A DICEY BEGINNING
Last year I learned about Lisa Mansour’s New York Cake Show. Only in its fourth year, I not-surprisingly hadn’t heard of it. I told myself that if I could enter in 2017, I would!
They announced in February-ish that the theme this year would be Broadway. They’re going to try and keep it New York-themed for as long as they don’t run out of fun themes. I wasn’t sure a) how to navigate getting to NYC and b) what theme I would do.
My friend, who has ordered many cakes from me over the years, used to work in NYC, so she jumped at the chance to help me out. So that was sorted. And then someone suggested Phantom of the Opera, and then I really got inspired. To see more about my step-by-step, please visit my last post HERE.
In March, I started my cake. I gathered what I needed, made my design and was done in about 3 weeks. I did my research/ refreshed my memory of the show and was inspired. I’m the type who really loves to seize that inspired feeling before it goes away. Plus, I knew that I had a bunch of cakes coming up, and not much going on in March, so I took the opportunity. Without orders or family birthdays, I was able to take my time.
Before I knew it, June rolled around. I got an email from someone who wanted a cake the week of the show. And then I also got news that my friend who was going with me was having a family emergency and couldn’t go.
Since I was done my cake, I took the cake order. I got baking straight away.
But when my friend cancelled, I sort of freaked out. I am brave when it comes to driving places, even though I get nervous about getting lost, but driving into the city was out of the question. I can’t even drive around Philadelphia without screwing up.
Of course, I posted about it in my mom group. A few people offered to help. But then my friend K not only offered to help, but she had a game plan. It was her daughter’s birthday that week, so she had already been planning to make a trip into the city. A little hesitant because I never met her and her family in person, I took the opportunity. A lot of people encouraged me and I knew that she had met a bunch of others, so she was vouched for lol. Rachel asked if she could go with me to the show. I asked K if that was okay, and she was more than fine with it. She has kids, too, (2, 6, and 9) and knew they would probably get along well with Rachel.
That week, I made a lovely graduation cake and made the final touches of my Phantom cake. I had to add my edible images and fix something that broke and clean up some messy spots. Then I packed it up — in a better box than I had before, thanks to my neighbor. I put on a lid and was ready to go!
I had to wait until my husband came home to make the hour and a half trip to K’s house. He surprised me by coming home an hour early :). I was mostly ready, so we gathered up the rest of our stuff, buckled up Rachel and my cake, and we were on the road!
Then … I realized we forgot the muffins we had baked them, so we had to turn around. I grabbed them and jumped back in the van before I could be spotted by Ben and Alex.
I asked my husband if there was somewhere to get gas between our home and 78. He said, “probably?” He was wrong! I got to a point and there was 78 before us. I pulled over and was able to find a gas station pretty close to where we were–phew.
The drive from Pennsylvania to her home in New Jersey was actually pretty easy. 78 and 278 had almost no traffic. I arrived in no time at all. Well, it felt like no time at all.
I snapped this picture of Rachel with her little suit case (originally a suitcase that her Bitty Baby stuff came in) right before we knocked on K’s door. We were a little nervous to be landing on the doorstep of someone new, but we took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.
We were greeted by a crazy happy family. They had some of their family over for dinner, so it was especially hectic when we arrived. Her eldest took our stuff and our shoes, a perfect mini hostess. Rachel was a little shy and very tired, too tired to really watch a movie with the girls. She’s like me — a bit slow to warm up. We also came bearing 24 pumpkin muffins that we had baked the night before and a sweet card that Rachel made M when she learned it was her birthday. I didn’t even ask her to do that. She just did it 🙂
CAKE SHOW DAY 1
I set my alarm for 6 AM, but was up long before that. I had pulled my back that week, so sleeping was a little rough. I got a quick shower and we went downstairs. M (K’s husband) graciously made me some coffee and Rachel had a muffin, even though we planned on a fun side trip to Dunkin Donuts!
