In the spirit of the words uttered by Marie Antoinette, cake bakers and

decorators across the Northland gathered for Living North's first-ever

cake-off, held on June 8 at Johnson Mertz Appliance's showroom.

Amateurs and professionals alike competed for prizes and bragging

rights. Amateurs were scored 75 percent on taste and 25 percent on

appearance. Professional decorators were scored 75 percent on appearance

and 25 percent on taste.



The judges:

Susan Peters: Susan brings over 40 years of experience in the food world as a cook, culinary instructor, caterer, private chef, event planner and, in recent years, as a food editor, writer and food stylist. Susan's cooking and writing abilities have garnered her international awards.

Rebecca Osterlund: Editor of Living North Magazine, Rebecca put herself through college by working as a cake decorator. She learned the trade from her grandmother and practiced it professionally for five years.

Arlene Coco Buscombe, CCP: A certified culinary professional, Arlene knows her way around food competitions, judging several in the past year. She is the owner of Prarie Kitchen and makes scones and other baked goods on a daily basis.



Winner

Leandra Humphrey's confection took the cake (pun intended) for the amateur division.

Her french vanilla cake with hazelnut toffee coffee filling blew the

judges away with its unexpected combination of flavors. The buttercream icing was smooth and the purple piping was perfectly symmetrical, no easy feat to accomplish.

Humphrey isn't a novice when it comes to cake production. "When I was a kid, my mom and I would make cakes," said Humphrey.

Though she dropped the art as a teenager, she says she picked it back

up again after she had a family of her own.

"I didn't have a creative outlet so the cakes took that outlet for me

without taking me away from my family and friends."

Humphrey entered the competition for fun, without much hope

of winning.

"There were some pretty cakes," said Humphrey. "The one right

next to me was really pretty," referring to the lemon curd and raspberry

cake submitted by Jason Sickmann.

When the winners were announced Humphrey had a hard time comprehending the results. "I didn't believe it," she said. "You announced the two runners-up and when my name wasn't called I was like, dang. I didn't get the top three."

Her family wasn't worried. "My family and friends always tell me my cake is good but I didn't believe it," said Humphrey. "When I called my husband and told him I'd won, he wasn't surprised at all. I wanted him to be surprised."

As the winner of the amateur competition, Humphrey was awarded a premium stove from Johnson Mertz Appliance. Having just upgraded to high-end appliances, she gave the stove away to her friend.

"She was crossing her fingers and wishing me luck," said Humphrey. Apparently, it worked.



Winner professional division

Lora Rooni and Amber Griffith brought their towering cake into the

showroom in pieces. While assembling the finished product, beads of

sweat could be seen traveling down their foreheads.

The 24-year-old women met while working as waitresses in the same restaurant and became fast friends. But they haven't always been cake decorators.

Griffith purchased cake decorating lessons for Rooni six months ago as a gift. "She wanted it for her birthday," said Griffith.

With only six months as decorators under their belts, they decided to enter Living North's contest.

"We just wanted to see how it would go," said Rooni.

The pair had been contemplating starting a decorating business in Superior but wanted to see how they would stack up against the competition.

Their three-tier cake was comprised of three different flavors of cake. The base layer was a coconut cake with mango filling, topped with coconut buttercream. Next came a tuxedo cake (vanilla cake on top, chocolate

on bottom) separated by a chocolate raspberry ganache. The top layer was red velvet with vanilla buttercream.

If it sounds delicious, let us assure you that it was.

The judges loved the moist, rich cake body and the fillings were unique and

obviously made with fresh ingredients. The taste wasn't all the only thing that impressed the judges.

The pair decorated the cake with green and white fondant. The middle layer had hand-painted orchids adorning the white fondant and gumpaste orchids dotted the entire creation. The degree of difficulty in creating the total package certainly gained it some points with the judges.

The pair who were planning to open a business under the name of Cake Occasions have now solidified those plans. Their win brought out some interesting reactions.

"I'm scared that we are actually doing this now," said Rooni with a laugh.

"Reality hit," echoed Griffith.