At long last, it’s the time so many of you have been waiting for – the grand winner reveal in the second virtual edition of Julia M. Usher’s Cookie Art Competition™!

But, wait! What happened to the finalist announcement, you ask?! Good question. A few weeks ago, I posted a notice to this site that answered this question quite fully. If you missed it, it said (in a nutshell) that the judges and I decided to adopt an awarding practice that is more consistent with that of other large international competitions. We did so primarily because of the unprecedented internationality of this year’s competition. This practice doesn’t include a finalist stage, but rather jumps directly to awarding bronze-, silver-, and gold-level winners, as applicable, in the various competition categories. For all of the reasons we decided to migrate toward this international awarding standard, please refer to my previous post. That post also addresses the criteria used for awarding the prize levels – essentially, any entrant receiving 71% to 80% of their category’s total possible points is a bronze winner; 81% to 90% is a silver winner, and 91% or more is a gold winner. Again, if you have any questions about these changes, please email me.

2022 Competition Observations and Thank-Yous

Before I move on to the big reveal, three more important notes about this year’s competition . . . First, as I alluded to above, one of the most remarkable aspects of this year’s competition was its far-ranging impact. It attracted entrants from all corners of the globe (Iran, Ukraine, Malaysia, China, Japan, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria, Canada, the United States, and more). Knowing that this competition touched so many cookiers from so many diverse places is immensely gratifying to me. It was also fascinating – and often quite poignant – to see how the entrants translated their unique cultural experiences into their competition pieces and theme interpretations. I thank all of the competitors for expressing themselves so completely and freely, and for the hard work, passion, and determination that clearly went into each piece. As I’ve been known to say, every entrant is ultimately a winner just for having gotten a piece to the virtual competition “table”. Seeing a complex idea through to fruition is 90% or more of the challenge! So bravo to everyone!

As for the second note . . . as you may know, this year’s competition is awarding a record-breaking level of prizes. The grand total has climbed to $19,925 since my last update ($9,250 of which is cash)! This jackpot is due to the generosity of just 17 companies that went above and beyond because they share a commitment to advancing the state of cookie art and applauding those individuals who are pushing boundaries. I thank all of these companies, their owners, and teams for being shining beacons in this industry and for giving back with such abundance. I also encourage all of you to visit their sites on our dedicated sponsor page. Buy some of their incredible products, share their sites on social media, or write them thank-you notes. In other words, do what you can to show them your love so that we can continue to enhance the value that this competition brings to cookiers everywhere.

Last but not least, thanks to our supremely talented and experienced judges who invested many, many hours in entry review and making the very hard decisions that resulted in the winners you see below. Without this team, this competition would not be possible, so let’s give them all a well-deserved round of applause . . .

Now, on to the matter at hand – the winners! As a reminder, we awarded prizes in four categories/skill level classifications: (1) 2-D Cookie/Beginner-Intermediate; (2) 2-D Cookie/Advanced-Master; (3) 3-D Cookie/Beginner-Intermediate; and (4) 3-D Cookie/Advanced-Master. For definitions of these categories/classifications, please visit the original Competition Overview post. Directly below, you’ll find a quick video shout-out to our very deserving winners in each of these categories. Drumroll, please . . .

Completely fabulous, right?! But there is so much more to each entry that this video doesn’t adequately capture. Please read on to see larger pictures of each winning entry, as well as each entrant’s bio, notes about how the theme (Broadway & Musicals) was interpreted, and judges’ comments. At the end of it all, you’ll find the judges’ pick for the Kerry Vincent Best in Show Award, so please stay with me to that very important conclusion. Congrats to all of the winners on their remarkable pieces and the incredible ingenuity and creativity that went into them! Winners, you will be notified individually over the next few days with information about your prizes and how to redeem them. Prizes were allocated in proportion to winners’ total point scores, with the average combined cash-and-coupon prize value being about $1,450 per winner (over $650 in cash)! Thanks again to our wonderful sponsors for making these unprecedented figures possible!

2-D Cookie/Beginner-Intermediate Winners

One bronze and two silver awards were given in this category/classification.
(71% to 80% of 70 total points)

Entry Name: It’s Showtime, Folks!