I had to be set up between 8 AM and 9 AM. It was so exciting when our trip was over and we were at the venue — Pier 36 in the Lower East Side. We got in line to check in. The line was going out the door with awesome cakes. K’s daughter, B, came along. I gave B and Rachel some programs — which looked like Playbills — and they were excited to go inside.
We spotted some super fun cakes while we were waiting in line. The girls in front of us had an awesome Aladdin cake. We saw a cute Phantom of the Opera 3D doggie cake being carried around. Then we saw Renshaw’s beautiful Statue of Liberty cake made by famous cake decorator Chef Benny Rivera. Even from afar, as we waited in line, we could tell it was a beautifully detailed creation.
The first thing we looked at, after I checked in and put my cake on a display table with my entry number, was this HUGE Broadway cake. It wasn’t part of the competition, it was a show piece for decoration.
Then we started to walk around the show, starting at full table displays, celebration cakes, and wedding cakes.
Rows and rows of cakes!
We instantly loved this beautiful Mary Poppins cake by —— . It was part of the Show Table competition. It actually ended up placing, coming in third.
This Elphaba cake inspired by Wicked was another Show Table cake. It came in “Highly Commendable”, which I suppose is Honorable Mention. I loved the detail and especially loved the lace on her sleeves. If you know who made this cake, let me know.
We explored the shoe cakes next. They were all impressive — truly!
I loved this Lion King shoe, below. I’m happy to say that she won TOP/Gold for all the shoe cakes. This cake was made by Sandra Lopez Durbin. Find her on Instagram as sandras_cakes_ . She has uploaded some great close-ups.
This Aladdin Shoe Cake came in First. This Shoe cake was my daughter’s favorite of all the shoe cakes. She loves how the blue shoe looks just so real. I love the three belly dancers and the cute look on Aladdin’s face.
The Wicked cake below was one of my favorites of the entire show. I love the labels, such a great detail, and I love the little gears. Not to mention, the wonderful faces of Glinda and Elphaba.
This cake below got lots of attention, and rightfully so! It was a contender in the Cupcake Display Category, but the huge plant really stole the show in this one. K let me in on the fact it was from Little Shop of Horrors, which I haven’t seen. Looks like it must be cool!
The amazingly huge and detailed Rent inspired cake was made by Melissa Alt of Melissa Alt Cakes (find her on Instagram as MelissaAltCakes — she has more views of this). I mean I can’t even begin to describe this cake. And, as many others have said, pictures do not do it justice. There was something new to see on this cake every time you viewed it. It was mostly hand painted — picture water color painting, but with food color and alcohol (vodka or something similar). This cake won BEST SHOW CAKE and $2,000! Way to go, Melissa!
I am not sure who made the flower cake below, but it was just amazing. K didn’t believe me at first when I said they weren’t real. It’s so tempting and alluring to touch these because they really suck you in with curiosity.
The cake below was made by Chrissie Boon (find her on IG as ChrissieBoon) and was the TOP Wedding Cake. This cake was hard to get close to because it was often crowded by admirers. My very favorite part of this cake, besides its professionally executed balance and design, were the musical lines and notes (I do NOT know how she did that) and the bottom tier. The bottom tier had small flower and decoration arrangements that represented different famous shows, including Phantom, Mary Poppins, and Wicked.
This Cinderella Wedding Cake, below, was absolutely breathtaking. The carriage/shoe up top actually revolved! I could so see this at a wedding and it would be such a perfect centerpiece. Many of us are trying to figure out the mystery artist…
The cakes below were a handsome trio.
The cake all the way to the left was a chocolate sculpture by Lidia Lourenco of BakingSmiles by Allyson’s Sweets (she is also on IG as baking_smiles) and was made of all different kinds and shades of chocolate. It was the only sculpture entered, so it won TOP in sculptures, but I have NO DOUBT that if there had been more entries to this category, it still would have done amazingly well. It is amazing that it didn’t melt, since it is chocolate.
