Cake Competition Rules

Each year, the Chocolate Ball features a different theme and EPI invites local pastry chefs to participate  in the signature Cake Competition, creating culinary masterpieces that best represent that year’s theme.  Cakes are judged by a panel of culinary experts as well as attending guests, and then raffled off in a live auction at the end of the evening.  Read on for important competition details and/or download a PDF copy here.

New York State Department of Health Certified Kitchen

Per New York State law, food served to the general public must be prepared in a kitchen that has a valid Food Service Establishment permit from your individual county’s health department.  If you own your own space or have access to this type of space, then you are good to go.

For those bakers who do not have access to this type of space, we are pleased to partner with The Commissary, Rochester’s incubator kitchen at Sibley Square, to offer complimentary hours in their kitchen!

Available Dates and Hours For Commissary Use

  • Thursday, April 27 – evening
  • Friday, April 28 – afternoon and evening
  • Saturday, April 29 – morning

The Process

  1. Contact EPI and The Commissary by completing this form.
  2. Apply for a temporary health permit.
  3. Carry your own insurance.

Cake Gallery

Click here for a gallery of cakes from previous years.


Each participating chef will receive the following:

  • Two (2) complimentary, non-transferable tickets to the Chocolate Ball.
  • Option to purchase up to four (4) reduced-price tickets at $125 each (regular ticket price is $200).
  • $100 stipend.
  • Long-sleeve event T-shirt.

Cake Competition Registration

Ready to go? 

Ask An Expert

Questions? First year? Not sure what you’re getting into? Learn more about what to expect by contacting one of our veteran competitors.

Kelly Scott, Get Caked,
Michelle Hess, Oak Hill Country Club,

Please note that experts may offer insight from their own participation experiences but may not assist chefs in the creation of any competition cakes.  Additionally, chefs should not share details of their showpiece.

About the Competition

2023 Theme: La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita literally translates to “The Sweet Life.”  What could be sweeter than life in Italy and an inspiring theme for the 2023 Chocolate Ball.  Click here to read more and see examples of the theme.

Cake Name & Description

  • Competitors should provide a name and a description of their cake by April 7, 2023.
  • To avoid duplication, names/interpretations are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  • Please submit the name and description of your cake (how it represents the theme and the materials you used) to Jill Johnson at

Chef Categories

In 2023, we are featuring two different skill levels, beginner and advanced. Participants should enter the competition that best describes their skill level.  See below for a description of the awards.

EPI reserves the right to make adjustments if an applicant’s indicated skill level does not match their actual skill level.

Judging Panel

  • Thank you to our Cake Competition Judging Panel!
    • Michelle Hess, Oak Hill Country Club
    • Paul Guglielmo, Guglielmo’s Sauce
    • Dino Kay, Stephens Media Group
    • Kelly Scott, Get Caked!
  • See the “Awards” section for a breakdown of awards by category and overall.

People’s Choice

  • During the cocktail reception at the beginning of the evening, guests will sample each cake and vote for their favorite beginner cake and their favorite advanced cake.


  • Awards will be handed out during the dinner presentation.
  • Awards include:
    • Beginner Chef Awards: Two awards will be given in the Beginner Chef Category:
      • Judges’ Award: Best cake as determined by the judging panel.
      • People’s Choice Award: Most popular cake as determined by attending guests.
    • Advanced Chef Awards: Two awards will be given in the Advanced Chef Category
      • Judges’ Award: Best cake as determined by the judging panel.
      • People’s Choice Award: Most popular cake as determined by attending guests.
    • Overall Awards: All competition entries are eligible for the following awards as determined by the Judging Panel.
      • Rookie of the Year: A showpiece from any first-time participant, regardless of skill level, with the highest total score from the Expert Judging Panel.
      • Most Creative Interpretation of Theme: The showpiece with the highest total combined score from the “Creativity” and “Best Use of Theme” categories.
      • Grand Prize Winner: The showpiece receiving the highest total score.

Judging Criteria

The Judging panel will judge all showpieces on the following criteria:

  • Taste, Texture, Moisture, Complexity, Chocolate (use of), Neatness, Technique, Creativity, Use of Theme

Cake Composition & Criteria

Chefs generally spend a significant amount of time planning and creating their cakes.  Read on for culinary specifics.


  • Cakes must be aesthetically pleasing, eye-catching, elegantly displayed and present a natural, appetizing look. 

