When I was asked to be a guest judge at Prague’s Wedding Cake of the Year 2015 (Svatební dort roku 2015) competition, I jumped at the chance to return to one of my favourite European cities. I was also intrigued to see what the cake scene was like in the Czech Republic, so in the small hours of the morning I set off on my 48 hour adventure.
I was so lucky that I had been booked in on an early flight because it meant that I could grab a couple of hours in the centre before my judging duties began. If you enjoy historical architecture, there is no better place to wander around.
Even better in the winter, when the air is crisp and you can warm yourself up with hot wine while soaking up the atmosphere. For the full tourist experience, treat yourself to trdelník, which is pastry wrapped around a stick, grilled and then dusted in sugar.
It was an early start on the day of the competition as there was so much to get through. I was part of a judging panel of cake pros assigned to 3 categories of the competition: Best Wedding Cake of the Year 2015, Best Wedding Cake Design, Best Sugar Flowers.
What was interesting was that there was a real mix between the traditional style of wedding cake which I had expected to see and much more contemporary design. All white designs adorned with royal icing and sugar flowers sat next to avant-garde cakes inspired by couture gowns. I could see the shift in design aesthetic creeping in from the US, UK and Australia, which means it’s an exciting time to be a cake designer in the Czech Republic. There’s still room to innovate and trail blaze.
One of these designers doing gorgeous work is Stáňa Mutlová who runs Punk Rock Cakes. Stáňa was a fellow judge and blessedly also spoke a little English, so I very much enjoyed talking to her about her cakes. As well as judging, she had a beautiful and creative display that wowed people as they entered the room. I just love her edgy style!
As well as judging I also ran a 90 minute demo showing how to make the rice paper flower and painted tile elements from one of the cakes I made for the Cake and Bake Show’s 2014 Wedding Cake of the Future showcase. I couldn’t have done this without the wonderful Hana Rawlings, who was my trusty interpreter throughout. I think some of my compulsive jokes and quips didn’t translate so well, so she had the good grace to edit those out!
Hana is a fellow cake designer and makes the most flawless, pretty designs! The amount of thought and effort that goes into everything she does is so obvious in her beautiful photos.
For the main category, Wedding Cake of the Year, one of the requirements was that entries were made of real cake top to bottom. Talk about adding to the pressure! The combination of lighting rigs and hundreds of bodies meant that the room heated up steadily. The panel hastily took to our seats to taste every entry before any accidents could happen. Again, the mix between classic and modern could be found inside these cakes. Some were European in style with layers of thin genoise sponge and mousse-like fillings, whereas others were much more sturdy like I make here in the UK. I also noticed that a lot of the cakes relied heavily on extracts and essences, something I try to avoid out of personal preference for fresh flavours.
All of our scores were added together and Markéta Sukupová was crowned the winner. Her cake was an elegant and contemporary design like the lady herself. It also tasted wonderful, which definitely earned her some serious points!
The winners received some absolutely fantastic prizes, ranging from courses with an award-winning chocolatier, to huge hampers full of cake decorating kit essentials, which would really give you lots to play with for your next design.
An hour after the prize giving and I was at the airport, ready to zoom back to London, my Czech cake adventure over. I think it’s really useful to step outside of your immediate cake scene for a different perspective and source of ideas, and I certainly will be looking at visiting other countries to see how they approach decorating.