The cake in the middle was a cake from the Wedding Cake Competition. It was made by Shelby Cedrone of Sugar Monster Sweets. You can find her on Instagram at ArwenofElves. Her beautiful creation stood out because of its shape, its shading, and its cascade of flowers. She wrote of her cake: “I did not want to translate [An American in Paris] literally and instead wanted to invoke how the film and show made me feel with colors and flowers.”
The cake on the far right placed Highly Commendable in Wedding Cakes and was made by Natalie Dionisio. I love how flawless and delicate it is. The bottom tier with the feathers really stand out to me.
The two cakes below were two of my favorite Celebration Cakes. The cake on the left placed 1st and the cake on the right placed 3rd.
The cake on the left had so much great figure details. It was made by Leo Vilela Cakes. You can find him on Instagram at leovilelcakes.
The cake on the right was made by Brian Fisherman of Sweet Karma Desserts. Find him on Instagram at Sweetkarmadesserts.
Below is another stunning Wicked Cake from the Student Celebration Cake category and it placed 2nd. I LOVE the perfect cutting of the Wicked logo and I love how they incorporated the trend of geode cakes with the colors from the show.
Another student cake is this Shrek Cake, below. It is another cake made by the Sugar Monster team — Ryan Del Franco — and it placed 1st! I am a big Shrek fan and I love the mushrooms, the detail of ear wax in Shrek’s ears, and the rustic feel of the tree stump. This kid is going places!!
Below is a pic of the kids admiring a dessert table made by Allyson’s Sweets which went on to placed 2nd. I don’t know who made it. I cannot imagine making a dessert table — so much work! I really admire anyone and everyone who put together a dessert table. They include both edible and non-edible decorations, a cake, cupcakes, and other goodies, just like you would see at a real party.
I have to talk about this cake below. It was made by Machiro Sekimoto and took 2nd place in Intermediate Celebration Cakes. It got a lot of attention — just look at this detailed and realistic little pies, bows, and beautiful logo. It was frilly, cute and gorgeous!
One last cake to write about from Day 1 was this Kinky Boots Cake made by Ashley Holt from Sugar Monster Sweets. I know her from Next Great Baker, Season 3, as well as Cake Boss. I have been following her time since her TV fame on Facebook and Instagram. Her amazing display took BEST IN SHOW. So, if you’re keeping track, that means her bakery took 3 awards home! Simply amazing. It was the New York Cake Show’s dream team.
I didn’t see Ashley on the first day, because we left early, but I got to see her the second day. I was too nervous to say hi. I was raised to not interrupt people, so just going up to people in an every day situation is really difficult for me. But we were ready to go, turned around, and she was right behind me! I freaked out, said hi, and got a nice hug. I was over the moon!
By the time we had walked around and viewed all these beautiful cakes, I was shaking from all the coffee and from holding my cake for so long AND from not having anything in my belly. So we stopped by an Italian Cuisine booth and I got a little sandwich and the girls got Limonades. Look at Rachel’s FACE! Those were so sour!
INTO THE CITY
While we strolled around the show, the girls really bonded. Since we were all getting along so well, we decided to leave the show and go explore New York with them. We got an Uber into the city to around the Rockefeller area. We did so much!
We explored American Girl Store (and adjusted our dinner plans), Rockefeller plaza, the Lego Store, and more. Rachel was very sweet and picked out a Lego Hotdog man for her brother, because he loves LEGOS and hot dogs LOL. Here is a collage of our adventures.
Next, we hailed a taxi and met the rest of the family at the Central Park Zoo! After about a half hour, it was time to walk back to American Girl for M’s special birthday lunch.
It was such a fun and delicious experience to finally have lunch at the AG Cafe. I honestly didn’t think I would ever make it to this restaurant. We had fun asking each other questions from their box of questions. Rachel brought along her Bitty Baby, “Anna” and got to put her in her own little high chair.
After that, we went back to the zoo for a little bit longer, and headed home.
I Facetimed with my husband and family. Everybody was swimming and having a good time.
I got to take a closer look at the Playbill–what a perfect souvenir.
