ICES' Detroit show highlights state of the edible art

ICES’ Detroit show highlights state of the edible art

The International Cake Exploration Societé rolled through the motor city for its 25th Annual Sugar Art event, in hot pursuit of edible, artistic excellence. Here's the recap, and some highlights that took the proverbial cake.

By Carol Meres Kroskey, Contributing Editor

On Monday, August 14, it was all over but the cleanup, and some final meetings of the officers and organizers of the International Cake Exploration Societé, (ICES) and its just-finished, 25th Annual Sugar Art Show and Convention. The event, held Aug. 10 through 13, took place at Detroit's Renaissance Marriott hotel. (See related article, ICES' Museum-Quality Sugar Arts Show comes to Detroit).

I caught up with show directors Jeannie Babbitt and Ruth Littlepage, who applauded both the attendees and demonstrators for the quality--and quantity--of their work.

ICES members attending the show numbered about 1,350, and almost everyone brought a cake. More than 1,200 cakes were on display, representing decorators from all 50 states, as well as international participants. This year, members transported more than 200 cakes to the show from as far away as Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand.

"Fortunately," said convention co-chairman Ruth Littlepage, "we had a tremendously well-organized cake hospital the allowed members to fix the cakes that were damaged in transit."

This year, ICES celebrated its 25th anniversary with three levels of show cakes that wowed hotel visitors and conventioneers alike.

The members of the Detroit show committee put together this spectacular revolving display of individual layers that commemorated each of the previous shows by displaying a feature of the city or state in which that year's show was located.

That cake, like most of the others on display, was in the "Sugar Galaxy" cake room. but others were scattered through the Renaissance Marriott to introduce regular citizens to the possibilities of edible art.

In fact, folks couldn't resist poking their fingers into the life-sized iced pink Cadillac in the hotel lobby. "Actually, Chester T. Hardhat [a larger-than-life sculpted cake] was the official lobby cake," explains Jeannie Babbitt, convention co-chairman. "The iced pink Cadillac was an afterthought, but it turned out to be the showstopper." ICES volunteers turned an old Cadillac donated by a local salvage yard into an icing masterpiece, completely covering the car with colored icing, down to the tires and hubcaps.

Because one of ICES' missions is to promote sugar artistry, members of the public are invited to view the collection of cakes, as they are every year. This year, ICES is donating the nominal admission fee of $5 to a Paws with a Cause, a charity that trains dogs to assist disabled people. A lobby cake depicting a bride dog and groom dog alerted hotel visitors to the charity's good works.

Many of the lobby cakes open to viewing by hotel visitors showed off the sugar artistry of the participating ICES members.

This spectacular cake brought in $2,000 in a silent auction

Because this year's show was in Motown, many of the cakes had car-related themes.

This number impressed the kids in the crowd, who coveted the toy cars that ran around the rim of the two-tier cake iced to look like tire treads. Of course, the grown-up race fans also appreciated the racing references too.

Speaking of kids, young decorators were clearly participating, ensuring the future of ICES. The tire cake pictured was made by Jamie Creech, an Indiana 4-H member. Meanwhile, Kim Yeakey, also a 4-H member from Indiana, turned her attention to the upcoming fall season, putting a Teddy bear baked in a form cake pan atop a leaf-bedecked cakes. Kim cut the leaves from rolled fondant, colored them and let them dry in free-form shapes before scattering them on the cake.

But all the ooohs and aaahs really were reserved for the collection of sometimes gravity-defying wedding cakes. Virginia decorator Linda Rothgeb created these unusual garnishes with a combination of rolled fondant, lace molds and just a bit of string to keep the pearl drops suspended.

Although many of these cakes look too elaborate to be made from cake, ICES exists to educate interested hobbyists and professional cake decorators alike how to a create these imaginative edibles. In Detroit, convention attendees could choose from among 72 different demonstrations that explained, step by step, the secrets of suspension, the mysteries of molding and the intricacies of icing. Even international visitors were able to learn, because of the Spanish-language demonstrations recently added to the show.

If you'd like to attend the next ICES show, it will be held in Portland, OR, Aug. 16-19, 2001. For information, visit the ICES web site at

Carol Meres Kroskey is the award-winning former senior baker editor of Bakery Production and Marketing magazine. Her baking experience includes stints at various retail, hotel and supermarket bakeries as baker and pastry cook. She also spent several years as an experimental baking technician for the American Institute of Baking, and as a test baker at The Long Co., a co-op for independent wholesale bakers. Carol can be reached at