Karen Thomson, representing the Ohio Bakers Association from Ele Cake Company in West Carrollton, OH, was selected as the grand champion of the 13th Annual Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus Creative Decorating Competition, held on Oct. 6-9 at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas. In all, 12 contestants competed head-to-head for the coveted Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus championship title and $14,000 in cash prizes.

Thompson dazzled the judges with her precise design in creating an elegant wedding cake and groom's cake on the final day of the competition, in which contestants had to come up with cakes for a fictitious couple (the bride is a jewelry designer, and the groom is an archeologist).

For the first time ever, the contest opened the competition to a wider field of professional decorators, giving non-RBA members the opportunity to participate, provided they are currently working full- or part-time in a cake/cupcake shop, retail or supermarket bakery and have at least two years of decorating experience. In addition to Thomson, the following contestants competed:

Elizabeth Balderaz of Three Brothers Bakery, Houston, Texas
Deanna Gin of Artistic Bites, San Leandro, California
Emily Pille of Karen’s Bakery Café, Folsom, California
Stephanie Wertman of Sugarland, Raleigh, North Carolina
Shanon Buckner of Sweet Nothings Fine Cakes and Desserts, Wyandotte, Michigan
Keeann Richards-Cramer, representing the Upper Midwest Bakery Association from Jerry’s Foods, Edina, Minnesota
Mariah Carey, representing Southeastern Retail Bakers Association from Cothran’s Bakery, Gadsden, Alabama
Tamara Mugerauer, representing the Wisconsin Bakers Association from Tamara’s the Cake Guru, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Emma McAdow, representing the Greater Cincinnati Retail Bakers from Busken Bakery, Cincinnati, Ohio
Ashley Spitzer, representing the Chicago Area Retail Bakers Association from Creative Cakes, Tinley Park, Illinois
Krystina Gianaris, representing the New Jersey Bakers Board of Trade from Cake and Company, Teaneck, New Jersey

The competition was held on the IBIE tradeshow floor for 12 hours over a three day period with contestants creating decorated cakes in five categories: Floral Cakes, Wedding Cake, Fondant Cakes, Custom Design Cakes and Sculpted Cakes.

The highest scoring individual, as determined by a panel of professional judges, was awarded the coveted Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus Grand Champion Trophy, sponsored by General Mills. Gold, silver, and bronze medals will also be awarded for the highest three scores in each category. Winning contestants shared in $14,000 in prize money.

Sponsors of the contest included General Mills/Pillsbury and the Retail Bakers of America, along with category sponsors Bakery Crafts, Chefmaster, CSM Bakery Products, DecoPac, and Pfeil & Holing.