And I bonded with their doggie, who loved me LOL. Us adults watched the movie Split while the 3 girls had a blast with their dolls and new doll stuff.
CAKE SHOW DAY 2
Class with MimiCafeUnion
Day 2 in New York was a simpler day for us. I had a class, Rachel had a class, and we thought we might have some fun in between. I splurged on a class by Sachiko Windbiel. I am mostly “self taught” with hours or research online, in books, on Craftsy, so I was super excited to finally take an in-person class.
The class started at 9 AM and it was so much calmer getting into the cake show on day 2, since everybody was all set up. But there was still very much an air of excitement and happiness in the air. Sachiko and Lisa very graciously let Rachel sit with me in the class. I knew she would handle waiting with me and she might enjoy observing what a cake class is like. Plus, I brought along her iPad and headphones. It was a three hour class!
Everything was so well organized. Each student had a mat on a non-slip mat, a brick of Renshaw white gumpaste, some visual aids we could keep, water, corn syrup, some tools, and a support for our head. Our figure had come with a pre-dried bodice and left leg.
Sachiko is such a sweet teacher. You can tell she really loves what she does. She told us how she makes a sturdy body so that we can do it ourselves one day. For each step, would gather around and observe what she did, and then we could go back to our seats to replicate it.
For our head, arms, neck, and hair, we each received very neatly organized balls of fondant, each labeled accordingly. Her husband (I think it was her husband) helps her with handing out things, answering side questions, and taking high quality photos with his camera. It was interesting to see such a good team work together.
Rachel was so super patient, but, of course, I forgot to factor in the fact that she would have to go to the bathroom! This venue was big and long, and the bathrooms were on the other side. So we were at the tail end of one of the instruction parts, and Rachel asked to go LOL. So we fast-walked to the other side of the venue. We heard some of our favorite songs and at one point someone helping run the event were singing together, made eye contact and laughed!
And that’s when we discovered something wonderful — I had received Gold! I had to take a double take. I didn’t think it was real or possible. Seriously. We were both so giddy, I was all smiles during our class. Smiles and disbelief. It was such a wonderul feeling. The second time she went to the bathroom, I snapped a quick pic as we danced to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls.
Believe it or not, 3 hours was not enough time for my class, and Lisa and the next teacher let us go about a half hour longer. Sachiko asked Rachel to take pics of each student on her iPhone — she is so good with kids! And she went around and took selfies with each student. She really knows how to make people feel so special. She also very quickly and expertly did our figures’ makeup and gave them all eyelashes and added some shine to the eyeballs.
I had to rush a little because of our bathroom breaks, but here is my figure:
She is not perfect, but I feel like I learned so much and that it was a wonderful experience. I am going to buy her $15 standing figure class soon so I can more closely take a look at how she does everything. You can find her online classes here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/standingfigure
Here is Sachiko’s cake for the Cake Show. Aren’t those figures just so adorable?
We stuffed my figure (which was put into a nice box) under my cake in my cake box, so I didn’t have to carry it around.
Here are some more cake pictures. I took some close ups of another one of my favorite cakes — let’s face it, almost all of them were my “favorite”. This cake was an Intermediate Wedding Cake. I just can’t stop looking at it. It placed 3rd in its division and was made by Julia Federova. I can’t seem to locate any links for her.
Beauty and the Beast was such a popular theme. The above cake was hand painted. When I made my Beauty and the Beast giveaway I had originally thought of trying to do the stained glass, but went into a different direction. I’m so glad there are people out there who are willing to try such a challenging piece of art.
This cookie set below got Bronze and was by Cilia Moreno and you could SMELL the gingerbread — yum! We really admired the cups made of cookies!
Our plans to maybe go out to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty and play went out the window because it was getting close to time for Rachel’s class and we still had to eat. We went outside to the food trucks to try out Gorilla Cheese. I was so excited all week to try this. I had spicy buffalo chicken, tots, and a Diet Coke and Rachel had a regular American grilled cheese sandwich. She chose a spot on the sidewalk for us to sit together. We shared our tots and really enjoyed our sandwiches.
