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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pumpkin, Pecan and Apple time!

Well, again I have taken way too long to post on my blog but fortunately I waited so long it is now in one of my favorite seasons for desserts! PIES! Pumpkin, Apple and Pecan being my favorite... at least at this time of the year. 
I have lots of ideas for pumpkin sweets and conveniently pumpkin does savory very well also. 
So now I have to decide which of these recipes you would most likely use and appreciate...hmmmm... I can give you my favorites. I always tell my students to cook or bake what they love to eat and this will ensure your guests will love it too... so heeding my own advice...
Personally I enjoy the flavors of the season but want to have lighter dessers since the meals we usually eat tend to be on the heavy and rich side. I decided that I will share with you my Pumpkin Souffle Roulade with Rum scented cream, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with graham cracker crust, Apple cranberry gallette, and Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie. 
Some are light and airy while others rich and delicious but all are flavors of the season! 
That ought to get your mouth watering :)

First I present my beautiful, light and easy:

Pumpkin Soufflé Roulade

Prepare a ½ sheet pan measuring 12”x 18” with parchment paper on the bottom… no need to grease the pan.
Preheat your oven to 375°

In a large mixing bowl, measure out :

1 cup pumpkin puree
8 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon dark rum
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger

Mix together until smooth.

Then have ready:
8 egg whites
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Whip the egg whites with the salt until a foam begins.
Add the sugar very slowly so it absorbs into the whites.
Whip the whites until a stiff but still soft peak forms.
Fold the whites into the pumpkin mixture and carefully lay out the batter
into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. It will rise a bit and then fall when it cools. Don’t be alarmed. This is a soufflé and it will fall. The goal here is to create enough structure in the egg whites that it doesn’t fall completely but leaves a nice ½” thick cake to roll up with whipped cream.

The cream filling:
1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 T. dark rum

Whip the cream with the sugar and rum until stiff peaks form.
Lay the soufflé out on plastic wrap with powdered sugar sifted on it so it doesn’t stick.
Spread the cream over in an even layer.
On the long side of the cake nearest to you, begin to roll the cake up using the plastic wrap. Start by folding the end up in a tiny roll so it makes it easier to roll the cake up. Wrap it in the plastic, refrigerate for several hours and serve with powdered sugar sifted over top.

This can be made a day ahead and left in the refrigerator until service. It has all the flavors of the holiday without the heaviness. 

NEXT: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
This was my Mom's favorite pie in the 50's and I now see it re-emerging from the past. If you have not tried it I suggest you do... what a surprise. So light and airy but still very traditional. No one will be disappointed with this slight change in tradition! 
This pie is not baked but cooked on top of the stove. Gelatin is added so it is NOT a vegetarian pie but if you make it one day ahead and leave it in the fridge it will have a perfect consistency. 
The cream can be flavored with cinnamon or nutmeg or just lovely vanilla. Your choice!

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
1, 9” deep dish pie plate

Graham Cracker Nut Crust

Combine 1-3/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and
1/2 cup melted butter

1.    Melt the butter and pour it over the crumb/ nut mixture and with your hands rub it in until the crumbs and moist and hold together when you squeeze them in your hands.
2.    Place all the crust in the pie pan and begin pressing up the sides of the pan. When the sides are covered in a tightly pressed layer then press the bottom down. If you have too many crumbs don’t try to use them or your crust will be too thick and make this light pie much heavier. Instead wrap them well and freeze them for another pie.
3.    Bake your crust for 5 minutes in a 350°F to set the crust.
4.    Let cool before adding your filling.
Pumpkin filling

1 T gelatin bloomed in ¼ cup cold water
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
1 ¼ cup canned pumpkin
2 egg yolks
1 ¼ cup evaporated milk
  1. Place all of the above ingredients into the top of a bain marie or double boiler and cook about 10 minutes until it mounds on a spoon or holds a ribbon.
  2. Take off heat and add softened gelatin stirring until dissolved.
  3. Cool pumpkin mixture.
2 egg whites
¼ cup sugar

