2023 soflo sugar flower competition third place winner
2023 soflo sugar flower competition third place winner

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers!

Behind the Scenes



Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you purchase through this link. However, I make it a point to only share tools and resources I truly love and use. 

This past April, I finally fulfilled a goal of mine that I’ve had for YEARS: competing in a sugar art competition with my Sugar Flowers. 

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes

In the past, I have entered Wedding Cake Competitions (I have a blue ribbon + a red ribbon winning cakes!) but only once did I enter one of one of the sugar flower competitions as a stand-alone entry. This was in 2017 and in full transparency, I made the flower the night before the competition and it was rough. It was not my best work, and while I learned a lot (namely, that a half-assed last minute show piece is not going to win anything lol!) I don’t truly count that as competition worthy.

So this year, when I decided to attend SoFlo again (after a long hiatus!) and when I saw that the sugar flower competition was in honor of Nicholas Lodge, I absolutely knew I would be submitting an entry.

Here’s what I wrote on the “inspriation” section of my entry form:

I immediately knew I’d create magnolias! My inspiration came from the trees in my yard (see back) and the trees I climbed as a child in Atlanta.

With this piece, I hope to honor Chef Nicholas Lodge, while also flexing and challenging my creativity and having fun with this piece!

It was really hard to keep it under the word limit! Because my inspiration really ran deeper than that.

(You’ll see with this blog post that I did not care about word limits, lol! And if you make it all the way to the bottom, I’ll even show you a little peek of my half-assed sugar flower competition piece from 2017. 👀)

My Inspiration

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes
I’m genuinely shocked I was able to dig up this photo of me & my baby brother (who’s in college now!!) playing with the magnolia tree in our front yard. This was from 2009-ish.

Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, magnolia trees were always part of my environment. My grandparents had a HUGE tree in their front yard. As a kid I thought it was a 1,000 feet tall. And you could hide under the branches and it was like it’s own little secret world under there.

The tiny magnolia in our front yard had the perfect branch for climbing on and swinging from while we waited at the bus stop.

And I can remember the early days when I first moved to Tampa permanently, and I would go running through my neighborhood where my apartment was rented. I was a terrible runner (still am) but I was stubborn so I kept trying. In the spring I was often distracted by studying the beautiful creamy blooms that appeared along the tree-lined sidewalk. On more than one occasion I was chased away by bees! 😆

I had no idea back then that one day, my boyfriend and I would get married and find our perfect house in that same neighborhood, with our own magnolia tree growing next to the front door. As a grocery store cake decorator back then, it was hard to fathom being “grown up” enough to own a house in such a beautiful neighborhood.

All of the inspiration photos I took, and the fresh flowers that I plucked for visual inspiration and study, came from that front yard tree. My house smelled amazing while I was working on my sugar flower competition piece!

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes

And of course, my inspiration came from the legacy of Chef Nicholas Lodge. He was one of the first teachers whose sugar flower classes I signed up for, and still to this day, I use tools and techniques that he taught me, and thousands of other sugar artists.

I knew I was going to take the sugar flower competition seriously this time because I wanted to honor not only his legacy, but his commitment to excellence and beauty in his work.

Chef Lodge was one of the judges for the 2017 sugar flower competition where my wedding cake and hibiscus did not place in their divisions. He was so kind as he walked me through my scores and how I could improve for the next time.

So that was my inspiration.

Let’s talk techniques.

The Techniques

Here’s what I wrote on my sugar flower competition entry form (again, trying to stay under the word count limit!)

Leaves and petals were veined with veiners created from real flowers, and the centers were also molded from real magnolias. Leaves were hand-cut, and buds were hand molded. Each element was dusted and painted between layers of steaming or glazing with confectioner’s glaze. I used a combination of commercial gumpaste and handmade gumpaste. All the floral wires are covered with paste to imitate the branches and stems of the tree. The final piece was placed in a flower pot covered in fabric and ribbon to symbolize the small trees that are often gifted in memory of loved ones.

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes

Here’s a list of some of the tools that I used to make this happen

The coloring was a mix of different shades and brands, mainly the petal dusts from Roxy + Rich and The Sugar Art. I wish I could tell you what I used but I honestly don’t remember. I had like 20 shades of green, brown, yellow, and orange out on my table. I prefer dry dusting, but for the back of the leaves I did mix the petal dusts with grain alcohol to form a paint.

I pulled from a lot of my books and courses to review the techniques I used: 

My Mindset

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes

I was such an anxious mess before the sugar flower competition. We drove down to Miami on a Thursday night (and yes I spent all day thursday working on my magnolias!) and then I spent all of Friday morning at our tiny Airbnb adding the final, finishing touches. 

My husband and I carried my big box (there was a LOT of padding inside that box lol) into the competition room and I had flashbacks to all of the giant 5 and 6 tier cakes I brought in the past. That was crazy! Why did I do that? Lol. Those cakes must’ve weighed 100 pounds! And with delicate Oriential Stringwork and Lambeth techniques interwoven with Sugar Flowers. Taking a Sugar Flower display that had to fit within a 12”x12” square was a piece of cake compared to that!

I saw a few of the other sugar flowers while I was dropping off the piece, and resigned myself to a fate of being middle-of-the-pack.

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes
The leaves were my favorite part of the sugar flower competition piece i created. They looked so life-like! It was fun creating the colors and textures, and I’m proud how they turned out!

The Awards

It really wasn’t until I walked into the showroom on Sunday morning where all of the cake and sugar flower competition pieces were, and saw the “silver” awarded next to my entry that I could let out a breath of relief. I scored high enough to earn a silver! And I added up everyone else’s scores to realize I had the 3rd highest score! I placed! 

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes

That was such a surreal moment and I’m so glad my husband and my toddler were there…and my mom! She and my dad were always big supporters of my passions (even if they weren’t so supportive of the big messes I would make in the kitchen!) and having her there to say “I’m proud of you, and your dad is proud of you too” is just such an important moment.

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes

Right after the awards ceremony, sweet little Theo had himself a full-on meltdown. Poor thing not only missed his nap but he’d spent two days in this crazy busy, loud, colorful expo hall taking it all in. He was over it. However, he did really, really like the giant foam check that was part of my prize package. Shout out to Man vs. Cake for sponsoring that part of the cake & sugar flower competition!

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes

Quick note! I get a lot of complements about the dress I wore in these photos! I am obsessed with it! It’s so comfortable and it has pockets! I feel like a princess wearing it, puffy sleeves and all! This is the Ophelia dress from Hill House Home and if you use my link, you can get $20 off your first order of $100. (The dress is $175 which is a splurge for me, but totally worth the confidence boost! I want it in every color lol.) And the earrings came from Wondermint Goods!

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you purchase through this link. However, I make it a point to only share tools and resources I truly love and use. 

2023 SoFlo Sugar Flower Competition: My Third Place Flowers! Sugar Flowers by Kelsie Cakes

And a final postscript – my very rushed attempt at a sugar flower competition piece from 2017. Ah, the mistakes of youth! 😉

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