Competition Corner: Going for Gold

As eager and nervous bakers are gearing up for OSSAS and Cake International– here at ACD we’re going competition crazy! Competitions are such a fun way to engage in this wonderful community and, of course, to show off our mad Skillz! Today we showcase Gold award winner Bonnie Alley of Simply Delish Bakery. Bonnie gives us the scoop on her incredible winning wedding cake from the America’s Baking and Sweets show held in Chicago.

  • Total number of hours start to finish was 201 hours.
  • The cake stands 7 full tiers high in a traditional and classic white with a pearl bead finishing each layer.
  • There are 700 sugar flowers on the cake. They took me 126 hours and I created them all by hand.

The process

Bonnie tells us, “I wanted to do a cascading sugar flower garden cake that was classic and traditional, and I knew right away the color scheme that I wanted and got right to work planning.”

Bonnie keeps a sketch book with her design outlines and little notes, written in pencil. She works on several drafts before coming to the final draft of the cake design. “I also print lots of pictures of real flowers, that I love, as a visual reference,” she says, ” I tape them to the pages of my book.” Bonnie spends a great deal of time researching her design, visiting her local paint store and bringing home swatches to put her color scheme together. She is supremely organized having a plan of action before even beginning the cake. “I write lots of notes next to the flower pictures, namely, what the flower name is, what color I will be making them, how many of each color – it helps me stay on track and I produce all of one type of flower at a time.”  She notes that she stores her flowers like Ron Ben Israel does, in small rubber-made totes with foam eggs to keep them cushioned from breakage.


Time management is one of the most crucial aspects of planning and completing a design, “It took me five hours just to place the 700 flowers on the cake. Half of the time I caught myself clapping and jumping up and down like a two year old wanting candy, the other half I caught myself tearing up with simple joy of seeing my vision come together. I am always in awe of seeing my cakes come together. It is a feeling like no other. When the cake was finished, and I stepped back and looked at it, it no longer mattered what was going to happen at the cake competition. I looked at my husband half in tears and said I feel like I already won and I haven’t even left the kitchen.” Clearly the thrill of seeing her vision come together, the weeks of careful planning and hours of work makes for a nail biting experience at the judges table. Though Bonnie clearly competes for the joy of cake decorating and the love of cake.


Competition Day

“I competed in the American Baking and Sweets Show in Chicago. My family and friends were so supportive. They called and texted me over the entire weekend asking if I knew the results yet.” says Bonnie, reflecting on the support she received from her family. She recalls the stiff competition in the wedding cake category, feeling apprehensive and doubting her design choices. “I just remember seeing all the cakes and thinking, wow, I am up against some seriously stiff competition.” The creativity and the talent in the wedding cake category is always something to behold – these are artists dedicated to refining their craft and keeping the joy of competition alive.


Bonnie was of course on cloud 9 when her piece was awarded with a Gold award, “It was my first ever cake competition for which I won first place.  I think my husband cried he was so happy for me and my boys gave me the biggest hugs.” Bonnie really relished sharing her win with her family who had no doubt seen her personal sacrifice to create such a consuming piece of sugar art. It was an award that was very well deserved.
“I just wish my mom and grandma were here to share in this
exciting journey, I think they would have been so very proud,” reflects Bonnie.

It’s really no surprise then to hear that Bonnie is already working on her next competition piece. “I sketched the design on the five hour drive home from the competition,” she jokes. “It is SO close to completion and I can’t wait to unveil it.”

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Bonnie proudly displaying her award winning cake

About Bonnie

Bonnie is the owner and cake designer of Simply Delish Bakery in Colo, Iowa. A self taught bake, she has a deep love for everything cake!  Her love of baking began when she was just 5 years old. Spending weekends standing on a step stool in her grandmas cafe and learning all of her secrets. After many years of baking for my family and friends, and with the encouragement of her husband Bob and two sons Christopher & Steven; she opened Simply Delish.  What
started with a few simple desserts has blossomed into a wide range of cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pastries, and eventually expanded into deep love of Sugar Art. Each day is an opportunity to learn and create something beautiful.


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