  1. On an electric mixer whip the egg whites until foam begins to form and then slowly pour in the sugar.
  2. Whip until stiff peaks form being careful not to over whip to dry peaks.
  3. Fold whites into the cooled pumpkin mixture and pour into prepared and pre-baked pie crust.
  4. Let set up in refrigerator for at least an hour and then ice with sweetened whipped cream.
 Ok well everyone loves apple desserts (I think, anyway) so I wanted to do a twist to the regular old but wonderful all American apple pie. The french do not use cinnamon in their apple desserts which to us Americans sounds down right unpatriotic so I will give you a French style pie with all the American flavors!

Rustic Apple Cranberry Tart

Cream Cheese Pie dough: (two 10” tarts)
   12 oz. room temperature unsalted butter
   12 oz. room temperature cream cheese
   1 tsp.salt 
   1 tsp. lemon juice
   14 oz. AP flour

Make the dough:
   In a bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter and cream cheese until they are well blended. Add the salt and lemon juice and then the flour. Mix only until blended. Do not over mix. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Apple cranberry filling for two tarts:
  4#  golden delicious or granny smith apples (before peeling and coring)
  6 oz dried natural cranberries
  3 Tbl. Cornstarch
  6 oz. sugar
  2 tsp. Cinnamon! 
  ½ tsp. allspice
  2 oz. butter melted

Make the filling:
  Peel, core and slice the apples rather thin. Place them in a large bowl with the cranberries and add the flour, all but one TBL of the sugar, allspice, vanilla and melted butter. Toss until all the fruit is covered.

 Assemble the tart:
 Roll the dough out into a 14” circle and about 1/8 of an inch thick.
 Mound fruit mixture in center of dough, leaving 3-inch border. Fold dough border over fruit, pleating loosely and pinching to seal any cracks. Bush dough with beaten egg. Sprinkle dough with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake tart until crust is brown and filling bubbles, about 45 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack and cool tart slightly, about 20 minutes. Slide metal spatula under all sides of crust to free from parchment. Using large tart pan bottom as aid, transfer tart to platter. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream. 

AND last but certainly not least my very very wonderful Maple Bourbon Pecan pie which, by the way, does not have any CORN SYRUP in it! YAY! 
It is by far the very best pecan pie I have ever had the pleasure to eat! 
I love this pie but have always hated the corn syrup part which is what make it too sweet and very sticky in your mouth. 
This pie will be neither! Perfectly sweet, nutty and with a touch of Bourbon which makes is very Southern. I think you will never make another recipe when you make this one!

Maple Pecan Pie with Bourbon

1 1/2 cups pecans

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup maple syrup 

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 large eggs (lightly beaten)

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 pie crust (chilling in the fridge until used)

1. Bake the pecans in a preheated 350F until nicely toasted, about 8-12 minutes.
2. Heat the sugar, syrup, bourbon and butter in a large saucepan until it boils, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from heat and let cool.

4. Beat in the eggs, cream, vanilla and salt.
5. Spread the pecans over the bottom of the pie crust.

6. Pour the liquid mixture into the pie crust.
7. Bake in a preheated 350F until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What is an Entremet anyway?

Whenever I try to describe this divine dessert the question I often encounter is, "what the heck is an entremet?" It is not surprising to me that most Americans haven't experienced the luscious layers of goodness in this very French dessert but all you have to do is frequent a high end bake shop in a large city and most are now making them. They usually have a high shine glaze on top with either chocolate or fresh fruit garnishes and sometimes both... Inside are multiple layers of flavors and sometimes textures too.
I had the pleasure of working with a French Chef who was proficient in making these wondrous sweet fantasies. I will share the information but can not provide a recipe since they are very very long and very complicated. BUT at least you will know how they are made and the next time you come across one you will be more than tempted to try it!    
They are typically made using a 4.5 cm tall by 8" wide ring mold and acetate liner. The one you see above has two crisp layers of walnut meringue and is filled with alternating mounds of chocolate and vanilla mousse. This is the more simple style of entremet with no glazing and a very simple garnish.                                                                                                          

These desserts can be as simple or complex as you would like them to be. The important aspect of them is they have layered flavors. How many layers? How many flavors? Well, that is up to the creator. The ones I am sharing with you are somewhat simple in flavor combinations but never simple in makeup and assembly!