Kelly Clements, resident of South Carolina, USA, is an administrative assistant by day, and an avid, self-taught cookier by night/weekend. With a love for crafting and a graphics arts background no longer being utilized, Kelly sought a creative outlet for her spare time. She stumbled upon online cookiers in 2017 while searching for new techniques to use on her annual holiday gingerbread project (another obsession) and instantly got hooked. She began following Julia M. Usher for her 3-D creations, and then more cookiers/sites to learn more techniques and skills. Once Kelly got a grasp of icing consistencies, piping, and tools of the trade, she dabbled in making cookies as gifts. This practice soon led to order inquiries from friends and colleagues, and Sweet Doughsigns by Kelly (a small in-home business) began in 2019. If Kelly isn’t in the kitchen creating and experimenting, she is outside enjoying Lowcountry adventures with her beloved basset hound, Bogart.

Kelly on Theme Interpretation: “I tried to think of every facet of a musical or Broadway production that could be depicted in cookies without duplicating or mimicking a particular production. I concluded that [my entry] had to be comprised of all the little elements that make up the experience, and [so I] literally spelled out what a Broadway musical meant to me in one cohesive piece . . . In visualizing this [entry], I started seeing the different elements lending themselves to the shape of the letters. The ‘B’ is for burlesque; ‘R’, a cabaret dancer; ‘O’, a singer belting a tune; ‘A’, a theater front with marquee; ‘D’ for a jazz costume; ‘W’ for the orchestra conductor; ‘A’ for the bright lights of Broadway; and ‘Y’, the award for a job well done.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “I love the out-of-the-box thinking that was done to comply with the competition requirement of using no copyrighted names, logos, or images. In pushing so cleverly beyond that constraint, this competitor made this entry uniquely hers . . . There was great variety achieved in this piece. I appreciate the varying colors, textures, and messages on each letter and their placement relative to one another. No similar textures or colors are next to each other, yet the whole arrangement is quite cohesive.”

(81%-90% of 70 total points)

Entry Name: Recipe for the Perfect Performance

Donna Garland has always been creative with a passion for art, but several years ago she turned in her canvas for cookies, and Donna’s Designer Cookies was born. She is a self-taught home baker in a small east Texas town. She has been happily married for 26 years and is a mom of grown children who are all happy to be cookie tasters. Donna is a registered nurse by day and cookier by night (and weekend). She enjoys experimenting with handpainted designs that allow her to flex her creative muscles! Donna is proud to be part of the supportive and creative online cookie community that inspired her to enter her first-ever cookie decorating contest.

Donna on Theme Interpretation: “A musical requires so much preparation and, just like a recipe, requires the right amount of each component to make it just right. Too much or not enough of something can spoil it all. For my submission, I created cookies to represent some of the major components of a performance: the music, talent of the actors, couture of the costumes, illumination of the stage lights, reactions of the audience, restoration from cleanup, and a recipe card to show how they all mix together! I used Wicked as my inspiration but also sprinkled it with a bit of The Wizard of Oz.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “I love the idea of this piece. There’s so much attention to detail in each of the main cookies. I most appreciated the painted elements (especially the variation in the brick color and table details), and the dimensional feet coming out from under the recipe are awesome. So many different techniques were explored in this piece, and they were very well executed.”

Entry Name: Into the World of Green

Miwa Maly is a stay-at-home mom with two kids. Her sweet journey started with a tiny birthday cake for her son. After several birthday cakes, she developed her interest in decorated cookies. The beauty and possibility of sugar art amazed her, and, since then, cookie making has become her number-one hobby. As she bakes just for some occasions such as Halloween or Christmas, she has never taken a baking or cookie decorating class. All of her teachers are on the internet. She is grateful to these generous artists for sharing their great tips and amazing techniques online.

Miwa on Theme Interpretation: “When I saw the theme ‘musical’, I remembered the first musical I ever saw, Wicked. It was almost 15 years ago, but the memory is still very vivid. Before the show, I was excited but also uneasy, thinking I wouldn’t follow the story because of my poor English. Plus, being escorted to the wrong seat, separated from my friends, made me a little bit nervous. However, once the show had started, nothing mattered. Magnificent stage sets, gorgeous costumes, and the amazing performance took my breath away . . . I wanted to capture the beauty of the stage sets and the costumes. The girl was painted with several colours to express mixed feelings of excitement, worry, etc. On the bottom background cookie, I scribbled to represent how English was to me back then. This experience encouraged me to learn the language, and [the learning] still continues like a plant grows.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “This piece immediately drew my attention. I absolutely love its composition . . . the thoughtful layers, textures, and colors achieved. The hand-cut pieces are admirably clean and carefully embossed. The piping and details are quite well executed – especially for a beginner. Well done!”

