Steampunk’s never looked so scrumptious

West Bloomfield resident wins grand prize in cake competition

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 23, 2014

 Nisha Fernando stands with her grand prize-winning cake at the 2014 Michigan Sugar Art Showcase.

Nisha Fernando stands with her grand prize-winning cake at the 2014 Michigan Sugar Art Showcase.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Over 14 years of baking experience paid off for Nisha Fernando when her topsy-turvy, three-tiered cake took the grand prize and Steampunk Award at the 2014 Michigan Sugar Art Showcase, which was held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Detroit April 5-6. 

“It’s unbelievable. Right now, when I think about it, I feel like I’ve been dreaming,” said Fernando, a 14-year West Bloomfield resident and the owner of Sweet Delights Cakery.

The Michigan Sugar Art Showcase is an international competition sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the International Cake Exploration Society, or ICES, and is held biannually. The 2014 showcase was the organization’s fourth competition.

The showcase is divided into two portions: divisional, where competitors bring an entry of their choosing that is judged based on skill level, and theme. This year’s chosen theme was “The Magnificent Steampunk Sugar Art Exposition.”

Steampunk is known as a science fiction subculture set during the “Age of Steam,” or the Victorian era. Cakes entered into the themed portion of the showcase were required to be inspired by the Steampunk genre and had to be the equivalent of at least a three-tiered cake. The cakes were reviewed by judges and were awarded points for overall artistic expression, neatness, technical skill, relevance to Steampunk, creativity, attention to detail, use of color, degree of difficulty, originality and judge’s discretion.

“When I chose the theme, I was looking for something that was fun, something that was nonwedding, something that had a lot of possibilities,” said Gary Silverthorn, director of the Sugar Arts Showcase. “There’s so many different things for Steampunk — not just corsets and top hats. It’s a wide-open field.”

The showcase differs from a live contest shown on television in that the work is completed at home, Silverthorn said.

“Some people work on it for days, some for months,” Silverthorn said. “There’s a lot of work, expense and time that goes into it to make these competition pieces.”

While most entrants use foam cakes, anything visible must be edible, and Fernando used a combination of modeling chocolate, fondant, gum paste and edible paper for the outside portion of her cake.

An octopus holds up Fernando’s tiers, which contain a period traveling case, a corset, a top hat and The Magnificent Airship, which sits on top. She also designed her cake with smoke pouring off the top of the airship and lights underneath the traveling case.

“The judges were asking me questions — How did you do this? How did you do that? I felt so honored, coming from them,” Fernando said.

Fernando, whose specialty is wedding and 3-D cakes, performed an Internet search two weeks prior to the contest for competitions in Michigan and began researching Steampunk. Sacrificing sleep, she completed her cake in time for the showcase.

“When we went to the competition, we didn’t have any sleep whatsoever. When they said that I won, everything went away. It’s a lot of hard work, but it was worth it at the end,” Fernando said.

With 28 competitors, Silverthorn said, the judges had a difficult time selecting the winners, but Fernando’s piece was visually appealing and a crowd-pleaser.

The members of the Detroit-area Steampunk community were invited to the showcase April 6, and the members awarded their own prize for the best depiction of Steampunk, which Fernando also won.

In addition to owning the licensed home-based bakery Sweetest Delight Cakery, Fernando teaches baking and 3-D cake classes in Birmingham for kids, adult beginners and advanced decorators. For more information about Sweet Delight Cakery and Nisha Fernando’s classes, visit