Two years of night classes - the type that are about to lose their government funding - have helped a young Upper Hutt woman win a category in the annual regional cake decorating competition in Lower Hutt.
Anna Schouten won the Araedon Trophy for best novelty cake against very experienced cake decorators.
Past winners of the trophy include top cake decorators Pauline Nunns, well-known for her Mona Lisa iced cake, and Doreen Dolman and Joy Tedder.
Miss Schouten's cake ''Apple house with berry people'' was shaped like an apple, with a banana skin roof and fruit fairies - all made from icing and edible.
The cake took many evenings and weekends over a month to make.
She also entered a three-tier wedding cake which earned her a silver medal certificate of merit.
The cake featured handmade icing flowers and brush embroidery flowers piped onto the middle cake.
Miss Schouten and her mum Jan owned the Gold Room until earlier this year. It was where Anna, 24, started icing cakes for clients. She found herself wanting to learn the finer points of the craft, including the intricate art of making icing flowers.
So for the past two years, she has taken night classes at Heretaunga College with tutor Marion Saunders, a past president of the Upper Hutt Sugarcraft Guild which Miss Schouten also belongs to.
She started out in the beginners classes and has graduated to the advanced level. The youngest in her classes, she says the demise of night classes may see people trying to teach themselves what is a ''hands-on'' subject from books.
Without the classes, Miss Scouten says she would have had to take a Wel Tec patisserie course to learn about cake decorating.
Jan Schouten now manages the cafeteria at Upper Hutt College.
Her daughter has joined the Fig Tree Cafe although plans are for her to continue cake decorating in her own time.
Other Upper Hutt winners in the competition were:
* Leonie Pearson, Upper Hutt Guild member and Heretaunga night school student, first prize for a hairpiece in the bling section.
* Dawnette Bosson, Upper Hutt Guild president, second prize in the miniature cake section.
* Fiona Hume, second prize in the novelty cake section.
* Michelle Nisbitt, second prize for a wedding cake in the non-guild member section.
* Coral McAdam, third prize for a wedding cake in the non-guild section.