2-D Cookie/Advanced-Master Winners

Three bronze and three silver awards were given in this category/classification.
(71%-80% of 70 total points)

Entry Name: Freedom

Olga Goloven fell in love with iced cookies eight years ago during her second pregnancy. It was enough to see three photos on Pinterest to capture her imagination and heart. At that time, royal icing wasn’t so popular in Ukraine so she learned all of the basic icing techniques through her mistakes, and between taking care of two children and giving lectures as a Ph.D. at the local university. Olga has done everything from making cookies and taking orders to teaching. She now focuses on colorful cookies without icing and is writing a cookie book. This entry is her second one in this competition, and it was a huge trial for her this time. She escaped from the war in Ukraine to the Czech Republic and made this set while living in a basement with high humidity, not much light, and a minimum of tools. To take the final photo, she asked her neighbors to let her use their dining room. Olga says: “I would have made it better at home, but now I don’t have it!”

Olga on Theme Interpretation: “Nowadays, war in the Ukraine is the most hot issue for me. So if I were a theater or musical producer, I would make the play ‘Freedom’ about the Ukrainian music that supported Ukrainians through the centuries in the fight for their independence. So this cookie set demonstrates the name of [my imaginary] show and its most outstanding elements. Every letter of the word reveals a separate meaningful episode [in the play and in Ukrainian life]. For instance, the letter ‘D’: [It depicts] Sofiivska Square in Kyiv, where on the 26th of February, 2022, the leader of the Ukrainian band Boombox Andriy Khlivnyuk, before departure to the front, recorded a cappella the anthem of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, ‘Chervona Kalina’. The song became an anthem in support of Ukraine and a worldwide hit, which was performed in Catholic churches and by Pink Floyd, Coldplay, and others.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “The interpretation of the theme was bold. I commend the entrant’s ability to tie her cause and country’s plight to the competition theme . . . There are a lot of beautiful details in this piece, especially when it comes to the instruments . . . I particularly appreciated the large array of techniques used in the composition, which is very original, creative, and personal. The detail of the isomalt strings is beautiful; the piping is very fine; and the color combinations are quite harmonious.”

Entry Name: Jintu Xijue – Chinese Orchestra Drama

Yee Ling Liow began as a home cake decorator in 2011 when she decided to start decorating birthday cakes for her two lovely sons. Shortly after, she attended workshops for sugar paste modeling both locally and overseas. In 2012, Yee Ling traveled to England to take the PME course in royal icing and piping. Hooked by that experience, she then started making royal icing cookies for her children and friends on special occasions. She was a hobbyist until 2020 when she decided to make cookie art her full-time career. Yee Ling is grateful for all of the cookie talent in social media, especially in the Cookie Connection community, which fuels her passion for cookie art and encourages her to enter competitions to learn and grow. Of course, she is also grateful for all of the fun she is having on her cookie decorating journey.

Yee Ling on Theme Interpretation: “Chinese orchestra (called ‘Jintu xijue’ in Chinese) is one of the most famous and popular forms of traditional music and art in Chinese culture. It is composed of a few musical instruments . . . which play wonderful music alongside the Jingtu actors/actresses as they present a story interpreted for the audience. In my cookie art piece inspired by Chinese orchestra, the main character – the actress – is the one who presents the story through dancing and singing, creating the highs and lows of the storyline. In this case, she is a child who was born to fight for justice and freedom.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “I really appreciated the very clean piping and the overall accuracy of execution, especially in the very small details. The stringwork and filigree piping are especially noteworthy . . . The 3-D elements are also executed beautifully. I particularly love the lotus and the beautiful instruments.”

Entry Name: Woman.Life.Freedom

Niusha Ramezani Raad has a bachelor’s degree in English translation. Fourteen years ago, after finishing her studies at the age of 24, she decided to learn to make her own sweets for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. She became interested in participating in all of the baking and cooking courses that she could. Two years later, Niusha accidentally saw an example of cookie icing on a blog and tried to practice and learn cookie decorating by herself at home. Soon after that, she was able to take orders, making up to 1,000 cookies per month. Ten years later, Niusha decided to participate in international competitions, and succeeded in earning a gold medal in an Italian competition and the Turkish “Cake Star” recognition. Niusha is currently working in a confectionery and holding cookie-decorating training workshops.

