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Hanisch decorator awarded

Sarah Olson of Hanisch Bakery pipes frosting around the edge of a sheet cake design in the Upper Midwest Bakers Convention's Decorating Challenge. She placed second. -- photo by Anne Jacobson/Republican Eagle

The task: Decorate 13 cakes in eight hours.

The goal: Win entry into the Pillsbury National Decorating Contest.

The result: Alternate for the big showdown in Las Vegas.

Hanisch Bakery's Sarah Olson placed second in Upper Midwest Bakers Convention's Decorating Challenge this weekend at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Bill Hanisch was obviously pleased with his designer's efforts. If the winner from an Edina, Minn., bakery can't go, he'll send Olson.

"All of her cakes are on display at the bakery to see," Hanisch said. "The best thing about this convention is the cakes and the time and artwork that some of these cake decorators can do. I know I am always amazed."

During a brief lunch break Saturday, Olson explained that she had 12 designs in mind - one three-tier cake, one fondant cake, one sculpture cake, three florals, one cupcake cake and five seasonal sheet cake designs. She had to make her "creative" entry on the fly that afternoon.

"This year it's mardi gras beads and plastic coins," she said.

Would it be lucky No 13?

"I won't make that one last," she said before getting down to business.

The cake challenge was one of several contests that attracted bakers and decorators from across Iowa, North, Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Robyn Hanisch, co-owner of the Red Wing bakery, won silver medals in the different categories she entered: advanced butter cream wedding cake, advanced fondant wedding cake and advanced novelty design. In all the local bakery won seven silver and two bronze medals. Unlike in the Pillsbury challenge, decorators brought the finished products with them to the convention.

Some of the stiffest competition in the United States occurs at the annual Midwest convention, according to association President Clayton Artibee of Hutchinson, Minn. Glancing around the show room of 76 cakes, he said the region's designers often take the Retail Bakers of America's top prizes.

"There were complaints we were winning too much," he said.

This was the first time the convention has been in Red Wing. The group has experimented with numerous locations in recent years, he said, and midway through the weekend he indicated the group will likely be back because the site fits multiple needs.

While annual convention is heavy on education, it features a robust trade show and has numerous competitions, Artibee explained. There's also a strong family component, he said, noting few conventions allow children and even encourage their participation as the Upper Midwest Bakers has for 90 years.

"I don't imagine you get many vacations in a year," he said to Bill Hanisch.

"No, I don't," Hanisch replied. "This our vacation."

It was a sweet, successful one at that.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

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