"She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness." Proverbs 31:27

Friday, February 11, 2011

Interview with Tammy Strobel

As ya'll know, I am still playing catch up with several posts I have planned.  I interviewed Tammy Strobel who placed twice in the Oklahoma Cake Show.  She gives some great tips and hints on how to prepare for a cake show!

1. How long have you been decorating cakes?
I’ve been decorating about nine years off and on. I took some time off a few years ago due to health reasons. I don’t have a business. I only make cakes for family and friends.

2. What kind of classes have you taken?
I got into cake decorating when my mom signed me up for the Wilton class and I and was hooked. I did all three Wilton classes. I’ve taken some one day classes locally and thru my cake club. I haven’t gotten to do any big name decorator yet but I hope to do Michelle Bombarito when she’s in Dallas for the Sugar Wonders show next year.

3. What divisions of the competition did you enter?
 I entered the Semi-Professional Division Confections and Couture Jewelry categories. I haven’t gotten brave enough to try the Grand National Wedding Cake Division but some year….

4. How did you place?
 I received a second for Confections and a third in Couture Jewelry.

5. What steps did you take to complete your pieces?
The first thing I did was read the rules to ensure my entry would qualify to be judged. This was important in the jewelry category because you were required to do some piping if you used a mold. I think some competitors lost out because they only molded their entry. Then I sketched out (very badly) my design and make a list of the necessary supplies. Unfortunately, I am a tax accountant and this is the busiest time of the year for me so working ahead was not really an option and I was using real cake. I baked my cupcakes about two weeks in advance then started on the gumpaste flowers. Purple is very bad about fading so I kept them in the dark until I put them on the cupcakes, then kept them covered until competition. The flowers took the most time as they had two layers of petals and were painted and dusted for highlights. The baskets where made using chocolate fondant and a strip cutter then simply laid across the iced cupcake to form a basket. Flowers and leaves where attached last.

6. What is the jewelry made of?
The jewelry is gumpaste from a mold with piped royal icing lace points. The gold was an airbrush color and the greens and reds where painted on using petal dust and Everclear. The jewelry box lid was done using free hand brush embroidery and painted with petal dusts. Small pearls are hand molded and the ones around the mirror were done with a mold.
How long did they take to make? There’s kind of a story that goes along with this entry. I ran out of time and only had a few items made for my original design so I was able to pull together left over items from former competitions to make this entry. The jewelry box lid was a hex side design from another cake I worked on for a competition but didn’t finish. The jewels were made for the same cake. The roses, leaves, and pearls were extras from a wedding cake entry last year. The gumpaste rose was from a training session I was working on for a friend. The lace points were made about a year ago as practice and I had just enough to go around the jewels. So I looked around at what I had and was able to pull together an entry in about five hours. I do not recommend this method!!

7. What are the cats/flower cart made from?
The base of the cart was foam board covered in fondant with dowel legs covered in fondant. I made a template for the sides of the wagon, used round cutters for the wheels, and airbrushed a French blue. The hay bale was made of rice cereal treats covered in royal and rolled in coconut that I dyed 4 colors of yellow/brown/beige and mixed together. The cats were hand modeled from fondant.
How long did it take to make? This entry took about 4 days to make due to the amount of time necessary to make the flowers and let the cart dry.

8. What did you learn from this competition?
Never throw anything away!! I learned to be very creative. Found a new way to work with my impression mat and improved my painting and figure modeling skills.

9. What did you glean from the judges comments?
 I received mostly positive comments from the judges. They do pay close attention to the colors used and how cleanly the design is executed. It is also very important to read and follow the rules.

10. Is this your first competition?
I’ve competed about six times between the OSSAS and the Sugar Wonders Cake Show. I’ve won two best of division ribbons and Best of Show at the 2009 Sugar Wonders Cake Show.

11. Any thoughts or tips?
 I think competition makes me a better decorator. I try new techniques and try to move outside my comfort zone. I think clean and neat always appeals to judges. Show a range of different techniques but make sure you have a certain level of mastery before putting them on a cake. And remember, the board counts. I saw many very well executed cakes at Tulsa that did not place and I know it was because they were on foil covered boards or poorly covered boards. One competitor told me her judging notes actually said that.

Sugar Wonders is also hosting a cake competition on April 30, 2011. We have commitments from Michelle Bombarito, Bronwen Weber, Lauren Kitchens, and Dawn Parrott at this point. All are Food Network Cake Challenge winners! There will be more info on our website in the near future.

Do you offer classes, have a bakery, blog/website or anything you would like to talk about? I don’t have a bakery or do classes. I do demonstrate for ICES and Sugar Wonders and I will being doing a demo for the Dallas Cake Club in a few months.

For more information go here: http://www.sugarwonders.com/home.html
Tammy, thank you again for the time to answer all of my questions!  If you have any questions, be sure to leave your email address so that we can contact you!


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