Oktoberfest, by the numbers; the dirndl squeezes into Germany’s limelight; top-tier wedding cakes in Tulsa; Puerto Rico’s pork trail; a big balloon blowout in Albuquerque; golf with Iron Chef Morimoto
Sugar art takes Oklahoma
“Before I started decorating, I worked in typesetting,” says Rebecca Sutterby, “so my inspiration this year is a dingbat.” The Kansan laughs sheepishly and pulls a page of curlicued designs from a sheaf of elaborate sketches, including one that depicts the piece she’ll be entering in the Grand National Wedding Cake Competition at the 18th annual Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show — a highlight of this month’s Tulsa State Fair famed for its eye-popping panorama of edible architecture.
In the living room of the farmhouse Sutterby shares with her husband and three sons, the cake is coming to life. A table swathed in lilac taffeta is set with a five-tiered styrofoam model upon which she’ll work her magic in gum paste, royal icing, roll fondant and wafer paper (but no actual cake, which would collapse over the course of the two-day exhibition). By the time it’s done, she’ll have put in more than 200 hours of work.
Sutterby first entered the competition, the nation’s largest, 10 years ago, back when “I didn’t know any better,” she says. Now a professional cake artist, she has gone on to place several times; she nabbed the grand prize in 2008 with a Western-themed cake, into which she incorporated ersatz turquoise stones, silver engraving and leather tooling — all edible, of course, per the rules.
Those rules are written each year by show founder Kerry Vincent, an Australian-born master sugar artist and judge on the long-running series Food Network Challenge, where she’s notorious as the headband-wearing answer to Simon Cowell. In person, however, she styles herself as “a cake mother, badgering and pushing” her brood on to glory, she says. Sutterby, who has appeared on both Challenge and The Learning Channel’s Ultimate Cake Off, concurs. “If it weren’t for Kerry,” she says, “I’d still be sitting here in my cow pasture.” —RUTH TOBIAS
ILLUSTRATION BY PETER OUMANSKI