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SUMMER / FALL 2019      © 2019 812 Magazine

Sugar rush


The sugar artists of Southern Indiana were brought together by their love of all things sweet.


It's one thing to eat the icing on a cake, but making that icing look and taste good is something else. "It's an artistic thing to do," says Karen Karr, president of The Sugar Artists of Southern Indiana. "It's a long and complicated process that usually takes up to two days." For Karr and other group members, decorating cakes is something they do simply for the joy of it.

Karr taught a class on decorating cakes at a party supplies store in Corydon in 2009. "I had a group of students who didn't want to stop," she says. "So I said, 'Let's form a club.'"

All 14 members live within an hour of Corydon. Some decorate cakes as a hobby for their friends and families, while others sell them. The group holds an annual cake show in March that is open to anyone and has varying categories for contestants, including one for children. Professional judges determine the winners and distribute prizes, but the public gets to vote on a people's-choice cake.

Karr and founding member Cindy Phelps shared some of their pro secrets--and recipes--with 812.

Tips from Karr:

When a recipe has measurements such as 2-3 Tbsp., always start with the lowest number, then add more as needed.

Don't give up--it takes practice, just like learning how to play the piano.

Craziest cake decorated: A groom's cake that looked like spaghetti and meatballs.

Favorite part of being a member: You always learn something new. There's always something you don't know that you can learn from one of the members.

Tips from Phelps:

Don't get frustrated because you can't ice a cake the first time you try.

Craziest cake decorated: A cake that looked like a toilet for her son-in-law's 40th birthday.

Favorite part of being a member: Being able to do something to bring out someone's smile. Cake always makes someone smile.

Decorator Buttercream Icing

1 cup solid white vegetable shortening

1 tsp. clear vanilla flavoring

7-8 tsp. water

2 cups pure cane confectioner's sugar

1 Tbsp. meringue powder

A pinch of salt

Cream together the shortening, flavoring and water. Add the dry ingredients and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended. Continue mixing at the same speed for another 2-3 minutes, or until a slightly fluffy (and easier to spread).

Royal Icing

3 Tbsp. meringue powder

2 cups pure cane confectioner's sugar

5-6 Tbsp. of water at room temperature

Stir together the meringue powder and sugar. Add water and mix for 7-10 minutes at medium speed until sheen is gone. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth--this icing dries very quickly. Recommended for advanced use to decorators only.