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Saturday Spotlight: Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #49 Recap

 
One of the things I love most about these challenges is seeing such diversity in our entrants' styles and the techniques that they use. And this challenge was certainly no exception! Your theme choices showed creativity, and the cookies you decorated were very well done. Thank you for sharing your photos and information explaining how you created your pieces!

I also want to thank this challenge's guest judge and fondant queen @Lorena RodrΓ­guez for taking the time to review and evaluate each participant's entry. For those of you not familiar with Lorena and her fine fondant work, please take a moment to review her most impressive bio below and her Cookie Connection portfolio.

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Guest Judge Lorena RodrΓ­guez

Lorena-CROPPEDIt's quite possible that you’ve already seen Lorena's creations on social media, because she’s been around for a while, surprising everyone with her world-class cookie design. With formal studies and a long career as a graphic and interior designer for top companies and individuals in Costa Rica, Lorena started baking and designing cookie favors as gifts for her friends and family on holidays. Word got out that her aesthetic was impressive and so her hobby transformed into a business. From her homeland of Costa Rica, Lorena designs, fabricates, and ships worldwide an ever-growing collection of cookie decorating sets. Her goal is to allow anyone – from amateurs to pro bakers - to create professional-looking cookie favors in a very simple and practical way. Because each of Lorena's kits is a complete aesthetic solution, all one must do is follow some simple instructions without having to worry about design and composition. Now Lorena's collection of cookie kits consists of over 40 designs, all of them originally created by Lorena and available at lorenassweets.com or on Amazon.com.
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As guest judge, Lorena provided notes on what she most appreciated about each entry, which you'll see below. For those interested in specific feedback about how to improve your entries, she has also generously agreed to supply additional critiques through private message. To request a critique, just message her here on Cookie Connection via her member profile, and she'll happily oblige. But that's not all! At the end of this post, Lorena noted a few issues that she observed in some of the entries (and which often trip up newcomers to fondant), and she's gone the extra mile to provide tips for preventing these problems in the future.

THANK YOU, Lorena! We sincerely appreciate your insights and participation in this challenge!

But before we get to the entries to find out what Lorena and our other judges had to say, let me remind you about our AMAZING PRIZE! As you know, our very own Cookie Connection member @LisaF has stepped up and offered to give back to this community by sponsoring the prize - a very generous $100 gift certificate to BakeDeco.com. BakeDeco.com is a great one-stop shop for all baking and decorating needs - one that both Lisa and Julia rely on quite a lot. THANK YOU, Lisa, for donating this fantastic prize.

Gift Certificate to BakeDeco.com: Gift Certificate Donated by Lisa Foss

IMPORTANT NOTE: As with all of the gift cards that are donated, this value is applied to your total order and is capped at $100. So if you purchase $100 worth of product, it will be covered, but your shipping will not. VAT is also not covered. Other geographical shipping restrictions may also apply.

And the randomly drawn winner of Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #49 is . . . @Chinmoyee! CONGRATULATIONS, Chinmoyee! I'm sure you'll enjoy the many baking supplies that you'll be able to get with your gift certificate! Julia will be in touch with you shortly via email to introduce you to Lisa, so that Lisa can explain how your prize can be redeemed.

18th Birthday Cookies by Chinmoyee18th Birthday CookiesChinmoyee's entry was this festive set of birthday cookies, which one judge summed up nicely, "This set really demonstrates some of fondant's greatest strengths. The lettering is clean and consistent. The molded and sculpted accents add nice dimension to the otherwise 2-D designs. And it's clear by the delicate music notes that fondant makes a great canvas for handpainting." And from guest judge Lorena: "Great use of color! Painting over fondant is a true challenge, and you achieved great results. All elements in this set play into the theme, making for a good group design."

And now, here are our spotlighted artists for Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #49 in no particular order . . .