Niusha on Theme Interpretation: “The Haft-Sin table is related to one of the [most] important and ancient festivals of Iran, Nowruz, which is celebrated every year at the beginning of spring and the new year. All Iranians set a Haft-Sin table in their homes, which includes apples, senjed, garlic, vinegar, mint, greens, sumac, red fish, and hyacinth flower. In this cookie, I showed you the celebration of Nowruz and the music and joy of Iranian women, but, for many years in my country, Iranian women have not been allowed to sing, play, and be happy . . . I made this cookie during the days of protests and demonstrations by Iranians against the tyrants of government. I hope that next year’s Nowruz Eid will remove all of these chains and the blackness from Iranian women, and that we will be able to celebrate soon with joy.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “The visuals in this piece are very powerful, particularly the black and white woman in contrast to the very colorful framed piece. The features of the black and white woman are great – especially the hands, which represent a high degree of difficulty . . . I am also impressed by the importance of this entrant’s cookie theme and how expressively it was conveyed.”

(81%-90% of 70 total points)

Entry Name: The Wizard of Oz

Diana Ivanova-Mitreva began cookie decorating in 2019. After she finished a contract as an officer-on-watch, she came back home and made some autumn-themed cookies with royal icing for her personal culinary blog. A friend saw them and invited her to present them at a food festival. These cookies were the start of her journey into decorating. She has won a gold medal twice at Cake Art Bulgaria. Currently, Diana is retired from commercial shipping and happily married. She splits her time between family and cookies in a small Bulgarian mountain village where she finds peace and inspiration. She likes diversity and strives to never make the same cookies twice. Always looking for new techniques, Diana still claims she doesn’t completely know what she’s doing, but at least she likes it!

Diana on Theme Interpretation: “Broadway musicals have been a part of culture for generations. The Wizard of Oz began as a children’s novel, but since then the story has been told through several movies and musicals. It has been one of my favorite stories since I watched the movie as a little girl. The story of Dorothy and her friends helped build my vivid imagination as a child, and, to this day, I dream vividly of whole stories that can be made into their own books and plays. Maybe it is no wonder that my favorite place in the world is New York. The atmosphere there recharges me. Also, Dorothy’s ruby slippers possess my favorite magical ability – to be able to teleport where I want. So for me Broadway represents a dream . . . the dream to visit New York, maybe even for long enough to see Dorothy click her red shoes on stage.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “I absolutely love the composition of this piece. There are so many amazing little details included in it. I also love the perspective that was chosen and the many layers that help to give it dimension. The small Emerald City in the back is perfect. I love how it is very abstract and contrasts the more finely detailed characters in front of it . . . . the entry effectively delivers a wow effect, and the piping is noteworthy.”

Entry Name: Musicals & Theatre Vibes in New York

Katarzyna Mecmajer is a self-taught cookie decorator who benefits heavily from knowledge of various art techniques due to her work as an art conservator. At the end of 2020, while on her second maternity leave, she became interested in gingerbread decorations, initially intended as Christmas gifts for family and friends. Katarzyna soon discovered that making unique cookies was another way to reflect her passion for art. She started making art-inspired cookies and launched her social media accounts under the name “KM sztuka ze smakiem”. In 2021, she won her first competition at the Chocolate Festival in Krakow (Poland); in 2022, she followed with a silver medal at the Sweet Expo in Warsaw (Poland).

Katarzyna on Theme Interpretation: “Not being American, [I believe] my perception of Broadway was shaped by other media. I always connected it to well-choreographed dancing and singing in musicals, probably due to films such as Grease and Hair . . . I was lucky to obtain a fresh perspective a few years ago while visiting New York. Broadway became a real place, embedded within the city full of skyscrapers. After going once to see Phantom of the Opera, I couldn’t help myself and bought another ticket for Pippin . . . This is why I decided to focus on the musical part. Showing dancers in varied outfits, smiling, with New York making its presence known in the background was my main idea. As Broadway is a truly artistic space, I also used two ancient masks to emphasize its connection to the theater.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “What struck me immediately about this piece was the elegance of the dancers and how much motion and energy they convey. You can almost feel the pulse of New York . . . This piece definitely has some gorgeous painting and attention to detail. The keys are flooded nicely and the details on the buildings and faces are awesome. I especially loved how the bottoms of the black keys faded into the buildings and how the woman’s hair evolved into the musical staff.”

