An international celebration of carnival and cake!
The Carnival Cakers is an annual interactive cake collaboration where each year, cake artists from across the world join together to create edible designs based on a carnival from across the world.
Now into their 3rd year, and having already covered the Venetian Carnival in Italy as well as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, this year’s collaboration focuses on the Calabar Carnival in Nigeria. Also known as ‘Africa’s biggest street party’.
As always, this international annual collaboration, headed by Heba M Elalfy (owner of Sweet Dreams by Heba) and Jennifer Kennedy O’Friel (owner of Sweet JennieD), offers an exciting, vibrant and artistic showcase of all things sugar; made with a huge array of edible products! So we caught up with co-founder Heba M Elalfy to ask her a few questions about the show!
How did the event originally come together?
In early November 2016, I teamed up with Jennifer O’Friel to bring to life an idea we had which would celebrate carnivals around the globe. The idea of recreating carnivals in edible form hadn’t been done before on this large scale, ever, and so we wanted to make this one-of-a-kind by running it as an annual event! We were so excited to get going that we both started inviting lots of our Facebook baker friends and almost all of them accepted our invitations to launch the ‘Carnival Cakers’ collaboration. Jennifer and I came up with this title as it suits who we are; Carnival Cakers. So, for our maiden voyage for 2017, Jennifer suggested the Venetian Carnival (held in Italy) and this turned out to be a fantastic year for us. Then in 2018, I suggested Mardi Gras (held in New Orleans) and that was an incredible collaboration as well. Both years, our Carnival Cakers have produced stunning works with so much creativity, colour, and effort put into every detail.
How has it developed year on year?
Year on year, the strength and commitment of the Carnival Cakers collaboration has remained strong, with each member being more excited year after year to travel the world virtually! We’ve had the support of major sponsors in our collabs donating products or offering discounts, and every year, Jennifer and I try to make each carnival collab new and fresh. Our reputation and team work grows stronger, not only because of how the Admin manage the group but mostly it’s because of every single Carnival Caker; without them, there would be no annual journey year on year. Jennifer and I are happy and proud to host the Carnival Cakers and we truly wish that it develops into more meaningful and elaborate collaborations.
How many people are involved in the collaboration?
To say that this year has been a tough one on so many Carnival Cakers is an understatement; health issues, family issues, monetary issues, businesses moving, families relocating, death in the family and on and on. It is with love and support that we stand behind each of our absent Carnival Cakers this year, in the meantime we are a smaller team of almost two dozen this time.
Why did you choose Calabar Carnival & Festival as this year’s theme?
Since we picked Europe first then the U.S.A., we wanted to turn our focus on a different continent and I suggested to Jennifer that we go to Africa! Being a place where I was born and raised, African culture and landscape holds a very dear place in my heart. They are also a very colorful people and I knew that this would be a perfect choice! We both decided to go with Africa’s biggest street party, the Calabar Carnival & Festival (held in Nigeria). We were very confident that our Carnival Cakers would showcase the true African spirit and the real African beauty, through their sugar contributions this year. And we weren’t wrong!
How do people get involved in the collaboration?
Most of the Carnival Cakers are personally invited by myself and Jennifer, with some being suggested or invited by our own members. However, they’re all vetted because, through experience (direct or indirect), Jennifer and I know what it takes to run a successful collaboration with dedicated and active members being loyal to the theme and supportive of one another. There is ALOT of work that goes into running a large collaboration and preparing for the big reveal. That’s why we keep our collab a closed group, and aim to make it successful year after year.
How many people are involved?
This year, we are almost two dozen Carnival Cakers, as I mentioned before, due to different personal reasons for why alot of our members had to drop out. But each one of them has assured me of their return next year with enough time to prepare and contribute. I have no doubt that our next collaboration will be even BIGGER!
What inspires the Carnival Cakers?
Sometimes it takes only a photo to inspire us to make something sweet like a cake or a decorated cookie or a complex sugar structure. Sometimes it’s a personal journey we’ve been on that drives us to create a design that expresses emotion. Sometimes it’s the feeling of belonging to a family who encourage, support, motivate and enjoy each other’s company within our group. Sometimes it’s the will to push ourselves and challenge our skills to prove to ourselves just how talented we are! Each Carnival Caker has a drive, a passion for being here, and I’m super proud and happy that they’re with us year after year.
Do all Carnival Cakers have previous experience with collaborations?
No. We may get some bakers for whom our collaboration is their very first time being in one and we’ve welcomed them with open arms. I’ve personally encouraged many to join any of my other collabs which I’ve hosted over the years and that has boosted them into consecutive collabs or enabled them to connect with others around the world, and so on. There’s a lot of benefit for joining a collab even if it seems daunting at first but it’s truly a life-changing experience. However, I would say that most of our members are experienced collaborators.
When does the event take place?
Calabar Carnival & Festival takes place in Nigeria every year in December. It’s a unique event because it celebrates the pride of the African people but it also attracts many foreigners which in turn boosts tourism and economy in the region.
When is the big reveal?
Our collab is now available for all to view at https://www.facebook.com/CarnivalCakers/