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Top cakes, the WNY way

It didn’t take long for Nickel City Chef, the cooking competition showcasing WNY chefs and restaurants, to achieve massive local success. And according to Feed Your Soul owner and NCC organizer Christa Glennie Seychew, it didn’t take long for attendees and chefs to ponder a new, sweet addition: “One of the comments we heard the most was, ‘What about us pastry chefs?’” she says. “Knowing what a huge hit cake-themed programming is on television these days, and being impressed with the talent and dedication of our local professional decorators, it seemed like a reasonable request to try to fulfill. Plus, we know that there are a lot of passionate home cake decorators out there who will be excited for the amateur portion of our event.”

This makes the Nickel City Cake Challenge, scheduled from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on February 13 at Artisan Kitchens & Baths (200 Amherst Street), a perfect fit with the NCC’s food-as-art aesthetic. “On an everyday basis, being a decorator is really about providing the customer with exactly what they want,” Seychew says. “For decorators, this competition is about showing off your skills and abilities without the limitations of the customer’s desires. We want all the WNYers who are tuning in to Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss every week to understand that we have pastry heroes working here in WNY.”

The theme is “Buffalo Wedding,” and it’s up to the competition’s well-known chefs—Zilly Rosen of Zillycakes, Tony Concialdi of Panaro’s, and Susan Spider of Pumpernick n’ Pastry Shoppe—to interpret what that means. “Assembling any professional cake in two hours is an intense challenge for any experienced decorator,” Seychew says. “We’ve set the situation up so that our decorators will have the opportunity to show their best work and so our audience gets to see the most exciting aspects of such a feat. We may see a very traditional take on a tiered, graduated wedding cake, or we may see something very avant-garde; it’s all up to the decorators.”

The judging criteria require that points are awarded based on creativity and interpretation of theme, technical skill, cleanliness and organization, teamwork, and flavor/quality of the actual cake. Other requirements include that the cake be a certain height, use a minimum of three piping techniques, and incorporate at least two of the following skills: gumpaste, fondant, chocolate work, or sugar work. Plus, audience votes for its favorite, which is factored in at the end. Other event highlights include a make-your-own hot chocolate bar and confectionery station, decorating demonstrations, and an amateur decorating competition where twenty-five home decorators will have a chance to bring their completed cakes in to display and be judged by the panel, as well as the audience. It all proves, says Seychew, that in WNY, “we have as much to offer as many of the other culinary hotspots around the country in both quality and variety.”

For info, visit www.nickelcitychef.com. Photos provided by Zillycakes and Pumpernick ‘n’ Pastry Shoppe.

—Christopher Schobert

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