Highlights – Can’t believe we got the call. The experience was a blast. Judges, surprisingly kind. New friends were made and old friends, appreciated for their quality. Let’s do it again!
What can I say? Cupcake Wars was an amazing surprise. When I started my business I never would have dreamed that I could be a contestant on a national show. What? It’s been quite a fun ride.
I’ll never forget the call from LA. I thought I was being punked! “Is this my son playing a prank”, I said. Nope. It was an LA based production company who found my name in a blog post by the Tender Pallet. Thanks to a contest I had won on the Tender Pallet blog naming Cakabakery’s as, “Best Vegan Cupcake in Grand Rapids” we caught the eye of a producer of Cupcake Wars.
Food Network is a favorite channel in my household. We not only knew what the show was all about, but I had gossiped with my pal, Michelle about what it must be like to be in the thick of the competition. We would soon discover that the experience is both unnerving and exhilarating.
The show is filmed in Culver City, just outside of LA on the Sony Studios lot. Once we agreed to dates and times we were flown out to film our episode. We had no idea what to expect when we landed. Would we be able to prepare? Would we know how to handle the surprise ingredients when the time came? We assured each other it would be a fun time, or not worth doing.
We were allowed to shop for some basic ingredients ahead of the taping day. The production staff was beyond accommodating, taking us to any store we requested and back to our hotel in shuttle vans. We’d forget an item and call apologetically, “can we make one more run?”. “No problem”, they’d say… never missing a beat.
On taping day we worked like dogs. The process is interesting. Each shot takes much longer than you’d imagine. The production crew would remind us, “We need to fill the shot with all of your reactions”. We would give a face to the camera and they would say, “That’s good. Now let’s try it with a little more energy”. “Ha! I’m all energy”, I’d tell them.
The judges were fair, for the most part. As you might expect, they would get a bit harsh when the cameras were rolling. They are there to judge, after all. When the cameras switched off, the judges were very warm. In a way I didn’t expect, the judges engaged the contestants between takes. Florian thanked each of the contestants in turn for taking the time to be a part of the show while Michelle and Candice traded shopping secrets.
As we made it through the first round and approached the end of the second, I couldn’t help but feeling run down. For a very brief moment I thought, “If we don’t make it to the end, I’ll be really disappointed, but at least we won’t have to make 1000 cupcakes in two hours”. Terrible thought, right? I’m not a diehard competitor I guess.
We did make it to the final round and a wave of new energy came to both Michelle and I just in time. We adjusted the flavors the judges had given critiques on and we even changed one of our garnishes. The helpers they gave us were a bit underwhelming. The desire to help was there but the abilities were a little lacking. We were excited to see our display when they wheeled it out. When our final round competition wheeled their display onto the set I said to Michelle, “This is going to be a close race, my friend”.
In the end, we did well. Not first place, a dignified second. A bit of a bummer after all we had battled through. But here’s the best part. You know Andrea, the winner of our episode? Turns out, she’s a lovely person! Michelle and I now have a new friend in Northern California. Andrea runs a very successful, regional chain of cupcake shops near wine country. We have exchanged emails and texts and remain pals, long distance. What started as a silly adventure for Michelle and I led to an irreplaceable learning experience and new friendship with a cupcake-comrade-in-arms.
Thanks to the Cupcake Wars production team, to the judges and fellow contestants. Special thanks from me to Michelle Baker. Much more than a colleague, Michelle is a longtime friend without whom I could not have taken on this challenge/war. Thanks for being my battle buddy, Michelle!
You can find many of the flavors featured in our episode on our daily menu at Cakabakery. Or, here’s a fun idea… Find our episode on iTunes (Cupcake Wars/Cosmic Cupcakes) and order up a selection of the featured treats. You and your family/friends could eat along with our episode. How fun is that?
Thanks for following our story. We’ll see you at Cakabakery very soon!