICES has activities in the evenings, be it classes, demos, banquets or opportunities to socialize. They arrange for host hotels to house the attendees. At Cake Int., everyone starts leaving at about 4 each day. No hotel in the area is large enough to house the entire crowd, so people go their different ways.

What would my British friends like to see? Is this how you WANT it to be? My friends and I have considered trying to offer classes tied to Cake International, but would not want to offend long standing traditions. What are your thoughts?

Pot Calling Kettle

I love following everyone’s posts on Facebook. I have noticed something since I wrote my blog on why teachers cancel classes and since the one on stealing photos. Do I mention it? Yep, I think I have to!

How many of you have written a post complaining about a last minute cake request? We love to lament how ridiculous these customers are. We complain that they need to learn to plan ahead. We laugh and turn them away for waiting until the last minute.

But what do we, as decorators, do when it is time for classes? We sign up at the last minute. The same thing happens at Days of Sharing. Recently, the Houston group had 25 people pre registered about two weeks before the event. They ended up with 209 at their DOS. Pot calling kettle black for sure! We know these classes, cake shows and sharing events are coming up. Why can’t we plan earlier? Why do the bulk of registrations come in the last week? What do we have to do to break this habit?

I know a lot of you say that you have to see if orders will come in. You need to decide if you are going. you really just need to decide whether you want to go or not. If so, just block that date or plan ahead for the event. Take fewer or no orders. Make a commitment more than two weeks before the event.

The cake shows have to plan far in advance on spacing and need to know if you are coming. The teachers have to get supplies ready for you. The DOS is often trying to plan meals. You owe them the same respect that you demand from your customers.

I continue to see angry posts when someone “steals” your class, your photo, your design. No one should use that without your permission! So, how do you think Disney feels about you using their images? Or sports teams about their logos? Or anyone holding a copyright on their image/design. Aren’t you doing exactly what you accuse the decorators of doing? Just because they are a large corporation, does it make it less of a theft of copyright? That is what your customer wants, you say… But does that make it right? Isn’t that what the decorator who “stole” your design said to you – that her customer wanted that design? The next time you start to violate a copyright law, I want you to think about how you would feel if that design was yours and I was about to copy it. Put yourself in the image owner’s shoes and see if you make a different decision on doing famous characters on your cakes.

Let’s take a good look at ourselves and see if we are throwing rocks at people in glass houses. Are you guilty?