Whether you’re new to the cake trade or have decades of experience, any cake designer or baker can substantially benefit from attending a cake show. Submitting entries to these competitions exercises your creativity, offers the chance to network with industry peers and — most importantly — develops your unique style as a culinary artist.

Most individuals participate in these design competitions to win awards. The prestige and talent associated with winning can advantageously reflect the caliber of your career. It goes without saying that an award-winning product can garner more attention from prospective shoppers.

“If they win, they can say they are an award-winning cake artist. Then you can start advertising as ‘award winning’. It’s more about the title than anything else,” says Norman Davis, owner of The Sweet Life in Annondale, VA. Davis also judges for the National Capital Area Cake Show.

Regardless of your skill level, these competitions are ideal for obtaining helpful design tips and insights. In many cases, whether or not your cake wins a competition, judges will provide helpful notes that constructively critique and comment on your submission.

“I write comments on every form. The comments are to help the cake artist better themselves. It is not to put them down,” Davis says. “Every judge is very careful on what they write down on the forms. We are not here to make somebody feel bad. We are here to encourage them to enter more cake shows.”

In addition, cake shows are where many emerging trends and styles acquire mainstream attention. Considering that trends in the baking industry can change on a dime, it’s critical to stay up-to-date on the hottest styles and designs.

It’s a learning experience for cake artists to see what the latest trends are, to get different ideas,” says Beth Spinner, event director for the Connecticut Cake Competition and Live Challenge.

Also, submitting your work to these shows is an opportunity to market your name, business or bakery to the cake community. While submissions are traditionally left anonymous, once the winners are announced, the names of the designers and bakeries that submitted cakes are usually revealed.

Learning is an extremely important aspect of attending these competitions. Wether or not you are competing, you will inevitably see a wide variety of styles and methods that you can apply to your work. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for you to stand out as a cake artist.

“You want to win, but sometimes it’s nice to make the cake that stands out the most,” says Mike Elder, owner of Black Sheep Custom Cakes in Clinton, MO. “Make the one cake that people actually remember.”

Developing a style and foundation for your work is essential to building your career. Overall, regardless of experience, decorators should always feel encouraged to attend and participate in cake shows and competitions. It’s a great way to add to your experience, improve your skills and learn more about the industry.