And this is also when I met Reva from Merci Beaucoup! I saw her earlier but she was just finishing her class, and I didn’t want to bother her. Truth be told, I still didn’t want to bother her, but I stood there awkwardly waiting for a lull in the conversation. But one of her fellow chef buds introduced us and I got a hug. I talked to her about how we used to watch her and Marc on Amazing Wedding Cakes.
She asked me about which cake was mine and I said it was “just a small celebration cakes, but somehow I got gold!” And she said one of the things that means so much to me that I heard from this show: “it’s not all about being big! They don’t have to be big” Or something to that effect. It’s definitely something she had heard before. It meant a lot, because I was actually feeling down about my cake. Even with winning, it wasn’t huge and it didn’t show up in a lot of people’s posts about the show. But constant validation shouldn’t matter, right?
We walked around the show again and noticed so many more things that we didn’t see the first time around. This show — it really takes a lot of time to take it all in — sort of like going to a cake museum. Then Rachel reminded me that I had promised to get her ice cream so we made a beeline to Ice and Vice. On the way, we saw the Witch of the Upper East Side and Prince Powder Pouffe doing the Cha Cha Slide. These two were like the MCs of the entire show and were so fun and engaging. By the way, they can be found on Instgram: princepowderpouffe and wwues.
We got Mexican vanilla ice cream in a birthday cake cone and headed back outside. Rachel didn’t want to get any ice cream on the carpet. 🙂
I feel like this cupcake display by Diane Fender (which got GOLD) would have been the perfect complement to my Phantom cake. I love that so many of us made the monkey from the musical. I spotted four, including mine.
CUPCAKE CLASS WITH CHEF MARY CARMEN
I couldn’t resist signing Rachel up for an emoji cupcake class. Emoji and Cupcakes — two of her most favorite things. The class was taught by Mary Carmen of the NY Cake School. She’s on IG as chefmarycarmen. She was so great with the kids. She helped Rachel to learn how to roll her yellow fondant out properly using this innovative little tool that you roll and it cuts multiple circles in one go. We were at a table with a very creative and fun little girl. I helped her to make glasses for her cupcake. In the end we got to take home four delicious chocolate cupcakes. We ate ours for dessert after dinner.
The Witch of the Upper East Side and Prince Powder Pouffe stopped by. She even made her own witch cupcake, which turned out really cute!
Here’s Rachel with her finished cupcakes. She was so tired, and wanted to see her new friends so badly, but she was a good sport and made cute cakes.
Some more cakes to post about:
I loved this Phantom of the Opera Cake, which was like a behind-the-scenes tour. The front was the stage with the candles and the boat and his mask and the back was the Phantom’s broken mirror and lights, etc. This cake was made by Stefanie of KakeStuff. She’s on IG at kakestuff and FB at facebook.com/stefatkake. Did I mention this ROTATED?
We loved this Aladdin shoe display. There’s just something about it that I kept coming back to it. Plus, Rachel is a big Jasmine fan–she’s her favorite Disney princess.
We also kept coming back to this GOLD flower display made by Chris Aranda (chrissaranda_cakedesigner on IG). Rachel got to meet him at our cupcake class as he helped Chef Carmen. My picture doesn’t do it justice. He also included a Wicked book on a cake stand, a real Playbill, and some green potion. It was just such a complete display. Honestly, everything in this category was just jaw-dropping. You can hardly believe these flowers are made of sugar.
I also got to see this incredible piece, which wasn’t part of this competition, also by Sachiko. I have admired it on Instagram, so it was so cool to see it in person. It was at the Renshaw booth.
AWARDS AND SAYING GOODBYE
(Above) Rachel finally taking a picture with the incredible display (not part of the competition), which was made by the incredible Renshaw team. It was made by Kakes by Karen, Total Sugar London, MimiCafeUnion, Dawn Coffin Parrot and Merci Cakes.