The Use of Chocolate

  • Chocolate, of any kind, color, or flavor, must be the principal medium used in the composition of the showpiece.
  • Chocolate must account for at least 80% of composition. 
  • The remaining 20% must be made up of edible materials.  Suggested mediums are any form of sugar work (poured, pulled, blown, etc.), croquant, marzipan, gum paste, pastillage, royal icing.
  • Different types of chocolate (milk, white, dark, colored, etc.) may be combined.
  • Chocolate may be used in various forms, such as tempered chocolate, modeling chocolate, piped chocolate, molded chocolate, etc.

Cake Components

  • With the exception of cake supports (see below), all components used for the make-up and decoration of the showpiece must be entirely edible.

Cake Supports

  • The use of inedible support material such as marble, Plexiglas, Corian, acrylic, etc., is allowed.
  • Aside from the horizontal base, all other support materials must be contained within the structure of the showpiece and not visible.

Edible Garnish

  • Any form of decorative artistic display made from legitimate food materials can be considered an edible cake garnish.

Inedible Components

  • Inedible props, such as flowers, etc. may be used to decorate the competitors table but must not come in direct contact with the showpiece.

Additional Competition Rules

Prepare At Least Two Versions of Your Cake

Competitors must submit their cake of choice in three formats.  The composition of the cake must be  proportionately the same in all three versions:

  • #1 Display Cake: One cake will be displayed throughout the event and will be auctioned during the live auction (advanced) or silent auction (beginners).  Overall dimensions should not exceed 30” x 30” x 30”, measured from the base that the showpiece is displayed on, up to its highest point.
  • #2 Samples for Guests: Chefs should prepare 250 – 300 samples of their cake.  We recommend plastic or paper souffle cups or another easy-to-pick-up display.  Samples may be prepared prior to arrival at the Hyatt and refrigeration will be available.
  • Samples for Judges: Chefs should prepare sampling sizes for four judges. You may prepare additional sample cups OR you may prepare a smaller version of your cake. Please reach out to Kelly Scott if you have questions,

Blind Judging

  • Competitors may not identify their table or display in any manner until all the judging has been completed. 
  • The organizers will alert the competitors when they can identify their table.

Live Cake Auction & Cake Pull

  • The judges will select 8-10 cakes to be auctioned off at the end of the evening during the Live Auction.
  • The remaining cakes will be added to a “cake pull” for which guests will have purchased a ticket prior to dinner.


The Chocolate Ball is a black tie optional event.  This generally means cocktail dresses or ball gowns for the women and a suit or tuxedo for the men.  In previous years, most chefs have dressed in formal attire, although a traditional chef’s uniform with a branded chef coat and pants is also acceptable.

Mandatory Transportation Packaging

This is a seemly inconsequential but very important part of participation.

There are two options for cakes leaving the Hyatt at the end of the evening and we ask that all participating chefs be prepared to accommodate either option.

  1. Guests Take Home
    Most guests who purchase all showpieces and expect to bring them home after the event.  Competitors must provide a suitable container, so that their showpieces can be properly packed and easily transported at the conclusion of the evening. We recommend contacting any restaurant supply store (Ex: Regional Distributors, Restaurant Depot, Buffalo Hotel Supply) to inquire about packaging options.

  2. Chef Takes Home & Arranges For Delivery
    In recent years, some guests have asked if the chef can take the cake home and make arrangements to deliver and reassemble the cake on the Sunday or Monday following the ball.  This is especially popular when the cakes are going to be displayed in offices/business settings.  If your buyer asks for this, please be prepared to accommodate.  Volunteers can be available at the end of the evening to assist with transport to your vehicle if you desire.

Competition Schedule at the Hyatt on April 29th

12:00 – 1:00 pmCompetitors deliver cakes and samples to the Ballroom area at the Hyatt Regency Rochester.
1:00 pmCompetitors must vacate the premises during judging
This is a good time to change into gala attire.
1:30 – 3:00 pmCulinary Expert Judging Panel
3:00 – 4:00 pmScoring
4:30 – 5:00 pmCompetitors may return to set up Display Cake and Samples
5:15 pmSamples set, table displays finalized, and competitors (and staff if desired) stationed by their table.
5:30 – 7:00 pmCompetitors (and staff if desired) stationed by their display table during the entire 90 minutes.  Interact with guests, answer questions, etc.
5:30 – 7:00 pmGuests arrive for cocktails, cake sampling, and silent auction
7:00 – 11:00 pmDinner, Program, Awards, Dancing, Silent Auction, Cake Auction, Check-Out

Cake Competition Registration

Ready to go?