ROARING SPRING - "Let them eat cake!"
Marie Antoinette may never have actually said those words, but if she had seen the Cove Country Cake Show & Challenge, she'd probably encourage her subjects to dig in just the same.
This year's show will be the 15th edition headed by founder Tammie Leitis, the owner of Cove Party Supply in Roaring Spring. The show, this year titled "Leather and Lace," will be held Aug. 18 and 19 at The Quality Inn in Bedford. The show features cake decorators competing in divisional competitions, a series of challenges for adventurous decorators, cake decorating vendors and live demonstrations from instructors from around the country.
Mirror photo by Keith Frederick
Sugar art instructor Tammie Leitis of Roaring Spring poses with a show cake that she created.
All proceeds from the event go to the American Cancer Society.
Leitis has been a sugar art instructor, teaching classes out of Cove Party Supply to students of all ages, since about 1990. She says the Cove Country Cake Show started as a "recital" of sorts for her students to show off their skills.
"Most of [the students] are moms who want to do it for their kids," she said. "There are others who are working in a restaurant and they need to know basic [decorating techniques]. And there are others who just love the art and they want to get into it."
If you go
What: 15th annual Cove Country Cake Show and Challenge
When: Aug. 18 and 19
Where: The Quality Inn, 4407 Business Route 220 North, Bedford
More information: See a schedule of events at www.covecountrycakeshow. com
Admission for non-competitors: $5 for adults, $3 for children and free for children age 5 and younger. Admission to demonstrations for non-participants: $5 for adults, $3 for children and free for children age 5 and younger. Admission to cake challenge: $10 per person.
It's the art that drew Leitis into the field.
"I like the creativity of it - how far you can push sugar," she said. "Show cakes are where you can push sugar to its very extreme edge."
It was her love of the craft that led to her business.
"I got frustrated in the late '80s because I worked at a factory, and by the time I got off, there was nobody open for me to buy supplies," Leitis explained. "So whenever my husband and I divorced, I needed income, so I decided, 'There's no one around here like me, I'll open [a supply store].' So I did."
During her time as a sugar art instructor, and as an alternate representative for the International Cake Exploration Societ in Pennsylvania, Leitis has made many connections in the decorating world. Some of those fellow instructors will do demonstrations at the Cove Country Cake Show, including:
* Betty Van Norstrand of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who will be teaching a class on "Lace Painting and Feathers" at 6 p.m. Aug. 17, the evening before the show.
"[She] is the mother of all cakes," Leitis said. "Anybody who is anybody - including Buddy from [the TLC reality series] 'Cake Boss' - has had her as a teacher."
* Sidney Galpern of the Melbourne, Fla., cake shop Simi Cakes & Confections, will teach a class at 11 a.m. Aug. 18 called "Beginning Isomalt" and another at 1 p.m. Aug. 19 class called "Advanced Isomalt." Isomalt is a type of sugar paste used in many sugar sculptures.
* Beth Parvu of South Bend, Ind., will teach a class called "Orchid Mania" at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 18. Parvu and her husband, Ron, run online cake decorating supply store Sugarpaste.
There will be 10 instruction classes with prices ranging from $60 to $125. Those wishing to take the classes must register online at www.covecountrycakeshow.com by Thursday.
Three "challenge" events will be held during the show - a three-and-a-half-hour live cake challenge at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 18, a mini-challenge (decorating a whole cake with just one piping tip) at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 19 and a kids' cookie decorating challenge at 2 p.m. Aug. 19. Kids up to age 16 are eligible to compete in the kids' cookie challenge.
This year's show also features a new partner.
"We joined up with Icing Smiles," Leitis said. "It's a wonderful organization. ... [Icing Smiles founder Tracy Quisenberry] finds sick children - critically ill children, usually - and finds a cake decorator near that child, and she'll have the decorator donate a cake to that child.
"A lot of times, it's the last cake they get to see. Anyone entering my show is allowed to donate their cake to Icing Smiles," she said.
Leitis said the organization has also begun donating cakes to the siblings of critically ill children.
One longtime participant in the Cove Country Cake Show is Elaine Decker, 51, of Roaring Spring. Decker began taking Leitis' classes in 1992 or 1993 and has taken part in all but one of the shows.
"I love to do show cakes. I'll work on show cakes for weeks at a time," she said. "It's the challenge, to see what you can accomplish."
Decker co-owns Terry Decker Sanitation & Cove Recycling with her husband and shares office space with Cove Party Supply, located next door.
Her time as an amateur cake decorator has led her to strive to get better.
"I'm no artist. By no means," Decker said. "I can't draw a stick figure! But give me something that I need to accomplish [for a cake] and I'll go to whatever length I can."
Leitis says that each show takes a year to put together, and in that regard she has already chosen a theme for next year's show: "I Saw It At the Museum."
"It breaks [the show] wide open," she said. "It can be any museum; It can be the Siberian Railway Museum, it can be the Natural History Museum.
"It should be awesome."
That show will be held during the third week of August in 2013.
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.