What is ICES? No, we’re not talking about a convenient and creative way to keep a beverage chilly. ICES stands for International Cake Exploration Societé, an international organization of over 4,000 cake and sugar artists from around the world. Members range from novice cake decorators to famous cake designers. Each year, ICES hosts a cake decorating convention, which is well respected and attended.
In this post, we’ll discover both the group and the convention.
ICES: The group
ICES was formed in 1976 as a place for amateur, student, and professional bakers to share their craft. The mission is “to preserve, advance and encourage exploration of the sugar arts. ICES promotes and provides opportunities for continuing education, development of future sugar artists, and enjoyment of the art form in a caring and sharing environment.”
Membership, which starts at $50 per year, includes a monthly newsletter featuring member projects and cake news, reduced admission to the ICES convention, and access for scholarships to hone their skills with ICES Approved Teachers.
ICES also offers certifications: during the convention, there is a testing process that takes place and if you pass, you will be officially deemed Certified Sugar Artist or Certified Master Sugar Artist.
Each state has local representatives, and they are in charge of coordinating local meetings, Cake Shows, and “Days of Sharing” are held throughout the year across America and around the world.
Photo via Let them Eat Cake
ICES: The convention
The biggest feather in ICES’ cap is its yearly convention. It is typically held in a different location each time. This year’s convention was held in Lexington, Kentucky, and had a “Horsing around in the Bluegrass” theme.
Logo via ICES
What went on at the convention
Upon arrival, there were a variety of opening activities. There was a special “first timer’s orientation” for new guests, which served as a fantastic introduction to the convention; there were also prep sessions for those planning on taking cake certification courses. Volunteers and concierges were on hand to offer information and assistance.
For the next few days, the convention was in full swing. Here’s what was going on:
Demonstrations / Hands-on classes
Demonstrations: A large variety of one hour demonstrations were offered throughout the convention. Each demo has a small fee, and many of them sold out.
Photo via Edith de la Flor
Demos included how to make a gum paste stork, how to make gelatin flowers, creating buttercream baseball caps, and methods of working with molds to create beautiful cakes. Demonstrators included Edith de la Flor, Jacqui Kelly, and Craftsy instructor Elisa Strauss.
Hands-On Classes: Specific techniques were explored in detail in these two hour classes. The fee for these classes was $75.00, which included materials. Courses included how to make an “ice cream sundae” using cake elements, English over-piping techniques, how to make isomalt gems and flowers, how to create 3-D stiletto shoes out of gum paste, and innovative methods of working with fondant and modeling chocolate. Classes were taught by an international cast of instructors hand-picked by the ICES committee, including Ted Scutti, Barb Evans, and Chrissie Boone.
In the vendor hall, suppliers and manufacturers showcased their wares and provided demonstrations. Looking for wires or pillars to hold up your elaborately sculpted cakes? Or new and innovative (but also sturdy) ways to display cakes and confections? Or maybe just some new sugarcraft tools? For bakery owners, this was a fantastic opportunity to discover new vendors and tools of the trade. For amateur bakers, it was still a whole lot of fun: an opportunity to get a glimpse of trends and new products and cake decorating supplies.
Photo via ICES
Cake certification testing
Those who had applied in advance were able to test to attain the title of Certified Sugar Artist or Certified Master Sugar Artist. The testing process was open to observation by convention attendees, who were able to soak up inspiration by (silently) observing the expertise of the applicants at work.
Photo via Sweet Eats Cakes
Cakes, cakes, cakes!
From the cake room (a cake gallery of sorts, in which cakes were presented for viewing) to the demos to the vendor tables, there was cake everywhere at this convention. It truly was a memorable and inspiring occasion for cake lovers and decorators of all sorts!
In addition, there were various opportunities for socializing during the convention, including a “Bluegrass Ball” with performances by Kentucky entertainers, as well as a membership information breakfast, and a post-show decompress demo session.
As wonderful as the demonstrations and resources available were, though, one of the biggest advantages of attending the show is the connections made. Jackie Travis of Let them Eat Cake in South Carolina, who has attended ICES shows, reports that after attending the convention, “I felt empowered, not only finding vendors that made my life easier, but feeling like I was part of something bigger than myself…a group of people with a passion to create edible art…pieces that would bring joy to people’s lives!”