Monday, November 8, 2010

Food Network Challenge "Giant Wedding Cakes"

Our 7 foot 3 inch cake for the mystery couple Katie and Matt

Did you see Food Network Challenge Giant Wedding Cakes? It was a doozy! If you missed it, fear not, it will re-run, and you should definitely make sure you catch it. Don't worry, I won't give away the ending here.

So, the first thing you need to understand about Challenge is that it's all in the editing. They've got over 60 hours of tape to work with after all, and they only need 40-ish minutes for TV. The second thing to know is that it's a LONG day for all of us, cast and crew, judges, etc. We start at 5 or 6 am after VERY little sleep (I average 2.75 hours of fitful sleep before competition day) and it's go, go, go for 12 to 15 hours. Yes, I know, Challenge is only 8 hours. But in the finished product you don't see the set ups, the second and third takes on intros, the "hero shots", the false starts, the green room, makeup, etc. Trust me, it's hella long. The third thing to know is that everyone on Challenge has a role to play. Example: Kerry is the "mean" judge. That's her role, it's NOT who she is. Trust me on this. The fourth, and most important thing to know is that Challenge IS A TV SHOW. Let me repeat this. CHALLENGE IS A TV SHOW. It's not reality, it's reality TV, there IS a difference.

So, now that all that is out of the way, let me tell you how much I love Challenge. No, love is really not a strong enough word. I mean, people love chocolate and their dogs and even a favorite pair of shoes. Love is not nearly strong enough to describe how I feel about Challenge. Hmmm... well, truth be told, it's my drug. Seriously. I can't. get. enough. It's the most stressful, exciting, exhilarating, exhausting experience you can imagine. It's tense, nerve-wracking, and vomit-inducing. It's an adrenaline rush. It's non-stop madness. It's heaven. I adore it. I think about it day and night. I would make it my full-time, everyday-of-the-year job if I could. I know this makes me a little "sick", but hey, if there's a cure, I definitely do NOT want it!

"Giant Wedding Cakes" was my second Challenge, taped back in May. I filmed my first Challenge, "Paranormal Cakes" in January of this year. Two weeks ago I competed in my third Challenge, and next week I will do my fourth. That's right, it's my drug, and I need it frequently, 4 times a year at minimum. Unfortunately, Challenge goes on hiatus from May through September, so as you might expect, the summer is hell for me.

The "Love" carving on one of our tree trunks

And now, some frequently asked questions, answered:
Q: What do they do with all the cakes?
A: After the beauty shots and close ups, they throw them out. It's a TV studio after all, not a licensed commercial kitchen. Trust me, you wouldn't want to eat these cakes.
Q: Do you tape in New York or Los Angeles?
A: Neither. The production company for Challenge, High Noon Entertainment, is based in Denver and that's where Challenge is filmed.
Q: Is Keegan a big teddy bear and Kerry a meanie face?
A: Not exactly, and no. While Keegan is a very kind and approachable person, and yes, a bit of a teddy bear, he is also an accomplished pastry chef and has a critical eye and palette. He's a tough judge, but his role on the show is somewhat "softer" than Kerry's. Kerry has decades of experience in cake and sugar art and has forgotten more about such art in the last 5 minutes than I will ever know in my lifetime. She knows her stuff and she tells it like it is. She is not, however, mean. Or cruel, or unfair. Her Challenge role is much more one-dimensional than her true personality. Remember, it's reality TV, NOT reality. Both Keegan and Kerry are much more than what you see on TV.
Q: Do they provide your tools and materials?
A: No, we bring everything with us except the kitchen itself, the kitchenaide mixer, and the fondant sheeter.
Q: Is there still a live audience?
A: No. The new set does not have room for a live audience. But if you're really, really nice, or give me a lot of money, or are a member of my immediate family, you just might be invited to be in my VIP section next tiem.
Q: Why do you always make such big cakes?
A: Why not? Seriously, I think Challenge is always about going big or going home. I never play it safe cuz that's not fun nor does it make for good TV. I'm an over-achiever and a glutton for punishment. I also believe that the height requirement should be met with cake and not rice cereal treats, styrofoam, wires, blah, blah, blah... it's a cake competition after all.
Q: Is Claire really that skinny or do they use smoke and mirrors?
A: Yes, she really is that tiny. I know. But don't hate her for it, she's really nice too!
Q: When you go to Challenge do you get to meet Bobby, Giada, Ina, and Paula?
A: I wish. Especially Giada and Ina, J'adore!!
Q: Did you really want to "whack" Bronwen at Giant Wedding Cakes?
A: Haha! Of course not. I wanted to win. But that whole story line made it a much more interesting show, right? It's TV, remember?
Q: Did Gio really build a 6 foot cake without a center support?
A: Yes, he did. But he will never, ever, do it again.
Q: Did Donna run into some trouble?
A: Hell yes she did. Her airbrush malfunctioned and that was a very big problem because she intended to airbrush her WHOLE cake! Also, and you didn't see this on the show, her assistant Marina (the gorgeous blonde) cut her hand VERY badly and had to leave the set for quite a long time. They do NOT stop the clock when someone gets hurt. This upset their entire time-line and definitely caused Donna major stress. Don't worry, I'm betting she'll be back to kick some major cake booty and when she does I hope I'm nowhere to be found, cuz she's got mad skillz!
Q: Do you always cry on Challenge?
A: So far, yes. What can I say? I'm emotional.

The waterfall representing where the couple was engaged,
and an apple tree representing their wedding venue.

Me and my staff in downtown Denver outside the amazing REI store.
Denver is SO cool
, I want to live there when I grow up!

Does this one really need a caption?
Ok, it's me and Kerry after Giant Wedding Cakes Challenge

That's it for now. Gotta go and plan my time-line for next week's Challenge. Wish I could tell you the theme but that's classified info. Suffice it to say that I will, once again, make a VERY BIG CAKE! Hah!


  1. Perfect post! I will never ever not put a center support again haha! what a newbie mistake. I loved every second of it though. I feel exactly the same way you do about Challenge. Give me more! Hope to see you at the next one but please dont "whack" me :)

  2. Enjoyed reading it! Can't wait to watch the re-run! I loved your last challenge.

  3. How amazing! I always dream i am on cake challenge!

  4. All true comments. I especially related to the "vomit inducing". Will be much less stressful for me next time!!! Your cake was lovely this weekend:)