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'Great Blanton Bake-Off' contestants make art that looks good enough to eat

The Great Blanton Bake-Off is back, and you have 24 hours to vote for your favorite!

AUSTIN, Texas — Although baking and decorating are arts themselves, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas is upping the game. 

The museum's annual "Great Blanton Bake-off" is back, and it's fast becoming a local tradition. On Wednesday, May 17, you can be a part of the fun!

For Alex Abbott, creativity comes easily. She's an artist and finds painting therapeutic.

"It really is relaxing, but I'd never tried to paint with chocolate. It's quite a bit different than acrylic, and it was a challenge," Abbott said.

She is referring to her edible work of art – which just so happens to be her take on a Greek plate dating back more than 2,000 years.

Abbott submitted it last year for the Great Blanton Bake-Off.

"[The contest] started in 2020 during the pandemic, when the museum was temporarily closed and I was looking at ways to connect, engage with our audience on social media," said Lizabel Stella, social media and digital content manager for the Blanton Museum.

"And so, during the quarantine, like most people, I was watching a lot of Netflix and 'The [Great] British Bake Off' was kind of my thing. So when I heard about the Blanton Bake-Off, it was like, the perfect excuse to do something over the top," Abbott said.

Over the top is right. Past contest entries include burnt toast mimicking monochromatic art panels, a gluten-free geometric tapestry and a "Madonna and child" silhouette in cookie form.

"I mean, baking is an art form in its own right and I see baking as another way to start appreciating art," Stella said. 

In this case, the art the pieces are inspired by must be from the museum's collection, online or in person. There are more than 21,000 pieces to choose from.

The bake-off is a digital contest, and there is only one criteria for entries: make sure it looks good.

"Nothing was relying on taste. Everything is visual," Stella said. "People can share different angles of a cake. They can cut it in and slice it through. We've had layered cakes that just keep recreating the artwork. It is an enjoyable way to look at art that doesn't need to be a professional artist."

We've already gotten a sneak peak at this year's batch of Picassos, whose entries will be divided into three categories: "Under 18," "Adult Amateur" and "Adult Professionals." Both amateur and professional bakers are welcome to submit.

Abbott's entry this year is inspired by the work of a Houston artist who lives in Austin.

"She might think I've slandered the work. Like, 'Please don't put my name on it," Abbott joked. "But hopefully not. Hopefully, it's well received."

Follow the Blanton Museum on Instagram or search for #BlantonBakeOff to find your favorites. You have 24 hours to vote once the contest kicks off. 

Contest winners in each category get a family membership to the Blanton Museum for a year and will also receive gift cards from contest sponsor, Quacks Bakery.

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