By Judy Reed
Heather Benson, of Cedar Springs, gets to have her cake and eat it, too. For the third year in a row, the 1996 Cedar Springs graduate has taken one of the top three spots in Meijer’s third annual cake decorating challenge. And for the second year in a row, she’s taken first place, which means she will get to attend the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association conference next summer as a guest of Meijer, and possibly compete, if she is selected by the IDDBA.
“My goal is to be one of the top three in the nation,” said Benson.
Benson hasn’t always been a cake decorator. She became interested in the art about 10 years ago while working as a baker in a Grand Rapids bakery. “I just watched what they did and practiced at home,” she said.
She began working for Meijer in Rockford about nine years ago, where she has been perfecting her skills. Three years ago, the company had their first competition. The company has 6 regions, and decorators from each region submit three cakes—one open class, one seasonal, and one cupcake cake. Judges rate technical skills, composition, artistic creativity, attention to details and more. One decorator from each region is selected to compete at the corporate offices. Benson has made it to the finals each year.
Benson has also attended the IDDBA conference the last two years. She was excited to be there because one of her favorite TV bakers was there. “When I attended two years ago, that’s where I met Buddy from Cake Boss the first time,” she said. “I almost had a heart attack. He chose me from the audience to volunteer on stage to compete in a speed-decorating contest. I was so excited I was shaking,” she said with a laugh.
So how did the competition turn out? “He won,” she said. She met him again last year, but did not volunteer that time.
If she hasn’t already, Benson will soon be moving to the Knapp Street Meijer Bakery. “I will get to come up with my own designs,” she said.
Benson won’t know until February whether she gets to compete at the IDDBA. “Meijer is working with me on my portfolio,” she explained.
Benson, and her husband, Tom, live here in Cedar Springs, and have been married for 15 years. They got married on Red Flannel Day, 1998. They have two sons, Sean and Seth.