More than 100 pastry chefs will battle it out in a South Beach-themed cake competition Friday through Sunday at the Third Annual SoFlo Cake & Candy Expo at the Miami Airport Convention Center.
The cake batter will splatter in three categories with the following themes: Art Deco, Mermaid Lagoon and the Flora and Fauna of Florida. It will be like a Miami-style version of “Cupcake Wars,” “The Ultimate Cake Off” or “Last Cake Standing” — television shows that have thrived off viewers’ appetites for watching the creation of novelty cakes.
SoFlo Cake & Candy Expo co-founder Natasha O’Connor, 34, said the competition incorporates bakers of all ages and levels and places their best work on display.
“You just see all the creativity. You walk up to the cake and you’re like is that really cake? Is that really sugar? You’re floored by how beautiful the cakes are,” O’Conner said.
The SoFlo Cake & Candy Expo, as its name suggests, isn’t all about cakes though. More than 80 material-inclusive classes in topics that include icing techniques, chocolate truffles and sugar flowers will be taught by international instructors. A “Shop & Sip” Friday offers specialty cocktails and a trade show component attracts cooks from South America and the Caribbean.
A graduate of Sunset Senior High School, O’Conner first opened a baking supply store, Sweet Life Cake and Candy Supply, with former classmate Melanie Richard. The pair named their Kendall shop the Sweet Life Cake and Candy Supply after a Disney show that was popular in the mid-2000s.
“Our kids used to watch ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ and that’s where Sweet Life came from,” O’Conner said.
The store, with its pink and blue-painted interior, attracted people from all walks of life, O’Conner said.
“I definitely think there’s an appetite for the actual baking supplies and tools, especially with stay-at-home moms and career-based individuals, as well — the firefighters, the teachers, accountants, as well as the pastry chefs and home bakers,” she said.
And Sweet Life Cake and Candy Supply took O’Conner and Richards places, too, first from stay-at-home mothers to successful business owners, then all over the country for industry trade shows.
That’s when the pair got to thinking “Why don’t we make our own baking convention?”
“I just thought that Miami needed a show like that. Even though we had the cake supply store, we still thought that we needed something bigger,” O’Conner said.
O’Conner and Richards hosted their first SoFlo Cake & Candy Expo in 2015. About 2,000 people showed up. Now a $400,000 show, the SoFlo Cake & Candy is expected to draw crowds of 4,500 people and businesses. Guests might recognize a few of their favorite local shops, including Vicky Bakery, Pinecrest Bakery and Sweet Melody Ice Cream, also Sweet Life clients, at the expo.
“Did we think that the SoFlo Cake & Candy Expo would emerge into such a large show in three years? No,” O’Conner said. “We thought it would take longer.”
Baking enthusiasts should keep the convention on their radars. O’Conner said the next step for the SoFlo Cake & Candy Expo is even greater expansion.
“Our goal is to make it the number one cake and candy expo in the United States and I think we’re on the right track,” she said. “I think we’re getting there.”
If you go
When: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 28; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 29 and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 30
Where: Miami Airport Convention Center 711 NW 72nd Ave, Miami, FL 33126
Tickets: General admission tickets start at $23.49 here.