While Belton Hy-Vee’s Stephanie Dillon’s cake decorating skills are good enough to eat, you might hesitate to take a bite because they might look a little too flawless.
The 34-year-old Raymore resident is one of four metropolitan women competing for the title of America’s best cake decorator in Kansas City.
“Cakes are really important,” Dillon said. “They’re usually the centerpiece of the party. They’re really important...they’re what you always get your picture by.”
Dillon, a 10-year Belton Hy-Vee employee, has made it through three rounds of the Baking Channel’s “Cake Show” web program, which was filmed in late November. The winner will be announced Monday, Feb. 18.
In each round of the challenge, decorators were tasked with a timed challenge.
“The judging sheet said that they were really looking for a variety of techniques, the time factor, and really keeping your cool through it all,” Dillon said. “I do it everyday, so I get a lot of practice.”
Within 45 minutes, Dillon created an owl in the quarter sheet challenge. Dillon used different cut out shapes of fondant to piece together a multi-dimensional owl sitting on a tree branch.
“Part of that was just to show diversity in what I can do,” she said. “I think the biggest thing, too, that people are surprised that a grocery store does fondant work. It depends on the decorator, but we do a lot of fondant work and speciality cakes usually at a more reasonable price.”
In less than 60 minutes, Dillon airbrushed white zebra-stripe, as well as hearts and peace sign cut outs of fondant in neon on top of a buttercream black-iced a birthday cake for the tiered cake challenge.
The final round, in which aired on the Bake Magazine’s website Feb. 11, Dillon had 15 minutes to complete the cupcake challenge, in which she had to design a set of four treats. Dillon chose to create a quartet of birthday party monsters.
“I always want them to be special and beautiful - and have a ‘WOW’ factor,” said Dillon, of her cakes.
The competition is documented through webisodes, which have aired weekly.
A panel of judges will select a winner from each of the categories (tiered cake, quarter sheet and cupcakes), and each winning entrant will have their work evaluated against the five other regional winners from across the country.
The finalists will then have their work judged by an online vote for the grand champion, which comes attached with a $1,500 prize. Dillon said there was an online application process to participate, but she was actually approached by the contest organizers.
Dillon’s decorating skills are self-taught from on-the-job experience, and credits her employer for encouraging their bakery employees to participate in competitions. She also credits her success with the opportunity to work along side some good cake decorators throughout her career.
“I was kind of an artist first,” Dillon said. “My first job with Hy-Vee was as a sign-maker, doing all the signs and banners for the store, and an opening came up in the bakery. It was a really easy transition going from artist to a cake artist. It’s just a different medium, and I really developed a passion for cake.”
Annually, she competes in the Hy-Vee Cake Challenge, and in 2011, she took second place in the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association contest in Anaheim, Calif.
“I’m a competitive caker, I guess,” Dillon said. “That’s part of what drives me. I love making beautiful cakes, but it’s also fun to be competitive. (Cake decorating) doesn’t really feel like a job to me because I love what I do. I love to come in and have a new creative challenge everyday and the different projects people give me. I’m lucky that I love my job that and I think you can tell that in my work.”
To view the web episodes in which Dillon appeared in, visit www.bakemag.com/videos/cake%20show.aspx..