This is not the sort of Shetland you see every day – as every single visible thing in this picture is edible.
“Ruby”, the result of months of work on the part of Debbie Lock, owner of Little Barn Cakes in Suffolk, won a bronze award at the prestigious Cake International in Birmingham last weekend.
Debbie told H&H the life-size category was a new addition to last year’s competition.
“Horses have always been my life,” she said. “I was a riding instructor but now it’s a hobby; it’s much nicer being inside baking than out in the freezing cold! But I’ve still got my mini Shetlands, a Fell pony and an Andalusian. So when I saw this category, I thought ‘What a good idea’.”
Debbie said she knew a life-size mini Shetland would be doable as “they fit in the back of my Discovery”, so last summer, she and her son went out to take every measurement possible from her real ponies.
Then followed the months of real work. Debbie explained that owing to the challenges of making enough cake for a life-size creation, the rules state that everything visible must be edible, but what is hidden need not be. So she used rods and wood to support expanding foam, which she then carved into shape. This foam was light enough so she could still lift the final creation despite the excess weight of the icing.
“Icing is ridiculously heavy; all those years lifting bales of hay came in handy!” she said, adding that she got through plenty of audio books as she carved and recarved the foam, and then perfected every inch of icing.
Debbie used fondant, textured into individual strands of hair and mane, and balls of it with edible glaze to make the eyes, as she worked on every detail down to the barefoot hoofprints in the edible mud on the base.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Debbie said. “The board it was on needed to be thicker; when I arrived in Birmingham, I had to get the first aid kit out as she was a bit lame but my husband’s a vet. Just as well really, we managed to fix her!”
Debbie came fourth in her class, and won a bronze award. She explained that there are gold, silver and bronze awards as well as merits, or nothing.
“I would have been happy with a merit on my first try so it was amazing to get a bronze,” she said. “In that class was last year’s best in show winner and three or four who had done life-size before so I felt a bit out of my depth, but was very pleased with the result.”
And with that experience under her belt, might Debbie tackle her Andalusian for next year’s competition?
“I don’t think so,” she said. “She definitely wouldn’t fit in my car!”
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Watch the video of four-year-old Rosamaria investigating the cakes on offer
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