ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sandy Horvath of Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets, took top honors at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's second annual cake-decorating challenge, at IDDA's expo here earlier this month.
Second place went to Phyllis Brady of Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., and third place went to Gail Blackburn of Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh.
The three finalists, chosen from 65 cake decorators who submitted photos and descriptions of their work to IDDA early this spring, received expense-paid trips to compete at the event here.
Judges for the hands-on event held in the ShowPlace area of IDDA's show floor this year were Marilyn Lawson, cake category manager for business development at Maplehurst Bakeries, Indianapolis, and Sue Walker, technical consultant at Rich Products, Buffalo, N.Y.
Horvath's technical skills put her over the top, said Lawson.
"Sandy is especially skilled with very intricate work like string work. It takes a very high level of skill to keep that kind of decoration consistent and it was just sort of automatic for her," Lawson said. She cited a particular cake Horvath decorated.
"It was the type of cake you'd have for a bridal luncheon. She had string work draped and little bows all around the edge of the cake, and they were completely consistent in size and look. That's a big challenge," Lawson said.
As the contestants went through the rigors of the decorating challenge, they were also required to answer show attendees' questions.
"There were about 10,000 people over a three-day period walking by and observing what we were doing," Horvath said. In addition to a lot of technical inquiries, questions ranged from "How many cakes can you decorate in an hour?" to "Would you like to come to work for us?" she said.
Horvath's home base is a Publix store in Boynton Beach, Fla., where she and two co-workers, one of them part-time, decorate as many as three wedding cakes and 60 special-occasion cakes over a typical weekend.
The finalists were judged on their decorating skills on wedding and special-occasion cakes and on their merchandising skills. They were required to finish enough cakes to fill a 6-foot, three-shelf display case the first afternoon of the show.