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Vickroy: TP cake decorator headed to Vegas for international competition

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Updated: November 4, 2013 7:28AM



A carved Tiffany lamp cake, replete with red roses painted on a light-green background, helped Ashley Spitzer land the grand prize at the Chicago Area Retail Bakers Association’s cake decorating competition at Navy Pier in March.

That qualified Spitzer, one of four decorators at Creative Cakes in Tinley Park, to represent Chicago in the Retail Bakers Association’s 13th annual Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus Decorating Competition, part of the International Baking Industry Exposition this weekend in Las Vegas.

“It’s really exciting,” said Spitzer, 26, an Evergreen Park High School graduate. “Seven members of my family are coming along to watch.”

She will compete against 11 other decorators in a three-day contest that will test creativity, artistic skills and ability to work with fondant, butter cream and gum paste. They will be allowed one hour of set up and four hours to complete each day’s tasks.

On the first day, Spitzer will decorate a wedding cake and a groom’s cake; Day 2 brings four quarter-sheet cakes with a party theme, three quarter-sheet cakes with a floral theme and 12 cupcakes; and on the final day she will decorate a two-tiered fondant cake, an 8-inch fondant cake and a shaped cake.

Unlike the CARBA competition in March, which requires the artists to work on Styrofoam cakes, the International Baking Industry Exposition mandates that they work on real cake.

“It will be challenging,” Spitzer said. “Real cake is not as durable as Styrofoam.”

The highest-scoring contestant will be awarded the Pillsbury Baker’s Plus Grand Champion Trophy. In addition, gold, silver and bronze medals and cash prizes will be awarded for the highest three scores in each category.

Spitzer grew up in Evergreen Park and took art classes while attending high school. She worked the counter at Tuzik’s Bakery in Oak Lawn for a couple of years.

“They used to sell these pound cake slices, and I remember being so excited when people wanted them iced or sprinkled because I would get to go in the back and do that,” she said.

Still, it wasn’t until she was set to follow in her sister’s footsteps and attend St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, that she realized she wanted to pursue culinary arts.

“I always liked to cook,” she said. “My mom and my grandma were super-good cooks.”

Instead of heading to St. Ambrose as an undecided freshman, Spitzer enrolled at Kendall College and found her passion.

She landed an internship at Creative Cakes and loved it. After her semester stint ended, she stayed on at the bakery, working weekends while she finished earning her degree.

During the past seven years, she has worked her way up from baker to pastries to fillings to decorator.

“Decorating is an art. There’s a lot more room for creativity,” Spitzer said. “And we’re so customized here that no two cakes are ever the same.”

Spitzer has competed in the CARBA contest three times — the first time placing first in the fondant category, the second time placing second overall. In addition to receiving grand prize honors in March, she also walked away with $600 cash.

“We knew she was talented right away,” said Beth Fahey, who co-owns Creative Cakes with her sister, Becky Palermo.

Fahey said good cake decorators pay attention to detail, work clean, have an imagination and have the artistic skill to replicate logos and pictures.

“It’s been really cool to watch her grow,” Palermo said. “She has an awesome work ethic and a very supportive family.”

Check back here next week for an update on how Spitzer fared in the Las Vegas competition.

Creative Cakes is at 16649 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park;
(708) 614-9755; realbuttercream.com.



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