Most young girls – at one time or another - celebrate childhood with tea parties, including fancy cakes, decorated cookies and “tea.”
Few, however, take that passion a step further, learn the craft of sugar art and enter cake decorating contests by the age of 9.
Not true for Tahlequah 14-year-old Hannah Iseley. Hannah will be competing in the upcoming Oklahoma Sugar Art Show at the Tulsa State Fair this weekend. This is her first year to compete in the teen division, but she’s no stranger to the contest.
“I got started when I was 9,” said Hannah. “It all began when my mom [Kim], decided to make a professional birthday cake for me one year. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. She used yellow and blue, and, well, I was hooked.”
Hannah began practicing at home, and attended a couple of professional classes in Tulsa. Then she began competing in the Oklahoma Sugar Art Show.
“It’s the second-largest show of its kind in the country,” said Hannah. “It is judged by Kerry Vincent, of the Food Network, and is really exciting.”
The theme for this year’s show is “Ballet 2013,” and Hannah’s entry is titled “’40s Hollywood Party.” The cake is five tiers, and includes features like homemade fondant, bi-colored roses, a bow-tie and strand of pearls.
“I make all the fondant for my cakes,” said Hannah. “It’s very precise work. You have to have exact measurements, or you end up with [what looks like] elephant skin, or it tears.”
In her years of competing, Hannah has won two yellow ribbons and one red ribbon.
“I got the red ribbon for my Titanic cake,” said Hannah. “It was sculpted using Styrofoam and was amazing. I won a yellow ribbon for my Paris-themed cake. It had a poodle on top. I love poodles.”
Hannah constructs her cakes at home, which can make transporting them to the Tulsa event tricky.
“You have to be extremely careful,” said Hannah. “You feel every single bump in the road. All the roses are packed separately, and I always take extra in case something happens. The cake tiers are packed surrounded by Styrofoam, and we put a light shrink wrap around it to prevent the cakes for getting dust or dirt on them.”
Once she arrives at the show, she signs up, puts the title in, assembles the final product and waits to see what happens.
“It’s also so much fun to see what everyone else brings,” said Hannah. “They have some amazing cakes. My mother won a blue ribbon the first year she competed in the gingerbread house category.”
According to the show’s website, rules are strict, making competition fierce. No commercial flowers can be used, nor can any non-edible jewelry. The use of glue guns, ornaments, metal fittings or bird feathers is strictly prohibited, and cake boards must be iced or decorated and edged with accenting or contrasting tape or ribbon.
While Hannah excels in the culinary arts far beyond her years, so much so she looks the part - right down to her pale pink chef’s coat - she has no plans to make a career of it.
“This is more of a hobby,” she said. “I want to be a playwright or actress.”
The show opens to the public at 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 28, in the River Spirit Expo Building.