A baker from Pingtung won first prize for his Three Kingdoms period-themed cake in the professional division of the San Diego Cake Show, which was held on Sunday and Monday last week.
Jhai Yu-fan (翟宇凡) is a second-year student at the Department of Hotel and Restaurant Management at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology.
He wanted to bring an East Asian element to international cakemaking, which inspired him to use Lu Bu (呂布), a general who lived during the Three Kingdoms period in China, riding into battle for the design of his award-winning cake, Jhai said.
Photo courtesy of Jhai Yu-fan
When searching for ideas for his cake design, images of Lu Bu, who was unmatched by any adversary on the battlefield, inspired him to be equally “unmatched by any adversary” in his craft, he said.
Transporting his cake to the US for the competition meant he had to match its measurements to airline regulations, Jhai said, adding that he disassembled the cake in Taiwan before packing it, and reassembled it upon arrival in the US.
In the process of designing the cake he fretted over its features to make it as vivid and life-like as possible, Jhai said.
Photo courtesy of Jhai Yu-fan
“I went through more than 20 designs of Lu Bu’s face alone,” he said, adding that creating the general’s armor and crown also took a great deal of time.
His schedule during the six months he worked on the cake involved taking a bus from Pingtung to a training center in Taipei each Thursday and returning to Pingtung every Sunday, Jhai said.
He worked from early morning until late in the evening, and several times had to scrap his work altogether and restart because he was displeased with the result, he said.
“It was tough, but worth it,” he said, adding that he never imagined that he would be a professional baker by the age of 22 and would win an international contest for his work.
Jhai said he rebelled against his single mother during his junior-high school years, when he hated studying and would spend all of his time playing video games.
Later, while studying at National Hualien Commercial High School, Chai missed so many of his classes that he was forced to transfer to Ku Pao Home Economics and Commercial High School.
He is especially thankful for the encouragement he received from the director of Ku Pao’s culinary arts program, Chiang Yu-chun (江裕春), who fueled his passion for fondants, Jhai said.
Li Mu-syuan (李沐璇) and Mick Sung (宋應欣), Jhai’s instructors at Miss 32 Fondant Cake Studio, also won first place in the amateur showpiece division of the adult competition, and first place in the master showpiece division of the adult competition, respectively, at the event hosted by the San Diego Cake Club.
Jhai said he is now concentrating on perfecting his skills working with fondant.
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