Determined to Deliver: Drew Padalecki's OSSAS Cake
Young, rising cake star Drew Padalecki encountered more obstacles than should be humanly possible along his journey to deliver a cake to the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show. If I were him, the cake probably would have ended up in the middle of the street. His is a story of determination despite the unnatural odds that would discourage most, and a lesson to us all about not letting anything stop us from reaching our goals.
Drew recently graduated from the University of Texas in Dallas with a 4.0 GPA in finance and business administration. He has interned for a high end wedding planning organization and currently works for a finance firm executing corporate financial statements. For the past four years, Drew has been making cakes and competing for the past two. He has won multiple awards: Best of Division three times, Best of Show once and has been featured three times in Cake Central Magazine. His OSSAS cake in 2013 was featured in a limited edition book.
Drew resides in his parents’ home in San Antonio, Texas. One week prior to the OSSAS show, his parents’ kitchen was under renovation. At the time, his completed OSSAS cake was situated in the adjacent dining room. He had warned the workers not to touch any of his cake stuff and specifically requested that if they needed to move something that they call him or his parents. They didn’t listen.
Drew left for work and when he returned, all of the workers’ equipment was in the dining room. His cake was not. Quite upset, Drew asked the workers why they moved his cake and they replied that they didn’t want to bother him. He proceeded to the back patio area where they had placed his cake on that sultry, 100 degree day and found his four-tiered cake bubbled and melted with its royal icing sugar pieces shattered on the ground.
“After I got past my rant, I decided to start over. I did the same cake all over again. I was so determined to get that cake there because it was something very different, modern and something people hadn’t seen before. I worked on it until 4am. I would go to bed for three hours and then go back to work. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer because I wanted to showcase what I can do,” Drew explains.
And so he set out to completely remake his cake. The Thursday prior to the show, he had completed three tiers, all the royal icing cushions, and flowers. It only needed to be painted. He had decided to transport the flowers separately. The decorations for the base tier were plaques with hand painted monogram letters which needed to dry overnight and so they weren’t on the cake.
Drew planned to leave at 5 am to begin the eight to nine hour drive to Tulsa in order to leave enough time for set up when he got there. His parents asked him to stick around later to let the workers in the house. As the hours ticked on by, Drew became more stressed because he wasn’t only delivering his own cake; he was responsible for the delivery of James McLean’s cake.
Everything was packed except for the plaques which were drying on formers in the kitchen. Finally, at 10:30am, the workers showed up. While returning from a trip to the car to pack, he heard the sound of a cookie sheet dropping to the floor and sugar shattering. When he came back into the kitchen, he looked down at the floor and there were all his plaques on the floor in smithereens.
By this time, it was 11:30am and he had no time to remake them. He made a decision to eliminate the bottom tier because he couldn’t redo the plaques. He knew even if he was going to have a cake on table at Tulsa, he wouldn’t have the time to redo them.
By eliminating the bottom tier, he now needed a smaller cake board. It was originally a 20” round so he had to quickly cover a 12” cake board and finish it with ribbon. By noon, Drew finally headed out on the road. He felt he still had a piece that represented what he wanted to showcase.
After four hours on the road, he encountered construction on Route I35. The road was reduced from three lanes to two. A vehicle next to him signaled that he wanted to move over in front of Drew. Drew wasn’t about to speed up with the cakes in the back of the car, so he slowed down to let the other car in. When the other car moved over, he accelerated too much and hit the car in front of Drew at a 45 degree angle and then hit the guard rail. The vehicle in front of Drew started spinning towards him. Drew made a split second decision to swerve into a ditch on his left while slamming on the brakes.
“There was a moment of silence and then the sound of shattered sugar. At that point I was stunned and turned to see the three tiered cake on its side,” Drew says. His cake was on a piece of foam to protect it from vibration. He had never experienced breakage before. The cake had rammed into the extra flowers he brought. The edge of the box had cut a gigantic slash into two of the tiers. He couldn’t even think at that moment because he had just witnessed a major accident. He decided not to even look at the cake because he didn’t want strangers to see a cake person having a cake breakdown.
After getting done with the police and accident report, Drew drove to the outlets in Hillsboro to assess the damage. Half the flower ball was destroyed. The fondant was torn through. The board was damaged. Surprisingly, what had remained in tact were the royal icing cushions.
“I had to take a moment to collect myself. It was very discouraging. I had to decide whether I wasn’t doing it and giving up and just going to the show to have fun or trying to salvage what I had to try to get something on the table. I knew if I didn’t have something on the table I would be disappointed - I wanted something there that could showcase what I could do. I knew I had a sleepless night ahead of me. I just wanted to get to Tulsa to get to the hotel and start repairing what I could repair,” Drew explains.
Drew took an unconventional path to getting started; he piped royal icing off pieces on his car console while sitting in Dallas traffic. At one point, the traffic didn’t move for 15 minutes. Because he didn’t have water to eliminate the points in his royal icing piping, he used the sweet tea he had on hand.
Finally, at midnight, Drew arrived in Tulsa. “At that point my adrenaline just kicked in. I was determined and focused. I didn’t want to talk to anyone - I wanted to get it done," he explains. He had to get it all set up by 8am, so he started working right away. He had to deconstruct the flower ball, unwire all the flowers and salvage the ones that weren’t damaged. He was making royal icing, painting things gold and even had to run to Walmart at 3 am to buy a rolling pin and fondant smoother. By 7:30 in the morning, he had only been able to cover two of the three tiers. At that point, he decided he couldn’t do the three tiers and had to head out to the fair grounds. He put all his focus into the two tier cake. By 8:30am, he still had a naked border on the bottom tier. “I pulled things out of thin air to cover damage that was caused. I didn’t even finish the cake I wanted to make. I never made leaves for the royal icing flowers. On my way there, I was coloring icing green. I decided I was going to get this done no matter what it takes,” said Drew. He was running back and forth getting everything set up. At 9:59am, he was still trying to finish the cake. The only thing he had time to do was paint the piping gold and pipe a few leaves. By then, there was nothing more he could do.
Exhausted, he returned to his hotel room, but he couldn’t sleep. He showered and looked around at the hot mess strewn across the room. Royal icing and fondant pieces were everywhere. He had rolled out fondant on the bathroom counter.
When Drew returned to the show, he looked at his cake once again and felt proud he had something there that had some of the characteristics of what he wanted to showcase. He didn’t care about what he had gone through to achieve it.
I think we should expect to see a spectacular cake at OSSAS from Drew next year. Despite the numerous obstacles he faced, he did learn a few painful lessons about planning and traveling with delicate sugar pieces. Creating a beautiful cake and delivering it in tact is never luck; it’s careful planning. You can’t help but admire Drew’s fortitude to fight through it all and still present a beautiful cake depicting his unique cake decorating style.
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