Pretty trumped taste.

Let's Eat Cake Wedding Cake Photos

The wedding cake adventure actually started over a year ago, when Melissa of Masterpiece Weddings emailed me and asked, “will you pretty please come and be a judge for our wedding cake competition?”

Me? Wedding cakes?

I’ve only been married once, and don’t even remember what my wedding cake even looked like (though I do very much remember how it tasted! yum!), but then when Melissa said it was a fundraiser to benefit St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, of course I said yes.

melissa Let's Eat Cake Wedding Cake Photos Melissa, of Masterpiece Weddings (photo by Amy Scott Hogue)

So a couple of days ago, I drove up to Gainesville for the competition and let me tell you that I was not at all prepared for the world of food competitions. I wore a pretty dress, three-inch heels and a name tag that said “JUDGE.” What I should have worn was dark glasses, camoflauge and maybe even shoulda carried a shield. Wowzers, are those bakers fierce!

And guess who I was judging with…Food Network Challenge’s Kerry Vincent, the queen of wedding cake judging, you know, the woman who with one glance, sentence or stroke of pen can bring tears of joy or fear to a contestant. There were 35 cakes in total and I was in the group that judged the professional bakers. Each cake was set up on its own table, some of the cakes towering over four feet above the table and others so elaborately decorated you wonder if a team of twenty hovered over this baby for three days straight.

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Judges: me, The honest and amazing Kerry Vincent; Executive Pastry Chef of Golden Ocala, and Internationally renowned Albert Barrett, Local TV 20, WCJB Anchor and Cake Aficionado Paige Beck, Front and Center, Danielle from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and cut off… Ludwig Gross, International Pastry Chef and just amazing guy! I gave my camera to a professional photographer from some news organization. PROFESSIONAL! And look. She cut Ludwig outta the photo. Not like there wasn’t room in the shot. Geez. Sorry Ludwig!

Kerry, Albert and Ludwig (my co-judges) went around each cake, and since this was my first time judging, I just mimicked what they did. And it was just like on TV!!! Each judge examined every. little. detail. of every swirl, swoop, flower and frill. So many little details that their trained eye caught! There was one particular cake that just took my heart away. It was a fairytale wedding cake, inspired by something Little Mermaid-ish. The cake was adorned with flawless candy shells and sea critters that look so real. The miniature sea anenomes were glittered with a fantastical rainbow of colors. I was in love. This was my #1 cake. This mermaid cake just HAD to win! I was in the middle of gushing about this cake to Albert when Kerry strolls on by, glanced at the cake and said, “Honey, it’s all mold.”

Oh. Bummer.

Apparently molds are easy. Plop your colored play-doh in, squeeze and out plops a perfect sea creature. No flaws.

Well, anyways, it was a very fun experience, and I think the highlight of the evening was when I tasted contestant #23’s cake, a moist, light, spongy cake with real buttercream frosting with bits of fruit jelly and homemade marshmallows. I wanted to grab the cake, crawl under the tablecloth and just devour the whole thing. You know, for me it’s all about the taste. It turned out that #23 was the lovely Chef Katie Codney from The Ritz Carlton in Naples. And then there was the moist carrot cake with just-right-sweet cream cheese frosting from Jaycel Adkins of Etiquette of Chocolate…oh baby, I’m gonna try to get a recipe for you guys from Jaycel. You can see the full list of winners and photos of the cake at Melissa’s blog.

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Here’s Ludwig next to me! He’s teaching me what to look for in the design and execution. Don’t I look like I’m soooo professional? I even gots me a serious look on my face!

Oh, and by the way, as fierce as the Food Network makes Kerry Vincent look, she’s straightfoward and sincere. After the competition, Kerry made her rounds to each table, stopping by to coach and critique any of the bakers who wanted to know why they didn’t win and what they needed to improve upon. She’s respected not because she’s a celebrity on TV, but because she stands by what she says and took that extra two hours time after the event was over to coach. Yeah, we disagreed on some stuff, like the cake that won Best of Show was beautifully, flawelessly decorated, but tasted like rough cake mix, but that’s the world of wedding cake contests – technical design trumps taste. But honestly for me, as a lover of all things delicious, taste always trumps pretty.

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Above: Best in Show award ($8000 prize package) went to Heavenly Cakes by Neil

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Look at the freehand swirly swirls!

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This was the mermaid cake that I loved…by Ms. Debbie

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The Best in Show winner for Amateurs goes to this young woman (oops forgot her contact info! will find out) Yes, she’s an amateur and learned cake decorating just recently. Aren’t the flowers pretty?

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Left: love the sugar origami…Right: delicate hand painted butterflies on sugar paper or rice paper (I don’t remember)

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Left: ok so maybe not the most traditional of wedding cakes but let me tell you, Jaycel of Etiquette of Chocolate can bake the baddest carrot cake on earth. (pssst….Jaycel…would love recipe for your carrot cake! Kerry RAVED about your cake)


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Left: Second runner up for design goes to Cakes by Lisa Menz. Thos tiny tassles on the cake are all hand made and out of sugar….Right: this couple was tooo stinkin’ adorable. He’s a cancer survivor and this was her 2nd cake ever made. She was in the amateur division…so much heart. They met in NYC, so their cake appropriately themed.

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Left: Japanese cherry blossoms inspired this cake. I love the colors of this cake….Right: I don’t remember what inspired this creation. I think it’s Cinderella meets ???

