Colo baker is ‘over the moon’ about top-place cake baking finish

Marlys Barker
Colo baker is ‘over the moon’ about top-place cake baking finish

Bonnie Alley is on the sugar high of her life!

And she should be. The 44-year-old baker from Colo recently won the top prize in the professional wedding cake competition at America’s Baking and Sweets Show, held Nov. 13-15 in Chicago.

These words, from a Facebook posting by Alley on her Facebook page, show her excitement: “I have been literally crying tears of happiness since I got home! This giddy girl took the wedding cake win at the America’s Baking and Sweets Show! It wasn’t by a landslide either… I was in spectacular company! Two judges: 100 points system each. Out of 200 points I got 176!!!!! Clapping and jumping up and down!!!!!!! I am OVER THE MOON!”

Alley, owner of Simply Delish Bakery, has been baking professionally since 2009 and started working with cakes in 2010. She was featured in recent years in the Nevada Journal after joining and then being named the state representative for the Iowa chapter of Icing Smiles, an organization that bakes cakes, which are given to families and children who suffer from critical or terminal illnesses. She has become very involved in that organization and has taken on other responsibilities, such as being the National State Representative trainer, a Midwest Eligibility Team member and an operations assistant. “You can probably see that I am in love with this organization and what we do,” she said.

It’s her work with Icing Smiles that introduced her to America’s Baking and Sweets Show. Last year, she went to the show with Icing Smiles and helped at the organization’s booth at the convention. “While at the show, I noticed that there was a cake competition. Being a baker, I knew instantly that I wanted to enter. The second I got home, I was sketching,” she said.

There are various categories in the annual show’s competitions, both for professional bakers and home bakers. Alley, obvioulsy a professional, said she chose to compete in the wedding cake competition for a lot of reasons. “I loved the idea of the challenge, the creativity and the chance to show my work, and, there is just energy in the air there. Or maybe it’s all the cake decorators on a sugar buzz … either way, the show is just very exciting.”

Originally, Alley had considered entering both the wedding cake and theme cake competitions, but she realized right away that the time commitment for just one of the competitions was huge. “So my main focus became the wedding cake,” she said.

Wanting her wedding cake to be romantic, soft, traditional and timeless, Alley chose to go with a white cake, because, “I’ve always loved the simplicity of the white cake.”

There was nothing simple, however, about what she designed. Here are some of the statitics about her top-prize cake:

• It was seven tiers high.

• Its design included 700 sugar flowers.

• It took Alley 200 hours from start to finish, not including the designing and sketching. One-hundred-twenty-six of those hours were spent making the edible sugar flowers.

• The flowers were hand-crafted. Each petal was rolled, cut, frilled, stemmed, formed, colored and gathered with others to create one flower.

• It took five hours just to place all the flowers on the cake.

• It took 11 hours, round trip, to transport the parts of the cake to Chicago.

Her work on the cake started at home, and was completed at the show. And she was on her own in doing all the work on the cake. “The work has to be your own. Nothing can be store-bought. It has to be entirely edible,” she said about some of the stipulations.

The huge commitment to sugar flowers was something Alley felt, though difficult to complete, was rewarding. “I have a deep passion for creating them. I knew that a cascading flower garden of orchids, tulips and roses would be included in my design,” she said.

The competition was as exciting as it was educational.

“I learned so much. Probably the biggest thing was patience,” Alley said. “You get so excited that you are entering, designing and doing the actual work, that it is extremely hard to keep that all a secret until it’s over. The entire process is beyond fun and is a lot of hard work.”

Thirty cakes were entered in the cake competition, 19 others in the wedding cake category, and Alley said it was exciting to be around other bakers who share in the love of that craft. She also had the opportunity to meet well-known bakers, from Food Network stars to international cake artists. Mark Lie, Charity Pykies-George, Peggy Tucker, Ruth Ricky, Jay Quails, Collette Peters and Elysia Root are some of the people she met.

“Creating the cake, traveling, meeting all the new people who share the same passion” are all things that made the experience unforgettable. “Taking home the win was just the ‘icing on the cake,’” she said.

What’s next for Alley? She may compete at Chicago again next year. “I already know the design I would do, so I could literally start working on it today,” she said. As far as other competitions, “I’m always up for new experiences and challenges. I have my eye on a few (competitions). I am open to all the possibilities.”