Gifts for Christmas by ZeenaGifts for Christmas
Just glancing at this entry, anyone can see that a tremendous amount of care and effort went into creating this miniature Christmas scene. As one judge observed, "Zeena incorporated so many different techniques! As a result, this festive little scene feels alive with different textures and patterns." Another judge added, "This set shows such joy and attention to detail! Plus, practically infinite creativity in color and shape, not to mention the patience required!" Lorena: "Super elaborate work! Every little piece is filled with a diversity of textures and colors. I really admire the variety of elements in the scene and the scene itself. What very creative use of tools and techniques!"

20's-Style Party by MANUELA CANTΓ™
20s-Style Party by MANUELA CANTΓ™Design, color, and technique come together nicely in this entry. "Between the colors and the style, there's no mistaking the theme of this set. The embossed ruffles around the base of the corset add so much visual interest to the designs. I love the hand-sculpted feather, too," said one judge. While another noted, "This set is really successful and very well-executed especially considering this is the first time Manuela has worked with fondant. I also like the gold - I love it when it glitters!" Lorena: "Good selection of elements and an elegant color choice for a Great Gatsby-themed party! Fondant is fun to work with, and this set is a good example of how it can bring joy and energy to cookies."

Say YES to the Winter Dress! by BevHSay YES to the Winter Dress
I love how this all-white palette really allows the texture of the fondant to take center stage. Our judges agreed. "Lovely set of cookies using only one color of fondant. The different fondant-shaping techniques used on each cookie really enhance each design. I also appreciate the detailed explanation in the comments," said one judge. Another judge added, "Bev does a great job of explaining how she made the clothing look more realistic by wrapping the fondant around the edges. She made excellent use of fondant to emulate fabric folds as well. And I love the idea of using the snowflakes in place of the diamond for the ring." Lorena: "Spotless whites - well done! The winter element is present in every design, yet the dresses are very different: one is classical and the other modern. Great use of textures and movement. Wedding dresses are hard to make look realistic, and these are fantastic."

Ushering in the New Year (Sri Lankan Style) by ZeenaUshering the New Year (Sri Lankan Style)
This set is Zeena's second entry into the challenge, and it's no less impressive than the first. "Such a colorful, festive, and detailed set of cookies showing the New Year’s tradition in Sri Lanka! There is so much work behind these little food miniatures on cookies. I really appreciate that Zeena took the time to share in the comments the tools that she used and the challenges she faced," praised one judge. Another added, "This set is so charming! Every item has incredible depth and texture. I'm in love with Zeena's sculpted bananas - they look so real!" Lorena: "Exquisite execution. I appreciate all of the handmade work for all the little details. The color choices are attractive, the number of textures is incredible, and the textures themselves are very original."

Christmas Cookies by GingerlandChristmas CookiesPerfection would be the best way to describe the fondant work on these cookies by Gingerland. As one judge observed, "This set is so clean and striking! I particularly appreciate the contrast between the snowflake with embossed elements and the other cookies with more dimensional (cutout and molded/sculpted) elements. The different textures really stand out against the strong, minimal color palette." Another judge added, "Clean and flawless work. At first glance, these gorgeous cookies may look simple. But upon closer inspection, one can't help but to admire the thoughtful placement of each and every color and texture." The polished details really make this set look extremely professional. Lorena: "Impeccable work with every technique used. What a great eye for textures and color! Overall, a very pleasant set, and I love the mini peppermint candies too!"

New Year Party Hat by Joanna ManuelNew Year Party Hat

Our challenges are all about encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and try something new. And that's exactly what Joanna did. I was happy to hear that it was this challenge that spurred her to work with fondant for the first time. As one judge also noted, "Fondant seems like the perfect medium for decorating a more difficult shape like this contoured hat. The fondant letters and discs conform perfectly to the curved side of the cookie." Joanna did a great job working with the different fondant techniques, and I hope we get to see more fondant-topped cookies from her in the future. Lorena: "I always think the first approach to fondant needs to be fun and playful, and this entry certainly is both. This entry is also a good example of fondant's many creative uses. Good Job."

