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Behind the Scenes | Judging at Cake International

by Wayne Price

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This weekend it is the one and only Cake International show, where every year cake decorators from around the world, visit this exciting exhibition to rummage through the fantastic stands that Cake International has to offer, attend live cake demonstrations, or to simply oooo and ahhhh at all the wonderful competition cakes! However as many of you may know, attending one of the Cake International shows, is a completely different experience if you are competing and can often be a very nerve-racking yet exciting weekend! Could you win your first Gold?!

If you have ever attended cake international, you may have noticed the very important looking people in the white coats and clip boards (the judges) analysing and discussing each and every competition entry cake. Ever wondered what it would be like to judge at Cake International?! Well the fantastically talented Wayne Price who has been a judge at Cake International several times now, and has kindly given us inside knowledge, of what the role of a judge at Cake International involves….

 

Wayne Price – Judging at Cake International

“Would you like to become involved with Cake International Show Judging?” I was asked. Hmmmm let me think……… (for all of two seconds) YES YES YES. What an honour and privilege! Manchester EventCity 2014 was my first show as a ‘Candidate Judge’. I have since been a ‘Judge’ at the Birmingham NEC 2014 show and the recent Manchester EventCity 2015 show. The Friday of the Manchester 2015 show. It is finally here. Another CI show that is likely to stir nearly every emotion possible. The cake world is predominantly a happy and loving place but boy oh boy it has its dramas. The excitement and anticipation has been building and I cannot wait to see what the weekend will bring.

The day begins with an early alarm call and a long drive. With bleary eyes I arrive at the venue and look for coffee and the Judges Office. Walking through the hall dodging the people frantically trying to set up their entries. A ‘hello’ to a friend here and there is met with a stressed grunt. Maybe now is not the time for conversation! The Judges all meet in a secret room about an hour before the show starts. Champagne is flowing, fluffy dressing gowns, chocolates, caviar, personal masseurs……. Yeah right! In reality we are in a room with a few plastic chairs and a table. If we are lucky a bottle of water. The Judges are donning their whites, pinning on ‘Judge’ badges and preparing for the day ahead.We are briefed by the Chairman of Judges. Any changes to judging from previous shows are discussed.

Then the moment of truth. Which Classes will I be judging? Which other Judge will I be spending the day with? A box lands on the table full of clipboards and judging sheets. Each Judge’s name is called and the clipboards handed out. My fingers are crossed for a nice class! I scan the list of classes to find my name next to the one(s) I have been allocated. This time I am happy with ‘F – Novelty Cake’ and ‘P – Under 12’s’ classes.The Chairman finishes the meeting and off I go, clipboard in hand out to the Show with my Judging Partner.

I find my first class and read over the class requirements again. This is something that a good number of Entrants fail to do. I will stress READ and make sure the brief is met. If it says “everything to be edible” it means it. I certainly don’t fancy biting down on a flower wire, metal bead etc.I number my Judges sheets to list the entries that have made it safe to the show. The two of us judging then start at opposite ends of the table and judge each entry individually. My starting point is “Does it comply with the brief?” If the answer is “no” then all efforts are made to move it to another category or remove any offending item so it can then be judged. Marking as ‘Not to Schedule’ and not judging an entry is a last resort. After all blood, sweat and tears have gone into some of the pieces (hopefully not literally).

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I then check each entry in fine detail. I don’t want to see cracked/dry fondant. I always look for a covered/ribboned board. Do the flowers have centres? Is the scaling correct? Is the entry an original idea? Is the entry clean and tidy? If you can see a mark, mistake, bad cut, dent or smudge then so can the Judges! After making my notes for an entry I then write down the Award I believe it should have on my sheet. Gold, Silver, Bronze, Merit or no award.

After the individual judging is finished we get together with the Judge in charge of our class to discuss each cake. We will then agree on the Award to be given to each entry. This can be amended later by the Chairman of Judges if there is any query or dispute.First, Second and Third in the Class is then decided. This is easy if there is just one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze in the Class. If there are three or more Gold Awards a lot of discussion and consideration is given to arrive at the order of the top three.

Our judging sheets are then handed to the Judge overlooking our Class. Phew! One class done so time to hunt for much needed refreshments. A pre-packed sandwich and a mouthful of water later and it is back out to the Show to the next class.After completing both of my classes the Friday of the show is over. A long day concentrating, standing, bending and lifting. Where is that massage when you need it? Back to the Judges’ room, out of the whites and back to the car for the long journey home.

The Saturday of the show was a mix of nerves and excitement. I survived giving my first Live Theatre Demonstration. I don’t recommend demonstrating royal icing with a shaking hand!The Sunday of the show is my first ‘Judges Feedback’ day. One Judge from each class is asked back to give feedback to any Entrant who wants it.I stand-by with my clipboard in hand waiting to see who wants me to talk through their entry. Nervous and hoping everyone will be nice. I was not looking forward to giving a six foot two inch rugby playing cake maker any feedback they deemed negative! I am tired after the previous two days so would be unable to run very fast!

The reality is everyone I speak to and give feedback to is genuinely lovely and appreciative of the feedback given. I thoroughly enjoyed giving feedback to the Under 12’s Class. After all, these youngsters could be future ‘Best in Show’ winners. Watching them take in the encouraging feedback was a real pleasure. I was also pretty confident I could still outrun most of them if discussions got heated……

Another Cake International weekend finished. I had been to all three days either judging or demonstrating and was pretty tired. One thing is certain though. I cannot wait until the next show. I love it.