For Melissa Roberts, owner of Melissa’s Custom Cakes & Goodies in Blairsville, Georgia, it was exciting just to enter Montefino’s first baking contest this past November. So winning was just the icing on the cake. A cake designed to look like a turkey Thanksgiving dinner to be exact.
The “main course” was an apple spice cake with maple mousse filling and cream cheese icing. The smaller details came in fondant carrots and peas and cake crouton stuffing. According to Roberts, a number of people actually thought the turkey was real. “It is definitely a neglected holiday for cake,” she said.
Roberts was one of eight contestants at the event, which was held Nov. 12 at North Georgia Technical College. The contest was open to both professional bakers who bake for a living and amateur bakers who simply just love to bake. Entries were judged based on holiday theme, presentation, taste and flavor, consistency and texture, aftertaste, and overall impression.
Throughout the course of the competition demonstrations were held, including how to make Bananas Foster Flambé and what icing tips to use when decorating cupcakes. Roberts shared her 22 years of knowledge in the baking business and taught attendees how to make a Kit-Kat cake and how to decorate sugar cookies.
Alaina Vick of Hiawassee found the demonstration about icing tips to be helpful. “I think it’s something that not a lot of people know,” she said. Although Vick’s grandmother got her started in baking, she actually taught herself the majority of what she knows. This ultimately helped her win the title of winner in the amateur bakers category. She chose to make a peppermint cake because the contest was holiday themed and peppermint is her favorite Christmas treat. To be creative, she mixed peppermint with the batter and icing. “I don’t think I’ve ever won anything before,” she said. “I really enjoyed making the whole thing, but icing is one of my favorite things.”
Other winners included Jody and Ricky Atkins, owners of Dixie Confexions in Blairsville, who took second and third place in the professional category with their holiday cake and Valentine’s Day cupcakes. In addition, Libby Dayton of Hiawassee took second and third place in the amateur category with her pecan cake and half-dipped cookies.
Danielle Vaughn, a culinary arts instructor at the college, served as a judge along with two of her students, Akayla Campbell and Daniel Walden. When it came to picking the winner, Vaughn specifically noted Roberts’ attention to detail. Not only was the cake holiday themed, but it was obvious a lot of time and thought had been put into it. “She made bones out of fondant and they looked so real,” she said.
Vick’s entry was one of Vaughn’s favorite desserts. “Alaina [is] a young woman with a passion for baking, and I really enjoyed talking to her after the event,” she said. Best in show winners in the amateur category received a $100 cash prize, while the winner in the professional category was given the choice of a $200 cash prize or a commercial photo of their work and a story about their business in the Montefino issue of their choice. Additionally, all second and third place winners received ribbons.
Ultimately, Montefino’s goal of spotlighting the college’s culinary arts program did just that while also giving everyone a chance to eat delicious confections. For Vaughn, her favorite part of the event was seeing the creativity used in the desserts and “sitting down with two of my students and hearing them talk about the different desserts and the different components of each one.”