Rose Bouquet by LisaFRose Bouquet

Lisa did a fantastic job of the fondant work on this entry. One judge observed, "The embossing effect on the vase is so well done, and the airbrushing really makes it pop against the white roses." Another added, "I really appreciate that Lisa's vase looks equally beautiful from all angles." Lisa also provides great photos showing how she created dimension with her entry. Regarding Lisa's other floral entry, a marbled and embossed vase with purple flowers, another judge noted, "The marbling effect on the vase is very convincing." Lorena: "Clever construction and very romantic compositions in both of Lisa's entries, and the colors make me think of European balconies in the summer. Most notable in both cases were the imprints on the vases and the wrapping techniques used on them."

Santa's Ride by Petra FloreanSanta's RidePetra incorporated some great techniques into her entry, but what impressed the judges the most was her quilled Christmas tree. "Petra did such a beautiful job with the quilling effect on the tree. The fondant looks clean and distinct despite how much it must have been manipulated to achieve the curling," observed one judge. Another also added, "Really nice set of cookies. I liked the Christmas tree cookie decorated with the quilling technique and also the inlaid fondant stripe technique. I especially liked Petra sharing the links to the tutorials she followed to master the different techniques." Another judge added, "The quilled Christmas tree captivates me! I can't imagine that placing the fondant upright was easy! Everything else is just beautiful too!" You can see Petra's other Christmas-themed entry here. Lorena: "Very creative. The three-dimensional aspect of most every cookie is very attractive, and the design of the tree is fantastic - a new technique! The number of pieces involved in this project is also impressive."

Gingerbread House by GingerlandGingerbread HouseMost of the time we see gingerbread houses decorated with royal icing. This fondant-covered entry adds a surprising and elegant twist to this perennial holiday favorite. Our judges were universally wowed with Gingerland's impeccable work. "I am impressed by the cleanliness of the work!," said one judge. Another added, "Again, this cookie is so clean! All of the architectural details are really sharp and perfect. The cutout snowflake on the back is a beautiful surprise." Lorena: "Wonderful sample of techniques used, and exemplary job with respect to neatness, cleanliness of cuts, and assembly. The variety of textures enriches the design, as does the choice of colors. The use of molds is also impeccable."

Winter Wonderland by Ira VariniaWinter WonderlandThis entry is a great example of how thinking outside the box can produce some fun and fantastic results. As one judge remarked, "I love how Ira used some unexpected materials to achieve the textures in this set. Sometimes it seems like you would need buckets of tools to make use of fondant, but this set shows that everyday items like aluminum foil and tea strainers can be used to great effect." The other judges agreed, "A really cute set of cookies. I especially loved the pompom look achieved using the tea strainer and the use of the stencil to emboss the fondant." "This entry was wonderfully described and pictorially captured. I appreciate the use of so many effects!" Lorena: "Good painted details and use of color. The house has many interesting components, and you came up with some really inventive ways to create textures. Thank you for sharing your techniques - I learned a lot."

Now, some words from Lorena about how to up your fondant game - and why she loves fondant so much!

"I like giving positive input, yet I didn't have enough space here to point out all of the many nice details that I saw. I think everybody did a great job experimenting and discovering what fondant can do. I did see a few flaws, which is not unexpected because, for many here, this challenge was their first time experimenting with fondant. But, in the spirit of learning, let's talk about three of those flaws and how to prevent them going forward."

"First, to avoid ragged fondant edges or marks on fondant: Roll out the fondant on your work surface with a little cornstarch. Make sure your work surface is very clean. Let the fondant dry for few minutes. The fondant is then more stable and allows cleaner cuts and better embossing. Be sure to handle the fondant minimally, and only with clean hands, to avoid marking it."

"To get the cleanest, sharpest fondant imprints from silicone molds: Mix the needed amount of fondant with food coloring and some cornstarch. Add a tiny amount of CMC to accelerate the hardening of the fondant. Using a brush, apply a thin layer of Crisco (vegetable shortening) to the inside of the silicone mold. Fill the mold with fondant, pressing it with a tool into all of the nooks and crannies. Tip: If your mold is very intricate or big, place the filled mold in the freezer for couple of minutes before carefully peeling back the mold to release the fondant. Freezing will prevent the fondant from sticking and/or misshaping when the mold is removed."