Entry Name: East, West, Home’s Best

Nasrin Mooliani is an urban planning engineer who decided to stay at home and start a home business due to the birth of her son in 2015. She has been decorating cookies for about seven years, and she loves it. She feels that cookie design is like her second child. Nasrin won first place in the Iran Cake Show competition in 2020 and a gold award in the cookie and royal icing category at Cake International (Birmingham) in 2021. She has been working on cookie portrait techniques for about four years and teaches special techniques. Nasrin hopes that she can play a small role in promoting cookie art in her country. She especially tries to show her feelings through her cookies.

Nasrin on Theme Interpretation: “I saw a lot of similarity in The Wizard of Oz to the situation in my country Iran. We Iranian people, especially Iranian women, are like the lost in our country; we have been captured by a government that is similar to the evil witch of this story, and we are deprived of our rights . . . If we sympathize and unite together like Dorothy and her friends, we can eliminate oppression. This [situation] is very difficult for us, and I created this story with all of my heart and [while] very sad. By choosing and performing this story, I tried to tell about my community and work within the framework of the theme of the competition, which is Broadway.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “There are so many great details in this piece. The painting is beautiful, and I love that Tin Man is holding a separate axe – so clever. The painting and texture on the tree, as well as in the poppy garden below, are beautifully executed. I love the layering of the different icing and cookie elements. It creates some really beautiful dimension. Nice use of light and shadow as well . . . I especially appreciated the theater frame composition, which enriches the whole scene.”

3-D Cookie/Beginner-Intermediate Winners

One bronze award was given in this category/classification.
(71%-80% of 90 total points)

Entry Name: Jukebox Musicals

Lisa Foss is a hobbyist cookie decorator. After careers in corporate communications and freelance writing, she turned her attention to the nonprofit sector. Lisa spent more than a decade at various soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and prison reentry programs throughout New York City. She and her husband now reside on Maryland’s eastern shore, where she has been able to focus more on cookie decorating in all of its forms. Though she enjoys making cookies for family and friends, Lisa’s main focus is creating cookies for charity. One of her favorite pastimes is identifying one or two organizations each month and surprising them with dozens of sweet treats, also known as “cookie bombs”.

Lisa on Theme Interpretation: “I decided to celebrate jukebox musicals. Jukebox musicals feature popular songs, with a story written to incorporate those specific songs, as opposed to original music created for the story. Popular examples include Jersey BoysMamma MiaElvisMoulin Rouge, and The Cher Show. The appeal of jukebox musicals is the comfort provided by familiar songs. The first musical to open after 9/11 was Mamma Mia. The easy music and very secondary plot did wonders to lift the spirits at a very difficult time. This musical genre – and all of its associated feels – is quite necessary in this shaky moment in history. It provides familiarity when the things around us do not.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “I appreciated the wide number of techniques used, especially the 3-D contoured cookies as they can be quite challenging to make. I also thought the theme interpretation was creative and right on point . . . It is a very smart design that allowed the entrant to showcase some nice construction skills. The piece fits together very well and views well from all sides; the use of embossed cookies where she did is clever. I also enjoyed the fact that you could look inside and see the records!”

3-D Cookie/Advanced-Master Winners

Two bronze and two silver awards were given in this category/classification.
(71%-80% of 90 total points)

Entry Name: Backstage at the Gershwin

Susie Jacobs is just starting to explore what she can do in the wonderful world of cookie decorating. She has always been a “maker,” dabbling in all kinds of arts and crafts from a young age. Ultimately, she landed on cake decorating, thanks to Food Network cake shows and her kids’ need for birthday cakes. What started as a hobby is now a home-based custom cake decorating business. Susie also enjoys traveling to cake shows for competitions and classes. She has always been fascinated and inspired by the creativity of cookiers, and she just had to join the fun. She loves learning techniques that can be used on both cakes and cookies, and is happily doing a little bit of everything in the sugar art world. Out of the kitchen, Susie enjoys raising butterflies and spending precious time with her husband and four kids.

