Jessica Bess wins big in  regional cake competition
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March 8, 2024
Jessica Bess wins big in regional cake competition

by Christina Smith

St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) can brag of having one of the best cake makers and decorators in the region following Jessica Bess’ sweep of wins at the recently held Caribbean Baking Awards.

Bess walked away with three awards at the regional two-day competition which was held in Tortola, BVI last month. She emerged the winner of the Caribbean Island Celebration Cake Category; winner of the Sculpted Cake Category; and also won the Best Hand-painted Cake.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Bess said her wins were a culmination of years of hard work, self-teaching and perseverance after falling in love with cake decorating as a teenager.

“One day I went to Phillips Bakery to pay Ms Phillips for something and I saw her decorating a cake, and it just went from there. Every chance I got I went back there just to look at her work.

“I never went to a cake making class. I did go to a decorating class. Everything that I would have learned was trial and error, watching videos on YouTube and also trying out things for myself.”

Bess is a local champion in the cake arena as well after securing her first national win in the ECGC Baking Competition in 2014 with Breadfruit and Salt-fish Bread and Tamarind Coconut Basket Cake.

She said her strength in the kitchen comes from using and pairing ingredients many would not think to use.

“The stuff that you wouldn’t think to make a cake with is what I use.”

Her submissions for the regional bake off were a La Soufriere shaped cake made of breadfruit flour and infused with breadfruit sauce; a turmeric and ginger cake; and a tamarind cake.

The turmeric and ginger submission was originally supposed to be made with beets, however she suffered a serious setback when her ingredients were damaged in transport.

Another setback occurred when Bess had planned to work as a team alongside another Vincentian competitor. However the judges’ instructions forced each cake maker to work alone.

“We had to decorate, present, do everything in just two hours. For the Island Celebration Cake I chose to do Nine Mornings, but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I was the only one who entered into more than one category so I ended up, in two hours, having to decorate three cakes.”

Despite the hiccups, when the flour settled, Bess received stellar reviews from the judges, including from the award-winning YouTube sensation of ‘How to Cake It’, Yolando Gampp.

“She is everything concerning cake. For me to go out there from a little place like Vincy and impress her that much, it speaks for itself. When they [judges] gave the reviews on the cakes, they all had something to say on how they enjoyed it.”

Even though the recent victory has been a big deal in Bess’ books, she believes that there are many Vincentians who are making their mark in the local baking arena.

“I consider myself unique.”

Michelle Barbour, also of SVG, was the winner of the Best Novelty Cake Category as well as Best Cookie Art.

The Baker of the Year went to Davio Henry of Jamaica, and Cake Artiste of the Year was awarded to Raul Wickham of Grenada.