The ICE Alum Winning Cake Competitions Around America
Yi Han has decorated five first-place cakes in 10 months since completing The Art of Cake Decorating.
In 2016, Yi Han and her family became vegetarians, and she enrolled in the Chef’s Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI). Yi flew from China to New York two days after being accepted last minute for the last spot in a class, with the intention of opening a vegan buffet restaurant after graduating. When Chef Instructor Richard LaMarita hosted a class pie competition, Yi’s artistic talent was exposed.
Though she’d never made a pie or cake, Yi applied an ancient Chinese wedding pattern that symbolizes good luck to her cranberry pie’s crust and blew the school’s faculty and students away with the presentation and taste. Chef Richard recommended Chef Toba Garrett’s professional development course at ICE, The Art of Cake Decorating, and Yi began the program immediately after graduating from NGI.
“Chef Toba is a legend of the cake world, and I became like a sponge to learn from her,” Yi says. “Every day, I couldn’t wait for class to start. It was a fantastic experience!”
In the 10 months since she graduated from ICE, Yi has competed in nine competitions, winning first place five times, including a best of show, plus a grand prize spectacular.
“For my grand prize Cinderella cake, I used almost all skills I learned from ICE: piping, royal icing, string work, flowers, fondant, gumpaste and pastillage,” she says. “That’s why I won. In competition, the more skills you show on one cake, the more chance you have to win.”
In California, Yi achieved first place at the Contra Costa Cake and Sugar Art Society Cake Show & Competition, LA’s The Sweets Show and The Cake Bar Cake Show in 2018. She placed second in the non-tiered professional level at the 2019 San Diego Cake Show, second at Austin, Texas’ That Takes the Cake Show in 2018, and third at The Ultimate Sugar Show in Atlanta in 2018.
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Yi remembers Chef Toba’s instruction when reviewing the judges’ notes, including advice that the cake base and covering are as important as the character sculptures. Through her own experience, she’s learned the importance of each artist’s attitude, especially with the challenges of transportation and sleep for long-distance competitions.
Today, Yi combines her ICE education with her prior professional experiences making dolls, arranging flowers, painting, cooking, and even working in TV advertising and graphic design, to run Yi Cakes Studio in Los Angeles, where she teaches decoration with a focus on figure modeling for all ages and levels.
“My previous high-pressure jobs entangled me with anxiety for many years, but when I make cakes, I feel peaceful,” she says. “It's a joyful meditation experience, and sometimes I can feel like nothing in the world exists but cake and me.”
Yi also sells cake supplies online and spends 10 hours a day working with her hands to master cake design, saying she wants to make more exquisite cake pieces for personal achievement.
“If you want to enter this cake decorating world, you have to know everything," she says. "The ICE program teaches all the fundamental knowledge and basic skills, but it’s impossible to become a master when you graduate — it is just a beginning."
Begin with technique guided by Chef Toba's expertise in The Art of Cake Decorating.