"To add depth and dimension to molded or textured pieces: As an alternative to painting, petal dust is a great medium for enhancing different fondant pieces. It is most often applied dry with a dry brush."

"In the future, I hope more people will experiment with fondant. It is a very forgiving material. In my case, I live in a tropical country (Costa Rica), and achieving a predictable consistency with icing was always a problem. My icing cookies were just terrible, so I started experimenting with fondant because I thought I had a better chance. I practice all of the time to improve my techniques. I also try to learn and discover new things as much as I can. I learned a lot from all of the challenge participants. Judging has been a great experience. Thank you so much for the opportunity!" - Lorena

Again, thank YOU, Lorena!

And, last, some IMPORTANT parting words from me and Julia about this challenge and future challenges . . .

If you have been following along with the challenge, you may have noticed that some of the entries featured in this Spotlight have elements that deviate from the challenge rules (such as royal icing parts) or elements that are missing altogether (the challenge asked for a minimum of three separate cookies). After a discussion with Julia, we decided that the rules would be relaxed for this challenge ONLY. There were a couple of reasons for this decision. With just 13 entries, and less than ten that qualified, it did not make sense to leave some of the Spotlight spaces empty just for the sake of enforcing the rules. Also, we recognize that a lot of time and effort went into creating these entries, and we wanted to make sure that each of you had an opportunity to have your work reviewed by our guest judge Lorena.

Having said that, I do want to remind everyone of the importance of reading ALL of the challenge rules – and then rereading them BEFORE submitting your entries. These rules are in place to ensure a level playing field and a fair starting point for judges' evaluations, as well as to really challenge you. After all, these challenges are really about stretching as a cookie artist and pushing beyond your comfort zone. If you ever have any questions about the rules, make sure to write them in the comments section below the challenge post, or send me a private message if you prefer.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Following up on Christine's points, I want to add that the New Year is always the time that I sit back and reflect on the past year - what's been working well and what's in need of re-thinking - and that's exactly what I'm doing right now with these challenges. With participation as low as it was this month, I have to question whether these challenges are continuing to serve your needs as cookie artists. And given the large amount of time they take for Christine and me to prep, I have to question whether that time is being well spent. Christine has created what I think is a super, knock-your-socks-off challenge for our #50. I'll be using it as a litmus test to a certain extent. If participation isn't off the charts for that one, then it's probably a sign that it's time for something new. In the meantime, I encourage you to help me out here - please send me an email (sweetlife@juliausher.com) to let me know if you think these challenges should continue in their current form, be tweaked, or be transformed into something completely new?! What new or different features, if any, would you like to see on the site in 2022 that would get you engaged and really make a difference for you as a cookie artist? Please also feel free to leave your comments and ideas under this post. Thank you in advance. ~JMU]

And that concludes another Practice Bakes Perfect challenge! Make sure you check out the whole clip set to learn more about these fabulous fondant entries and how they were created. Thank you to everyone who participated, liked, and commented on the entries. Make sure to look for our next challenge, which will post on or around January 16, 2022.

ChristineCROPPEDChristine Dutcher's journey as a cookier began in early 2013 when an online search led her to the amazing world of cookie decorating. After spending countless hours learning all that she could, Christine decorated her first set of cookies in October 2013. In 2016, she decided that she would begin to focus on perfecting her skills, challenging herself each time to create more detailed and progressively complex pieces of cookie art. In 2019, Christine became one of the very first sugar artists from around the world to be named as an "Honourary PME Five Star Sugar Artist" by Knightsbridge PME. You can learn more about Christine's work here on Cookie Connection, and by following her Facebook and Instagram pages.

