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Posts Tagged ‘Food Network Challenge’

I’ve always been entertained by odd titles, especially those given to members of the Royal Court. (Any royal court, I’m not picky.) Like “Lady of the Bedchamber” (sounds risque, doesn’t it?) or “Gentleman of the Privy Council.” So as I was pondering the feats (and occasionally the feets) of the caketastic decorators at the OK Sugar Arts Show, I decided their title should most definitely be “Gentlemen of the Cake.”

Although, to be fair, this one didn’t actually contain any cake at all. It’s kind of a cruel joke…or maybe not so cruel, since we wouldn’t have gotten to eat it anyway.

Ignore the guys in white - it's the dark-shirted guys who are building the cake

Ignore the guys in white - it's the dark-shirted guys who are building the cake

A cake that isn’t really cake is called a “showpiece.” This one, created by “The Three Jays” (aka James Rosselle, Jason Ellis and Joshua John Russell), mimics one James built on Food Network Challenge. Except that one actually was mostly made out of cake. Whatever, he won, it was cool, and it was fun watching the guys create it over the course of 2 days.

This is James, grouting the chimney. The bricks are fondant.

This is James, grouting the chimney. The bricks are fondant.

James was the tallest of the 3 (a fact Jason bitterly ascribed to the height of James’ hair) so he did the high parts. Jason, meanwhile, made the coolest rotating Christmas tree. If I don’t get totally bogged down by rehearsals this December, I am SO making this thing!

Sorry about the fuzzy pic!

Sorry about the fuzzy pic!

About that tree: It’s green fondant wrapped around a tree-shaped styrofoam piece, mounted on the “board” of a fishing game (the battery-operated board rotates). Of course, he wasn’t going to leave it at that. Jason added dimension with rag-painted royal icing, added “flocking,” made teeny little candy canes, and gussied up the tree with a generous layer of edible green sparkles. This last act nearly got him flogged by the crowd. There were audible gasps from the audience; one outraged decorator in my vicinity muttered, “If you did that in my bakery you’d be fired!” while another moaned, “Do you KNOW how much that stuff costs?” Still, he went on flinging sparkles at the tree with reckless abandon, which made for quite the attractive–albeit expensive–piece.

It took quite a long time to build this thing. They weren’t hurrying, like in Challenge, but they worked pretty steadily the whole time, often even when they weren’t officially “on” as the show. By Sunday they had made good progress, as you can see below.

Fireplace now sporting a mantel, stockings, and that darling tree

Fireplace now sporting a mantel, stockings, and that darling tree

This is why I referenced “feets” earlier. There was really no other way to reach the top, but James spent much of his time looking over his shoulder for the “terrifying” Kerry Vincent, feared Food Network judge and organizer of the show. Kerry disapproves of standing on one’s work surface, as well she might.

Do not try this at home.

Do not try this at home.

Between watching for Kerry and wondering if Joshua’s pants were going to fall completely down (we were taking bets in the audience; they did not go all the way but we did get a clear view of his underwear), we whiled away the afternoon in a merry mood.

The almost finished product

The almost finished product

After Joshua spent some time carefully creating Santa’s body parts out of Rice Crispy Treats (the cellulite jokes were about what you’d expect), he and James tried to install the jolly old elf in his place at the top of the chimney.

Installing Santa

Installing Santa

However, Santa had apparently been hitting the milk & cookies a little too hard and, to put it bluntly, his butt was too big. So it had to go. Along with his head. But it came out cute anyway, didn’t it? Look, there’s even a fire in the fireplace!

How cute is that?

How cute is that?

But you know how it is when you get a bunch of boys together. The fire got a little out of hand:

Thankfully they didn't use the big fireworks...

Thankfully they didn't use the big fireworks...

While they were working on the cake, the audience got to compliment, question, and harass the cake gentlemen, which is how I learned the following tidbits about Food Network Challenge, which I will now share:

1. How do you get chosen to be on Challenge?

The Food Network has talent scouts, just like sports teams. Go figure.

2. How do you get to be in the audience?
You pretty much have to be immediate family of or sleeping with one of the cake decorators competing. There are very few seats available–like 4 per competitor.

3. Is it really just 8 hours or are there breaks?
The clock does not stop. If you have to go to the bathroom, you run. And hopefully, you remember to turn off your mike on the way there.

4. What happens to the cakes after Challenge is done?
Cakes that do not win and/or are not for a specified event: a forklift hauls them out back and chunks them in the dumpster. (I found this rather heartbreaking. I had happy little fantasies of the audience & crew tearing into the cakes and having a big ol’ post-Challenge party.)

5. Are you paid well to be on Challenge?
Only if you win! Otherwise, travel expenses, hotel & per diem are as good as it gets. You have to bring your own cake, fondant, etc., too.

6. The judges’ interviews and announcement of winners is done the following day.

7. Who do you most want to compete against?
Stevie! If you’ve seen her on Challenge, you’ll know why. Hers is the only cake I’ve seen that required the use of a fire extinguisher. Which, btw, got on everything that day–so Kerry did not get to eat her birthday cake, after all.

And that’s enough for one day, I think. Cake on!

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I’m visiting (for real, not virtually) the Oklahoma Sugar Arts show. I don’t even aspire to making cakes on this level…although I was able to look at some of them and find flaws, which gave me a warm squishy feeling inside.

The theme this year is “under the sea.” Some of the entries were obvious. . .

Just one of many

Just one of many lovely entries.


Some not so much (but still pretty!).
Not getting "sea" but isn't it pretty?

I spent a lot of the day watching three 28-year-old stars of cakedom, James Rosselle, Jason Ellis and Joshua John Russell. They’re making an enormous “extreme” Christmas piece.

SORRY about the guy's head in front!

SORRY about the guy's head in front!

It's TALL--he's on a chair

James Rossell grouting the chimney. It's TALL--he's on a chair

Plus there was a timed competition where 4 contestants had 1.5 hours to create a Halloween cake. This one was my fave, but she came in 3rd. My neighbor & I think it must have been a rules violation; she did a bunch of different techniques and it was darling. Look at that witch w/the broom going all the way through the cake!

My fave Halloween cake

My fave Halloween cake

Look how cute she is! And all edible.

Look how cute she is! And all edible.

This is the cake that one. It’s quite nice, too. They had to have 1/8% of the cake be visible Rice Crispies.

Halloween Horror Cake Competition winner

Halloween Horror Cake Competition winner

I’ve met a number of fun people, learned some inside skinny about Food Network Challenge, and seen a lot of great cake. And that’s just today. There’s another whole day tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m pooped. Watching all those people work is exhausting. More pics to come!

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