Reading is frosting on the cake at Gail Borden Library
By Janelle Walker for The Courier-News August 11, 2012 9:08PM
Velma Sept judges one of the 17-and-older cakes created for the first-ever cake decorating contest at the Gail Borden Public Library. The cake was based on the book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."
Updated: September 13, 2012 6:20AM
ELGIN — Adults are told that it is impossible to have your cake and eat it, too. However, it does appear you can have your cake and read it.
On Friday, 29 area residents interpreted their favorite books as a cake, as part of the library’s first-ever cake decorating contest. Called an “Edible Book Festival” the theme of the event was “Have Your Cake and Read It Too,” explained Miriam Lytle, director of community services.
The winners will be announced at 3 p.m today at a cake reception. Each baker will also receive a chef’s hat, donated by the Grand Victoria Casino.
The cake event is part of the library’s summer children’s reading program. This year, the reading program’s theme was “Reading is So Delicious,” and focused on the many books with food themes that are available for young readers.
For this contest, bakers were invited to create cakes in categories of classic books, children or teen titles, or in funny or humorous works. Those categories were further broken down by 16 and under and 17 and older age groups.
Library staff also created their own cakes — although not a part of the contest for judging.
What residents came up with and the talent displayed by those home bakers was impressive, said the celebrity judges.
Those judges, clipboards in hand, viewed the cakes on Friday. On Saturday, the public was invited to vote for their favorite cakes, too.
There was some remarkable talent shown in the cakes, judges said.
“I know how hard it is,” to bake the cake, then use icing or fondant to create a specific look — let alone come up with the book and a creative way to interpret it, said Ann Leider. She is a culinary arts instructor at Elgin High School and has her classes do similar projects every year.
“These show incredible skill with what they are doing,” Leider said.
She gave higher points to cakes that were decorated with all-edible components, she said, but noted that even those that were not entirely edible showed real creativity.
Glenn Keenan, executive chef at the Grand Victoria Casino, said that he isn’t really a pastry chef, but did appreciate how much work and creativity went into the cakes.
“At all levels, some of these are just fantastic,” Keenan said. “They did a really good job.”
As a professional chef, he saw potential talent in several of the cakes. “My advice is to keep trying and keep practicing. You get better as you go, but you have to have patience. It can be mastered,” Keenan said.
The judges were a little disappointed that they were not going to be sampling any of the cakes, however. Velma Sept, a volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin, got the judging gig because she often helps a friend by sampling her cheesecake creations.
“I am not a decorator, but I am her taste-tester,” Sept laughed.
This and other programs at the library have made the summer reading program successful this year, library staff noted. Over 8,500 young people registered for the summer reading program — a 43 percent increase over 2011. So far, 3,233 of those have finished the program by reading all of their books. Students have until Aug. 23 to finish the program.