This is one of my favorite flavor combos but the mousse that surrounds the center has 4 different recipes just in the one mousse! It is a caramel mousse surrounding a vanilla sponge cake and the center is a pear mousse that has chunks of poached pear. It is garnished with a cold mirror glaze and dark chocolate rings.
The real secret to these desserts is a very very cold freezer. I mean a below 0°F freezer. Each step is done  individually and everything needs to be complete before you assemble. In other words, with this beauty you need to have the cake baked, the pear center made and frozen before you make the complicated caramel mousse. Then you pipe the mousse into the ring, press the thin layer of cake in it so the mousse goes up the sides of the ring, then pull out your frozen pear center place it on top, then more mousse then the last layer of cake. Put the entire cake into the freezer until frozen solid. You have built it upside down! When you take it out of the ring it will have a perfectly flat top and the cake will be on the bottom! Clever, huh? Well, they are all not done like this but it is a great technique for creating a perfectly square cake.

The next entremet I want to share with you is the chocolate mint entremet. It has layers of chocolate sponge, chocolate mousse and a center of mint mousse. My favorite technique used for this one is the top striped layer!
You begin by making some simple ganache and using an icing knife spread the ganache on a silpat and then using a cake comb pull the comb straight through the ganache to create the stripes and freeze.
Meanwhile, make your mint mousse for the frozen center piece, spread some of the mint mousse over the stripes and freeze the entire thing as well as the rest of the mousse which goes into a smaller molds (4" fleximolds) to be placed in the center of the cake when assembled.
When all is frozen you bring out the silpat with the stripes and put your ring down on top of it. Then you begin to build the cake upside down just as the pear one was built.
The cake was baked in a 6" pan. This way all the center pieces are surrounded with the chocolate mousse. The garnishes are white chocolate splattered with green cocoa butter for color and again the glaze is a cold mirror glaze.
Don't you just want to bite it? Well, although beautiful with the shinny glaze and colorful garnishes it is important to remember the flavors! They should be packed with layers of flavor and not just sweet and pretty to look at! I have seen entremet with as many as 8 layers and four complimentary flavors.
To all my pastry chef colleagues out there, make these, create new flavors and most of all have fun! This is what our customers are wanting, fun new flavors and textures to delight the mouth!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

James Durbin's wedding cake and other cake matters...

Since it has been almost one year since I have written a word... I thought I might begin by sharing some of my lastest greatest creations! I will also add some tips and tricks I used to make the cakes beautiful in case any of you are interested in cake decorating and like the designs that I fashioned.
First of all my big thrill of the year! James and Heidi Durbin's wedding cake!
If you are not familiar with them, James was on Season 10 of American Idol and really should have won if you ask me but all is fair since he came in forth, got a record deal, sold 40,000 records the first two weeks it came out and was recently married to the love of his life and the mother of his beautiful little boy!
I had the extraordinary opportunity to make their wedding cake!
First of all, I would like to share with you the inspiration for the design:
Heidi, his wife has Faithfully on hers and James has Forever Yours on his. Both are lyrics from the Journey song "Faithfully. Kinda romantic... even if you don't like tattoos, right?
So here is the cake:
She wanted something more romantic and feminine and he a bit more rock and roll, so I came up with this idea! it embodies both and is very personal as well. I was thrilled to be part of their special day!