Susie on Theme Interpretation: “Theater audiences usually only see the carefully rehearsed spectacle on stage. With this piece, I wanted to capture a peek of a tiny part of the world actors inhabit backstage. The dressing room is a place where the real world and the magic of the stage come together as the actor leaves herself behind and prepares to walk out from behind the curtains as a whole new character. I was inspired by a photo I saw in an article I read that took readers behind the scenes of a popular long-running musical that is currently housed at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City: Wicked. The dressing room of Glinda the Good Witch serves as the setting for this piece, filled with details that showcase what it takes to transform into a beloved stage character.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “I greatly appreciated the large array of techniques that were coherently and harmoniously used together to build an on-point interpretation of the theme (not an easy task!). I particularly liked the beautifully layered construction of the head and dress form using flower cookies, the well-executed isomalt mirrors backed with silver leaf, the creative solution used for the rug texture (cookie shavings), and the embossed carpet underneath.  Other noteworthy details include the stringwork garland, the piped royal icing details of the makeup set, and the contoured cookie chair!”

Entry Name: 3-D Broadway Musical Cookie

Neda Rahimi is 35 years old and lives in Iran. She studied midwifery and worked in a hospital for 11 years, and then studied medical engineering. But she felt she had to do something that would make her happier. After the birth of her daughter Negah, Neda started baking cookies at home. After completing advanced training courses in cookies, she began to participate in competitions. In 2022, she was a winner in a Spanish international competition and the “Country Star” of the Turkey competition. Neda loves painting and making 3-D cookies, and believes that a person should do something that calms her soul and brings enjoyment. In her entry, Neda explored the creative dimension of adding audio to cookies – expect more new and amazing ideas from her!

Neda on Theme Interpretation: “Now you are witnessing a special, exciting, and different cookie because it is an audio and musical cookie. Because the dear judges said that the cookie should be musical, I designed and implemented this idea [literally]. How to play music in a cookie? By scanning the QR code, which is made of wafer paper and embedded in parts of the cookie, [you will hear] the song related to that part of the cookie . . . For example, in the cookie section related to the Sama dance musical show in Konya (Turkey), the related song is played, and for the Chinese section, Chinese songs are played . . .”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “The skillful translation of 155 cookies into a relatively tall structure with no inedible supports – wow, that’s impressive! I also appreciated how the music and musicals of several counties were incorporated into one piece . . . I love the bridge between physical and digital here, and the idea that I can interact with the piece in a cool way [via the QR code and audio]. I also enjoyed how each level offered something different.”

(81%-90% of 90 total points)

Entry Name: Phantom of the Opera Jewelry Cookie Box

Anna Oliinyk has a Ph.D. in economics and was a wedding planner; no one would ever believe it if told she would become a cookie decorator. But Anna had always been drawn to creativity, and wanted to do something unique. Anna’s cookie journey started on Christmas Eve 2015 to amuse her toddlers, yet cookies became her life almost immediately. Anna’s skills improved day by day, and her clients grew exponentially. Within a year, Sunday Cookers became a family business with Anna’s husband baking and Anna decorating. Orders started to come from across the world; multiple requests were received for Anna’s signature gingerbread flowers; and, ultimately, Anna began to record classes in multiple languages. Sunday Cookers became one of the best baking businesses in Ukraine, but a single day divided Anna’s life into a “before” and an “after”. War . . . two kids, one dog, and two adults with four suitcases embarked on a new chapter of their lives. They landed in Texas where everything – the country, the people, and the culture – was new except for Anna’s endless love for her work. Now safely in the US, Anna continues to decorate cookies, searching for new horizons in this infinite field of creativity.

Anna on Theme Interpretation: “I saw the musical Phantom of the Opera only once. It was with my sister 14 years ago in London. At that time – full of light and bright for me – I saw only great voices, outstanding actors, and unforgettable performances . . . For me, now it is another life. Over the last six months, my life and the life of all of my beloved ones has wholly changed because of the war. I don’t know when I can see my sister again. My 3-D work shows that you can see something or someone in a magnificent view from the outside. But what is waiting for you inside? Black or white? Nobody knows. But the power of love can heal. So even if you see something terrible for the first view, don’t forget to check. Maybe it’s just a mask.”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “This piece is beautifully constructed with so many fine, intricate, well-executed details – the key being one of my favorites. The color and design of the box are quite stunning, and the box incorporates many different techniques quite successfully, for example, stenciling, dry brushing, weathering, and layered piping. I love that the mask fits in the box, allowing interaction with the piece . . . I really enjoyed the contrast between the elegant, refined box and the more stark, almost harsh-looking mask, especially as it underscores the meaning behind the entrant’s piece.”

