Congratulations to 16-year-old unschooler, Karen Leong Jian Yi, who won the gold medal in the recent Cake Challenge Malaysia 2014! beating many other older and more experienced cake-designers!
I managed to catch her at the prize-giving ceremony held at the competition venue at Viva Home Furnishings, Cheras last Sunday. Besides the cash prize of RM 2,000 Karen also pushed home a trolley-full of sponsored gifts that included a very large flat screen TV!
LBS: Can you tell us about this cake-decorating competition? How many times have you joined such competitions and how did you do in the past competitions?
I wouldn’t have known about this competition if I hadn’t stumbled onto it on Facebook a few months back. We were required to complete a portion of the cake at the venue itself so I definitely had to put a whole lot more of extra thought into being able to manage my time well since we were only given 2.5 hours. Over the period of the last four years I’ve entered the wedding cake and Wilton method competitions organized by Icca (The international center of cake artistry) and I took home a gold trophy at the Wilton method mothers day competition they organized last year.
LBS: You won gold! (Again!) How do you feel about winning this? Did you expect it or was it a complete surprise?
Well, I had the strangest feeling that I would have at least made it to the top 3 and when I arrived at the Venue the judges only settled that thought in concrete as they spent lots of time around my entry, inspecting every angle very closely and complementing the intricacy and thought I put into the colors and design.
LBS: What do you think was the winning recipe for you? How did your past experience help you win this?
After receiving feedback from the international judges and witnessing how much effort they put into analyzing the entries over the past few years I’ve learnt what exactly captivates the eye, how extremely important it is to create something with techniques that have never been seen before and definitely one of the most important steps I take before starting to work on my entry piece is to read the rules and judging criteria very closely and to be able to hit everything on the scoreboard. Which was why I disposed of three tiers when creating this cake as I could never not put my best cake forward.
LBS: How are your parents taking this?
They were more excited about the win last year! I think they’ve grown immune to successful competitions over the years as I always do pick something positive up from them, but the proud smiles they’ve got plastered on their faces are priceless.
LBS: How did you discover your passion?
If I hadn’t been unschooled I would never have found my passion in cake decorating, I was SO bored out of my mind one day after a few hours of online games that I decided I wanted to do something else and at that time I already loved to bake since my Mom enjoys baking bread and cakes at home and I would always help out because.. Well, I love playing with flour!
I started with my first Wilton course and when I walked through the doors into the “classroom” everyone turned and looked at me as though I were alien or something – I was 11 or 12 at that time and clearly 20-30 years younger than everyone else in the room!
LBS: What’s next after this? What other life adventures have you set yourself up for?
The aftermath of the competition has been an insane whirlwind of people coming up to me asking if I taught cake decorating, which I do, so I would definitely delve deeper into teaching since I’ve got more interested students now! I’ll also be leaving for Quito, Ecuador in August for a year long youth exchange and from what I hear from my host family the art of cake decorating is very established around south America, hopefully I would be able to check out the cake industry there and perhaps even teach! Also I’m also scribbling the OSSAS competition down on my list, since I’m not too far away I might be able to get a ticket to one of the most prestigious cake competitions in Oklahoma.
LBS: Wow! This sounds so exciting! We would like to wish you every success you can find in the pursuit of your passion! And may the Fondant be with you always, Karen!
Thank you! ❤️