Photo credit: Christine Dutcher

Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Dutcher that poses inspiration or challenges to get you to stretch as a cookie artist - for practice, for prizes, and for fun! Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Christine's past Cookie Connection posts here.

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Images (13)
  • Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #49 Recap Banner: Photo by Steve Adams; Cookie and Graphic Design by Julia M. Usher
  • Gift Certificate to BakeDeco.com: Gift Certificate Donated by LisaF; Graphic Design by Julia M. Usher with Royalty-Free Shutterstock Image
  • 18th Birthday Cookies: Cookies and Photo by Chinmoyee
  • Gifts for Christmas: Cookies and Photo by Zeena
  • 20's-Style Party: Cookies and Photo by MANUELA CANTΓ™
  • Say YES to the Winter Dress!: Cookies and Photo by BevH
  • Ushering the New Year (Sri Lankan Style): Cookies and Photo by Zeena
  • Christmas Cookies: Cookies and Photo by Gingerland
  • New Year Party Hat: 3-D Cookie and Photo by Joanna Manuel
  • Rose Bouquet: 3-D Cookie and Photo by LisaF
  • Santa's Ride: Cookies and Photo by Petra Florean
  • Gingerbread House: 3-D Cookie and Photo by Gingerland
  • Winter Wonderland: Cookies and Photo by Ira Varinia

Sweet Prodigy

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Comments (12)

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Congratulations to Chinmoyee @Chinmoyee and all other participants. Special thank you to Christine @Sweet Prodigy, Julia @Julia M. Usher and Lorena @Lorena RodrΓ­guez. Thank you to Lisa @LisaF for the generous prize. I really loved all the feedback given by the judges. It does take time to evaluate and judge these entries. Thank you and I appreciate this challenges very much. It has been a learning experience for me.

Congratulations to all spotlighted artists in this wonderful challenge, all works were just great! It is always an honor for me to be spotlighted in the challenges, expecially in this one because it was the first time I used fondant to decorate cookies. Thank you so much @Julia M. Usher and @Sweet Prodigy for the time and effort you put in to organize these amazing challenges and special thanks to @Lorena RodrΓ­guez for her tips about working with fondant on cookies, very appreciated.

Looking forward to discovering what is in the pipeline for the PBP challenge no. 50!

Congratulations to all! It was a wonderful theme and I personally love fondant and very sorry I didn’t participate  

I love the challenges but unfortunately unable to participate in each one. This time around with Christmas, rampant Covid and remodeling my kitchen, it was impossible!  

Wish I had a suggestion other than promoting the site and the challenges as much as possible on social media.

Happy New Years to all.

Congratulations to everyone and a huge huge thank you to Christine, Julia, Lorena and all of the judges. These challenges are so enjoyable on many levels. I truly appreciate the opportunities, the work that goes into creating them and the many possibilities to grow. I know I went rogue on the rules and I do apologize again. I became so absorbed in the many resources Christine included - I just didn’t pay attention. And I actually love the rules! They add so much to the challenges. I broke a rule before - in the stained glass challenge - but I had enough time to do something else. I had an idea on how to redeem myself for this challenge but just couldn’t get my act together in time to resubmit.

I am very much looking forward to the next challenge though and promise I will be on my best behavior. πŸ˜¬πŸ˜‡πŸ˜†

@Zeena posted:

Congratulations to Chinmoyee @Chinmoyee and all other participants. Special thank you to Christine @Sweet Prodigy, Julia @Julia M. Usher and Lorena @Lorena RodrΓ­guez. Thank you to Lisa @LisaF for the generous prize. I really loved all the feedback given by the judges. It does take time to evaluate and judge these entries. Thank you and I appreciate this challenges very much. It has been a learning experience for me.

Thank you so much.❀️

Congrats to each spotlighted artist!! These are amazing works in fondant. I love each and every one. From fun and festive to elegant and then classical fondant work the works here are all reprented so well. Awesome work!! Fondant can be very challenging to work with in combination with cookie designs. ❀️❀️❀️ Hugs...

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