The icing on the cake
Food writer Holly Ebel says Bryant Meyer takes the cake — and hopes to win an upcoming competition — when it comes to cake decorating.
A piping bag of butter cream with a set of specially shaped tips can turn the blank canvas of a cake into a work of art.
If you've ever uttered some Oooo's and Ahhh's at the sight of some cupcakes or a cake transformed from a mere sweet into a feast for the eyes, you're not alone.
And there's a good chance if you've shopped at the West Circle Hy-Vee, you've enjoyed the culinary art created by Bryant Meyer, pastry chef and decorator. Meyer is well-known for his talents and, in fact, is about to leave for a four-day annual conference of the IDDBA — that's the International Dairy, Deli, Bakery Association — in Anaheim, California, June 4-5. There he has been chosen as one of four participants in a two-day "Caked" competition.
Nominated by his fellow Hy-Vee pastry chefs, Meyer says it's an honor to represent the work done at the his store's bakery.
I recently spent some time with Meyer to find out how he has become recognized as one of the top pastry chefs and what he will be doing in this prestigious competition.
"To start," he said, referring to the competition, "we will be given a mystery basket with various products which have to be used. I have no idea what they will be. Then I will have 4-1/2 hours to decorate a four-tier cake using whatever is in that basket."
The second day Meyer will have 3-1/2 hours to decorate three cakes. What makes this assignment unique is that the cake decorations will be based on children's drawings from a nearby children's hospital.
How will he prepare for those two days?
"For one thing I will probably make some sketches, but there really isn't much else I can do," Meyer says. "I love challenges and those two days will definitely be that. I'm excited about it."
When did this culinary journey start for him?
"Very early. I've always loved being in the kitchen, even as a young boy," he says. "My grandmother was an excellent cook and baker, and she was a big influence. Later, I became really excited about pastry and enrolled in the 15-month pastry program at Le Cordon Bleu. That fueled my passion, and I have loved it ever since. "
His association with Hy-Vee began at the Hy-Vee Barlow store where it didn't take long for his skills to be recognized.
"The company overall has been so supportive of me and the other pastry chefs," Meyer says. "They have offered classes and training opportunities including one workshop with Colette Peters, considered one of the 10 top cake designers in the nation."
Hy-Vee has also held decorating competitions among the 100 decorators.
Meyer loves to get creative, even artistic, with frosting, whether it's a sheet cake or a multi-tiered wedding cake. As our visit concluded, I watched him decorate a sheet cake. I could see what a master he is even with such a simple cake. He moved quickly and surely, first cutting little bits off to make sure it was even all around, then gently frosting the tops and sides.
In the process he created little touches appropriate for Mother's Day including making frosting roses by twirling the frosting tube around a stick.
He usually uses buttercream frosting but especially likes working with fondant and sugar. He also showed photos of a cake in the shape of a watermelon boat filled with fruit. You would never have guessed it wasn't a real watermelon. The fruit on the other hand was real. I can't even imagine his wedding cake creations.
So does he have any cake decorating tips for us? "Just do what you want to do — experiment and have fun."
I'll be sure to let you know how his competition comes out.
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org .