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And my favorite cake of all – was from Katie Codney of The Ritz Carlton, Naples. I wish I would have captured their individual cake that we tasted. But too late, it was alllll gone. I ate it all. That’s her husb next to her, who came to support her. I loved this cake, but while it won a “tastiest cake” it couldn’t win the Best of Show because of the design. According to the pros (i.e. all the other judges) Technically, it wasn’t a difficult design and the butterflies were way out of proportion to the flowers. Cake was too big for the flowers and some of the hand painted flowers needed more work. But I fought for them! There was still another layer under that blue striped layer– so you can imagine how big this cake was.

Help the kids!

Let’s Eat Cake is still accepting donations through til the end of the month!

Comments 29

  1. Kitt

    Gosh, those are all amazing! I would’ve been terrified to judge them.

    I understand that the totally smooth look of fondant is desirable for a wedding cake, but it doesn’t look all that tasty. I’ve just decided here and now that there will be none of it on mine.

    That city cake looks the most “real” of all of them.

  2. Sophia

    wow, all these cakes are GORGEOUS! way too pretty to eat! which may be a good thing, because they’re probably all sugar-laden and kill my sweet taste buds. I agree with you, taste trumps prettyness!
    I’m so jealous with all the experiences you get in the foodie world~ but living vicariously through your awesome blog

  3. Nila Rosa

    mmmm cake. Were they allowed to bring premadecakes there? or did they have to make it there?

    and wait…this was a couple weeks ago? I thought it was the other day. Oh geez, what day is it?

    Oh no this was a couple of days ago – oops! They premade the cakes and brought everything to the contest. ~jaden

  4. Jee

    WOW – the cakes are all gorgeous!!
    I can’t believe that was in Gainesville!!
    Was it open to the public?
    Would have sooo loved to go. (if it was)
    I didn’t realize you lived so close to G’ville until I read that you “drove” up here. :)
    I looked back at your profile to see that it said Tampa, FL.
    This is my first comment, but I enjoy reading your blog and all the yummy recipes!! Go Gators~ ;)

  5. Holly

    How awesome you got to stand alongside Kerry Vincent and really get her take on why things aren’t as perfect as they appear on tv! WOW!! I am one jealous friend, my dear!

  6. Laura [What I Like]

    I am so with you on the taste vs. design debate. Too often wedding cakes seem to taste dry or like a box mix or something. I do love that Japanese cherry blossom one…and the tulips are so charming.

  7. toontz

    I agree with you Jaden. Why have a cake at all if it doesn’t taste good? You might as well just decorate a cardboard box! What talented people out there. What a fun opportunity for you.

  8. Murasaki Shikibu

    I am with you on this. The mermaid cake is fab…and so are a lot of the other entries you’ve shown here. The winning cake seems a tad boring even though it’s beautiful – but then again I guess weddings are supposed to be boring???!!! :p

  9. Diana

    What a cool opportunity! I fell in love with the Little Mermaid Cake too. Eric and I hate fondant. It doesn’t taste that good, we agree that cake should be tasty, not just beautiful. Eric said we must just be too practical :)

  10. Single Guy Chef

    I find wedding cakes a real complexed thing. You want it to look beautiful and creative, but oftentimes that means you don’t want to bite into them! So it’s hard to find a wedding cake that looks beautiful and tasty. Sounds like you did your best finding one! (That blue cake is crazy! LOL)

  11. GCS

    Thanks for pointing that out Bebett….
    Congrats Jaden…that is an excellent description ‘media savvy’.

    Very cool indeed.

  12. Carolyn Jung

    These are so cool looking! But I’m with you, girl. Taste trumps looks any day in my book. I think that’s why when I got married, I did a fairly classic almond paste cake with the best dang buttercream you can imagine. I think every guest had seconds of that cake, if not thirds. There was none left, except the top. And no way did we leave it in the freezer for a year. Instead, the day after my hubby and I got married, we drove to my parents house with the top tier of the cake, carefully wrapped in a box. The two of us, and my parents, all sat down for one last taste of that amazing cake that had been served on THE most amazing day of all. Pure delicious.

  13. Oldtimegator

    Just as an FYI…Kerry Vincent is absolutely WRONG. There are a few items on the mermaid cake that were made with molds, but the vast majority were “molded” by hand. It certainly wasn’t “ALL molds, Honey!” Kerry’s flip evaluation of the mermaid cake dropped her many notches in my book. Perhaps this is an example of why many folks don’t care for her??

    I thought the professional Best in Show cake was impeccable…just lovely…and without doubt the “best in show”!!

  14. Neil Leal

    Feels awesome to win “Best of Show” prize, especially when there are so many good competitors.

    Critiques are good when they are ment to be constructive, and Kerry Vincent is an expert as well as the other judges, so I look forward to bake once again for them and make their sofisticated palate say WOW!.

    I most say that there were just beautiful people, JUST BEAUTIFUL !!!
    and I thank each and everyone for all the sympathy expressions.

  15. Katie Johns-Hupp

    Hi Jaden! Yours pics and commentary are so accurate. Katie’s cake from the Ritz Carlton was amazing. I vote them #1 as well. Just because you are on TV does not make you 100% right all the time… Thank you so much for being a part of this “sweet” fundraiser. I was just sent to your blog by one of Ludwig’s daughters and I love your style. I was the NYC amateur cake decorator and had such a great time. I think we ALL learned a lot that night and it was wonderful to see such talent coming together for such a great cause. Hope to see you next year!! ;)

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