She really didn’t think you were allowed to sit on the bench next to Mary Poppins. She refused. You can definitely tell that this little lady has been growing up in a house full of “DON’T TOUCH!” cakes. If you see a swipe taken out of a cake at a party, it was probably not one of my kids — they know better, even if the cake is from the super market lol. But then she finally got her picture 🙂
Anyway, right after her class, we went over to the awards ceremony. I didn’t completely understand the whole grading system and awards system. I had no idea until we were standing there watching other artists getting their awards that I would be receiving a gold medal. I was NOT dressed for it like other people were — I really didn’t think I would place! LOL! I was wearing an orange Johnny Cupcakes shirt and a headband. Dress for the job you want – lazy mum! Just kidding.
I actually heard Lisa Mansour say my name for top Celebration Cake. I really still don’t believe it, guys. I took my baby’s hand, while holding her cupcakes, wearing my purse and a school bag and looking very much like a tourist! We stood there with Lisa, Chef Nicholas Lodge (professional and head judge) and Prince Powder Pouffe. It was surreal. I focused on the cameras because I couldn’t bare to look out on everybody.
It was so exciting to see Ashley Holt and Melissa Alt Cakes win their grand prizes for the Kinky Boots display and Rent display, respectively. We were in the perfect spot, standing right in between them. It must have been fate.
When the last awards were given out (best in show), The Witch of the Upper East Side sang “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. Rachel was so amazed by her the entire show. But then Rachel started complaining again that she wanted to leave and so we did. She was so patient, even when bored during my long cake class, and while I walked from booth to booth. I couldn’t make her wait much longer.
I realize now we should have hung around because everybody congratulates and mingles, BUT we had an hour ride back to K’s house. We wanted to eat a quick bite and say a proper goodbye. Then from there, we had to pack and drive an hour and a half home. So we quickly packed up and grabbed all our class stuff and left. It was so sad to leave!
On the way out, we saw a lady standing next to Rachel’s favorite cake from the show. She had taken a picture with it earlier in the day (below). She was so upset her favorite cake “only got Bronze”, but I explained to her that it’s still a great cake and it’s also about putting yourself out there and being part of this amazing show.
Anyway, I asked her if this was her cake and she said, “yes!” I told her Rachel loved this cake so much and that it was her favorite of the show. Rach was too shy to say anything, but she smiled and said “hi”. We talked about how awesome Beauty and the Beast is. Rachel said she loved the picture in the middle. I could definitely see this cake fitting right in at a child’s party and it being the center of attention.
I was feeling kinda sleepy, so M took us through Dunkin Donuts and I got a medium to perk me up for our drive.
Funny, at home Dunkin is the official coffee of the PHILLIES — HAHA. I posted this on FB to tease my friends who are Phillies fans.
The kids got there last hour or so of play in. Rachel really bonded with the kids and with K, too. We exchanged iPad numbers so the kids could Facetime whenever they wanted.
ALL GOOD THINGS…
So this trip — it was so much fun and so surreal. The best things about it …
- We finally got to go to a REAL cake show! How could I resist a cake show that was only a two hour drive away??
- I got to compete with real judges doing the judging.
- I drove to a new place, which always makes me nervous.
- We met new friends and we want to hang out again!
- I got lots of bonding time with Rachel. I am so proud of how patient and respectful she was the entire time.
- I talked to three cake celebrities who I wanted to see and they were so gracious. Reva, Sachiko and Ashley
- I’ve connected with so many wonderful cake artists on Instagram, thanks to this show.
- My work was seen by and marked well by professionals.
I can’t say enough good things about this experience. I am not sure if anyone will read this ridiculously long post that took me ALL DAY to write. Maybe my mom and siblings?? But if you do, please let me know. I hope to do this again next year. I don’t even care if I don’t place. I just want to work hard and be a part of such a perfect event again. I may even change categories for a new challenge.
Lisa Mansour — thank you again for organizing this amazing event!