The Rise of Reality Tv and Cake Decorating Themed Shows
By Jennifer Bartoli
Since the start of the The Real World on MTV in the early 1990s, the landscape of television programming has drastically changed. Reality television now accounts for more than one-quarter of prime time programming on broadcast networks. Culinary-themed shows like Top Chef, Food Network Challenge, and Cake Boss have been big names in the reality TV world. Ace of Cakes, for instance, debuted in 2006 on the Food Network and has since become one of the channel's highest rated shows.
Shows like these have put extreme cake decorating on the map, initiating mainstream viewers to techniques such as fondant, handcrafted sugar decorating, and the making of gum paste flowers. The success of reality TV shows about cake decorating competitions or business have made cake decorating a major culinary trend, leading to even more shows like Cupcake Wars, Top Chef Desserts, and the Next Great Baker--all evidence that viewers' interest in decorating techniques are ever increasing.
Cake Decorating Techniques and the Art of Fondant
The use of fondant is at the foundation of most cake decorating techniques. Cake decorators roll out fondant in a multitude of colors to cover large surfaces of cake and provide a surface to play with. By using cake decorating supplies such as fondant, cake decorators are able to cover an intricately shaped chiffon cake with a smooth and unblemished white surface allowing delicate details such as flowers or human figures to be added for a flawless result.
Compared to buttercream, which is more finicky and difficult to work with, fondant makes an endless variety of eccentric cake decorating techniques possible with a thick and perfectly smooth surface as a base. Fondant can also be shaped and formed into bows, drapery, and intricate figures, making it one of the most versatile cake decorating supplies in any baker's toolkit.
Extreme Cake Decorating and New Trends
Extreme cakes are also the subject matter of the highly rated Food Network Challenge show where contestants handcraft monumental cakes such as candy castles and picture-perfect Disney characters while racing the clock. These shows have helped modernize and diversify the cake decorating industry. Cake decorating trends have evolved from the classic, tiered, pearl white wedding cakes to more elaborate, real-life inspired, colorful concoctions. Brides and grooms seeking the perfect wedding cake are now drawn towards more personal cakes that say something about their personalities.
Cake decorating schools are evolving to meet this demand, and graduates of cake decorating schools are some of the most creative bakers out there. Duff Goldman, the star of Ace of Cakes, graduated from the Baking and Pastry Arts Certificate Program at the Culinary Institute of America. Most of the cakes that have made this small Baltimore bakery such a success story are extravagant, larger than life desserts. Notable examples are his rendition of the Arthur Ashe Stadium for the US Open, an incredibly detailed version of Hogwarts castle for a Harry Potter movie premiere, and a galactic masterpiece for the Star Wars Clone Wars wrap party.
Cake decorating shows and their successes are definitely playing a role in shifting trends in cake decorating. With a degree from a cake decorating school you could be running your own bakery--or competing for big money on the next reality cake decorating show.
About the Author
Jennifer Bartoli grew up in Paris, France and has been cooking for as long as she can remember. After graduating from McGill University, she decided to fully commit herself to her longstanding passion for food and moved to New York to study at the French Culinary Institute. She is now living and working in Montreal as a food photographer and writer and can most often be found browsing piles of cookbooks while thinking of what dish she wants to try in the kitchen next.