So here is how I did it:
First you should know that this is a buttercream cake NOT fondant icing!
Second the ribbon around the bottom is real satin ribbon this way if you client doesn't really like fondant, the ribbon can be easily removed.
Lastly the lettering I made with black fondant that I bought already colored, way easier than trying to make black!
I made each letter by hand by rolling out each little piece and forming the letters on a marked "cutting mat" that has graphic measurements on it so I can make sure the letters are all the same size.
I followed the picture of the tattoos for the main words and found a website with fancy lettering for tattoos to design the initials on the bottom layer.
I then used a white luster dust to highlight each letter making them pop even more.
After letting them dry for a couple of days, I assembled them piece by piece. By that I mean that each line was separate from the others in the letter. For instance, the F has a top line, a middle line and smaller curly lines for accent. Each one was placed on the cake separately. I did not glue them together until they went on the cake. This way I could prevent cracking as I tried to place flat letters around a round surface. It worked beautifully!
They were so happy with the cake that the bride emailed me at 2:30 AM on her wedding night to tell me so! And if that were not enough, on Monday January 9th 2012 People magazine did an article on the wedding with a video showing them cutting the cake and then they mentioned The Cake Shoppe by Chefany as the creator of the cake!! Wooooo HOOOO!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Swiss meringue buttercream...It's about time I wrote something!!!

I know, I know it's been a couple of months since I have written a word... I have multitudes of excuses... Wanna hear them? Now? No? oh... ok then I will just apologize and get on with it!
How about if I answer the tons of questions that I get about how I get such smooth and shiny icing on my cupcakes and how I make my wedding cakes so straight and smooth?
Ah, you like that idea... great! I will also share some of the beautiful cakes I have been making lately!
This one has fondant icing but the next one is Swiss Meringue buttercream. 
This is the Buttercream cake with real ribbon on it and fresh flowers.

I prefer to use European style buttercreams such as the Swiss meringue and the Italian meringue but I also like a french style butterceam which uses a pastry cream and butter combo. This one is highly perishable however so I hesitate to use it on any cake that has to sit out at room temp for more than 4 hours.
I will give you some tips I have learned about how to be successful with these types of real buttercreams.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes about 4 cups

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened, cut into tablespoons
2 tsp. vanilla

Put egg whites and sugar into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).

Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add flavoring and continue beating 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles.
This recipe can be doubled or tripled with no problem! 

Sounds easy enough, eh? Well, it is when you understand the method and what it takes to not get either "cottage cheese" or "butter soup"... my pet names for the common problems.
Both problems are fixable but you need to know what happened in order to fix it right? 
The first problem, "cottage cheese", is when your meringue and butter are to cold to emulsify or incorporate properly. The important thing to remember when putting the butter into the meringue is they need to be about the same temperature. If the butter is too cold and the meringue cooled to room temperature then you will get very stiff or even broken buttercream. This can be remedied by adding a bit of heat to your bowl and whisking. You can either put the bowl over low heat while whisking by hand or leaving it on the mixer get out your little brulee torch and torch the bottom of the bowl moving the flame around not leaving it one place to actually melt the butter but to warm it so they smooth out and mix together properly. 
This comes to the "soup" problem... too much heat and the butter melts into the meringue giving you a buttercream that never seems to thicken up. This can be remedied by putting the bowl of buttercream in the refrigerator and letting it stiffen up in there, usually overnight so give yourself plenty of time the first time you make this ...just in case... Pull the bowl out and put it back on the mixer with a whisk. Put it on low speed and let it go until it smooths out and comes together. This may take 5-10 minutes so be patient! If it looks like it is not coming together after that amount of time then you can add a bit of heat to the bowl, being careful not to over heat it again! 
NEVER throw your buttercream away if it isn't right!! That's a lot of butter!! Try to fix it and if you are feeling desperate that nothing is working then you can add a bit more butter to it! Use it as a filling by adding some melted unsweetened chocolate to it... it will taste great but it will be hidden in the center rather on the outside. To reassure you though, you CAN fix most any problems with buttercream by being patient and understanding how this all works! 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In search of the perfect vanilla butter cake

