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Examiner
  • Cake decorators show what they're made of

  • Michelle Johnson has been decorating cakes in her home for a long time. But six years ago, she decided to go to work doing what she loved as a cake decorator for the bakery department at Hy-Vee.

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  • Michelle Johnson has been decorating cakes in her home for a long time. But six years ago, she decided to go to work doing what she loved as a cake decorator for the bakery department at Hy-Vee.
    “There was a job opening in the bakery department, and I decided to just go for it,” said the cake decorator at the 23rd Street Hy-Vee location in Independence. “I get to use my creativity as I work. I love my job. It really doesn’t seem like work to me.”
    Johnson was one of 19 cake designers from the Kansas City region to compete in the Hy-Vee Cake Designer Challenge Tuesday at Independence Center. Contestants, who only needed to be a Hy-Vee employee to be eligible, were required to make 12 cookies, one cupcake cake, two specialty cakes and one cake that had at least three tiers. Components were judged on technique, technical difficulty, smoothness of icing and creativity.
    Amy Murtha, cake designer at the Belton Hy-Vee and last year’s company-wide winner, placed first at the Kansas City regional. Stephanie Dillon, also from the Belton store, placed second; Jessica Foster, from the Prairie Village Hy-Vee, placed third. Dillon was just named Best Overall Decorator in Kansas City by Bake Magazine’s online Baking Channel.
    In addition to their cash prizes, the top three contestants will go onto the Hy-Vee Cake Designer Finals in Des Moines, Iowa at the end of March. There they will meet the winners from the other five regional competitions. The overall winner will receive a surprise, all-expense paid trip. Second place wins $750 and third place receives $500.
    Jill Blacho, from the Lawrence Hy-Vee, placed fourth and will serve as an alternate in the event that one of the top three finishers are unable to go on in the competition.
    Janette Payton, the northeast bakery supervisor, said this is the eighth year for the competition, which not only allows Hy-Vee cake decorators to network with each other, but also gives the public an opportunity to see what the Hy-Vee Bakery Department can do.
    “We really want to showcase the decorators we have and show that level of talent,” she said. “It is a great way for these guys to meet, get connected and share ideas. I just don’t think many of our customers know that Hy-Vee can do the same type of thing they see on shows like ‘Cake Boss’ or ‘Ace of Cakes.’”
    Johnson said once she and her store manager came up with the Route 66 theme for her cupcakes and cakes, she said the ideas were endless. The biggest challenge of her display was the three-tiered gas pump, which she spent about half of her four-hour time limit perfecting.
    “It wasn’t really the size of the cake that was so difficult, it was how tall and skinny it was. Small cakes are just as challenging as large cakes,” she said. “It is nice to have an opportunity like this to show people what we can do and show them that we can do a great job. It is a lot of fun.”

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