Entry Name: Defying Gravity

Laura Olinde is the sugar artist behind Southern SweetArt by Laura O located in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, USA. Laura came to Mississippi to visit family and quarantine during the 2020 pandemic and loved it so much that she and her husband Darren decided to make it home. She has two children and is looking forward to her first grandbaby in December. Laura is a retired court reporter who started her journey as a sugar artist over 25 years ago as a hobby. Laura started making chocolate treats for various parties and events and then expanded into cookies in 2017. Laura loves thinking of new ways to make the lives of cookiers easier. She recently developed a brand-new, innovative technique called the Southern SweetArt Swipe & Trace that allows everyone from experienced cookiers to newcomers to transfer the perfect image onto their cookies without the need of expensive projectors.

Laura on Theme Interpretation: “This piece is my artistic salute to the Broadway musical Wicked . . . a show about two girls who were young witches, one (Glinda) viewed as good and one (Elphaba) viewed as bad – an unlikely pair. I tried to include representations of both witches in my piece. The piece as a whole defies gravity as does one of the most famous songs from the show, ‘Defying Gravity.’ The song ‘Popular’ is my personal favorite from the show from the scene where Glinda sings to Elphaba when she realizes they can be friends and says, “Pink goes good with green,” meaning the two of them, although different, go well together. The pink ruffled triangle symbolizes the pink dress that Glinda wore in this scene. The green ball represents Elphaba’s color and also draws from the set design from the Emerald City . . .”

What Judges Most Appreciated: “The fact that this piece stands in such a precarious position with the use of no non-cookie supports is truly impressive. What an interesting and well-crafted cookie creation that employs multiple, challenging construction techniques! . . . The implanted base for balancing the whole structure is quite an ingenious technique, and the cookie carving used to make the boots is noteworthy. I particularly appreciated the beautifully executed dipping of the sphere.”

Kerry Vincent Best in Show Award Winner

And, last but not least, the unveiling of the coveted Kerry Vincent Best in Show Award! This award is given each year to the one entry across all categories/classifications that most impressed (or resonated with) the judges due to its craftsmanship, innovation, theme interpretation, or some other reason. This year the award goes to (another drumroll, please) . . .

Congratulations, Anna! One of our judges summed up the judges’ collective decision perfectly: “Sophisticated. Refined. Detail-oriented. Smart. These adjectives are four things I think of when I think of Kerry. To me, the Phantom of the Opera piece embodies these characteristics. The piece has an elegant and smart design and a perfect color palette. It is well edited and executed beautifully, down to the small, intricate, handpiped details. The icing on the cake (or the cookie, in this case!) is the functionality of the box, which fits the mask inside, as well as the contrast between mask and box, which neatly ties back to the artist’s interpretation of the theme.”

Closing Remarks

Wow, didn’t these winners put on quite a show?! Congrats, everyone, on your impressive entries. Again, I will be distributing your digital prizes and cash over the next few days. Please be patient, as I have a large number of prizes to organize and distribute. And to all who entered, the judges and I can’t wait to see what you bring to the competition table next year! Remember, competing is primarily about learning and growth. If you didn’t place this year, don’t be discouraged. Capitalize on what you learned along the way and the judges’ feedback, and you’ll be a better cookie decorator for it. I promise!

While on the subject of feedback, a quick reminder: As soon as prizes have been distributed, I will begin processing the feedback requests received prior to November 30. Feedback will be processed in the order requests were received and may take up to two weeks to receive given the large volume of requests. Feedback is a vital part of the competition process, and I take the writing of it quite seriously, so, again, please bear with me as I take the necessary time to process it.

One last, very important reminder: This competition returns next year to an in-person format at That Takes the Cake Show in Round Rock, Texas (March 31 – April 2, 2023). The theme is “International Holidays”. Rules will be posted shortly after the New Year, though they will closely follow this year’s rules to allow you to start planning ahead. Please follow this blog and the That Takes the Cake Show site for further updates.

‘Til next year, happy cookie-ing, and have a wonderful holiday season! And thanks again to everyone – judges, sponsors, and entrants – for making our second virtual edition a resounding success!