I love butter cake! The problem I have now is that I want to make vanilla butter cupcakes and it seems they dry out on me too quickly. Yes, I can put a sugar soak on them but I don't want to add more sweetness only moisture.
I have tried several recipes and this one seems to work out the best for texture, taste and shelf life. But I still would like it a bit more moist. What I do to fix this is pipe a filling into each and every cupcake. This mimics what we do with layer cakes anyway so I find it to be the best solution for my issue with dryness.
This mixing method I use to produce the moist, light and buttery cake is the two stage.
It is a bit different than most recipes in that you mix together the dry ingredients with the fat/butter before adding any of the liquid/milk and eggs. What this does is coat the flour particles with fat creating tenderness. Then you whip it up to add air cells and viola! You have a light and tender cake.
Starting with your ingredients:

 For the best mixing have all your ingredients at room temperature especially the butter! Butter creams the best at 70 degrees F. I have added the vanilla to the milk since it is distributed better in fat.
Then add your butter and dry ingredients with just a tiny bit of the milk. This creates a kind of thick paste for batter. Be sure and scrape the bowl with each addition of liquid or you will have a very lumpy and uneven batter and hence a lousy cake.

 Add the rest of the liquid ingredient in two parts, scraping in between each. The batter should look very smooth and creamy and slightly loose... not runny just a bit loose.

This cake will rise well so don't over fill the pans. I usually fill about 2/3 of the way.

 You can see the nice the airy texture.
Nice large crumbs produce a tender cake. Now all you need is a fabulous buttercream!! And here is the final product... aren't you hungry now :)
This is a rich chocolate buttercream on top of the butter cake and I piped a dark chocolate ganache in the center...mmmmmm....c h o o o c o l a t e....

And here is the recipe for Vanilla Butter Cake!
3/4 cup sugar
1 2/3 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter (room temp.) 
2 whole eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 
Add the soft butter and half the milk. 
Mix on medium speed until thick and smooth.
In a small bowl mix together the eggs, the rest of the milk, and the vanilla.
Wisk until blended.
With the mixer on low speed add half the egg/milk mixture and when it is blended in turn up on medium high for 30 seconds. Scrape the side of the bowl well and add the rest of the egg mix. Again mix slowly until just blended and this time turn the mixer on high for 10 seconds. 
Scrape the sides and if there are lumps mix briefly until the batter is smooth and silky.
Bake in cupcake pans for 15 - 18 minutes at 350F. It makes about 18 cupcakes. 
Top with your favorite icing. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Speaking of Inspirations...

Last week was the most inspiring week I have had in ages...First I went to Las Vegas for the IBIE Bakery Showcase and with that was the US chocolate competition where 6 chocolatiers/pastry chefs competed for the US title to go to France for the World competition. Also, a bread competition for the title to go to the Coupe de Monde in France next year. AND a Pillsbury cake decoration competition that was not so inspiring but still interesting... all piped buttercream type decorating.
The most fun I had in Vegas was the tour we got (because someone knows someone) of the Wynn Hotel's pastry kitchens...and when I say plural kitchens I mean they have a kitchen for each department. They have the pastry kitchen, the chocolate kitchen, the dessert kitchen, the cake room, the dough room within each state of the art equipment and so clean you could eat off the floor during production!! Amazing! I wish I had had the opportunity to work at a place like that when I was just up and coming!
Here is a pic I took in the cake room...and the story gets better after this!
The following weekend I went to Tulsa Oklahoma for Kerry Vincent's Sugar Art show! All the cakes were both beautiful and intimidating...the work, the talent!! But with all the categories that are available to enter in there is hope for any cake decorator at any level to enter. They even have kids categories!
The most weird and amazing thing that happened though is that when they announced the Grand Master Wedding Cake winner they told her story first and mentioned she was the cake decorator at the Wynn Hotel in Vegas!! I had just met her!! So I ran up to her to tell her this and congratulated her and of course this was far more exciting to me than to her but none the less I found it a fab coincidence!
I then remembered the picture I took at the Wynn in the cake room and because I forgot my camera...errrr... I had to buy those throw away cameras to get some shots of the trip. I ran to the store to have them developed and when I got the pics... is the winning cake... weird, huh?
Completely unaware I had taken a picture of the winning cake the week before she was to drive it out to Oklahoma for the competition! She surely deserved the win!! The girl is an artist!
BTW, the theme this year was Mansions and Monasteries.

Ok, I know it has been way too long since I last blogged and I apologize... with the cake shop and teaching and my regular life I have been a bit busy.
One of my followers asked me to video blog my croissants and I think that is brilliant. I plan on working on that soon! It may take awhile but I will find the time!

With that suggestion I got the idea of asking all of you what else I might do that you would like to see being made? A student asked for the cake decorating page, did that....being an instructor I like to teach what others want to learn...

So please!! Write to me... let me know what it is you want to learn and I will do what I can to comply!

Monday, August 30, 2010


This is where I live. Eight blocks inland in an old neighborhood in Santa Cruz. I have lived here for 40 years now and am still inspired by the beauty, ocean smell, the fresh produce and generally healthy lifestyles of the folks who live here. People make fun of Santa Cruz saying it is a "Hippie" town and that we are all "Veggies" and "Tree huggers"... well, who cares! Let them laugh....I live in paradise! I am not a vegetarian, no longer a hippie, and well as far as a tree hugger...ok, I own that one :) 

Living in an inspirational location I get ideas from nature and the surrounding areas for cake concepts. The ocean is an amazing inspiration. It has not only the colors of the sky, water and earth but it creatures and shells, the rolling sands and waves, and then the myths that go with it's glory. So here is a cake where I took the ocean as my inspiration and since so many folks want to perform their nuptials in this area I thought it would be a great window display for the shoppe!
 The photograph was taken by Royce at BlurredLine photography. He is amazing with lighting and just capturing little moments that really make a photo something special. THANKS Royce! You should check out the website if you like photographs. He did some amazing shots at the World Pastry Cup last month! 
As far as the Ocean Themed cake goes....there is a mermaid at the top I am carefully placing... I used fondant and gum paste as my mediums. Some things like the waves that stand out from the sides of the cake and the dolphins are all gum paste but other things like the shells are a mixture of gum paste and fondant. This buys me time for making details since gum paste drys out so quickly. 
Another inspiration I have here is the fabulous farmers markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I can always check out what is in season and perfectly fresh and ripe around here. Summer time is the time for fruit and berries are going all around me so I adore making strawberry desserts and here is a classic with a more modern decoration. I made the little wild strawberries on top out of marzipan. I colored some green and some red and then took a tiny bit and made it a darker green for the foliage. The cake is a vanilla chiffon filled with a classic bavarian and whole cut strawberries. I placed half cut ones on the edges of the cake so you can see them when it is out of the mould. I then spead a thin coat of buttercream on top and rolled out the light green marzipan, cutting it to size I placed it on top of the cake. I then made a nice arrangement of the little strawberries and free hand cut leaves. I rolled a bit of the dark green into thin ropes for the vines and viola! you have a lovely strawberry bagatelle or frasier. Whatever you want to call it ... it is a fabulous summer dessert! Sometimes I like to scent the bavarian cream with a tiny amount of rose water for just that little something something! 
So now I go out into the world to look for more inspirations. They are all around us, we only need to keep our eyes open! 
I am very excited to go to Las Vegas and Oklahoma at the end of September for a bakery showcase and then the Oklahoma Sugar art show! Talking about inspiration!! It just gets my juices flowing to see what amazing art folks are doing with food and sugar. Although my home is a good source, the world at large is soooo much more inspiring and fascinating for ideas. I can't wait! And just think of the blogs I will come up with and photos too! YOU should be excited too.. and even better come on down to one of these shows! The Oklahoma Sugarart show has been going for many many years and is now HUGE due to the overwhelming popularity of cake decorating...and thanks to all the cake shows on TV. 
Here is Mercedes Strachwsky's winning entry from last year...guess what the theme was! :)
Look at the incredible detail of the underwater scene between the bottom layers!! And the delicate and beautiful mermaid... kinda makes mine look like a bag lady... LOL. 
Can't wait to see this years entries!! The theme is mansions and monasteries.