Cupcakes: It's war
Making cupcakes can be hell.
At least that's what we're supposed to think as Food Network unveiled "Cupcake Wars" this week, pitting bakers and cupcake makers against each other. L.A. will play a starring role: Many of the series guests are from Southern California, as well as one of the show's permanent judges: Who else but Candace Nelson, owner of Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills, whom many credit with leading the nation's rediscovery of this frosted childhood treat.
[Updated at 2:02 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said that "Cupcake Wars" airs tonight. In fact, it aired Tuesday night.]
"I thought I already had the greatest job in the world," Nelson said recently about getting the Food Network gig, "and then all of a sudden I was offered a job eating other people's cupcakes and offering my opinion."
If it seems that cupcakes are everywhere -- bakeries, supermarkets, weddings, cookbook covers, kids' parties, and more -- Nelson suggests that the craze has only just begun.
"I think the cupcake's time has really come, it's now," Nelson said. Her evidence: The initial cupcake craze gave way to cupcakes of all different stripes, colors and flavors. Well, in some ways that has tapped itself out. But now, she said, cupcakes are going someplace totally new: savory.
"We are really starting to see cupcakes play in the realm of the savory, and I have just become such a believer," she said. "The first time I heard of a tobacco cupcake I thought I would need to have a trashcan nearby ... but it was surprisingly good."
See who else was judging....
"Cupcake Wars" will have all the hallmarks of other reality competitions -- clocks ticking, outlandish challenges, the need for creative thinking. (Weekly winners get $10,000 and the chance to show off their cupcakes at a prized event.) Nelson said the winners who come out on top know that it's all about presentation: "Cupcakes are delicate little creatures, they are only a few inches tall, so it's all about creating this spectacle, baking lots of cupcakes and presenting it on display."
All the bakers who appear on the show are pros -- but don't expect them to always act that way. It's a rookie mistake to frost a cake or cupcake before it's cooled, right? "Well, we definitely saw some melted frosting sliding off the cupcakes," Nelson said.
Nelson serves as a permanent judge alongside Florian Bellanger, chef and co-owner of online macaron company MadMac. A third guest judge will rotate in each week.
In tonight's challenge -- "SeaWorld Birthday Bash" -- the bakers hope to have their cupcakes selected for the theme park's birthday party. Competitors include Lindsay Morton of Dollhouse Bake Shoppe and Brett Thompson of Milk, both in Los Angeles.
According to Food Network, other Los Angeles-area bakers making an appearance on the show this season include: Chloe Coscarelli of chefchloe.com, Erica Tucker of Sweet E’s Bake Shop, Catarah Hampshire of Southern Girl Desserts, and Stefanie Gaxiola of Red Velvet Stefanie. Also: Arleen Scavone of Sweet Arleen’s in Westlake Village, Farshid Hakim of La Provence Patisserie Café in Beverly Hills, Jasmine Frank of Jazzy Cakes in Sherman Oaks, Alyssa Magliato of the Perfect Circle Cupcakery in Orange, MaryAnne Tongko of Cupcakes & Co. in Burbank, Todd Becker of Beckers Bakery in Manhattan Beach, and Lisa Donahue of For Heavens Cakes in Thousand Oaks.
-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch
Photo: Host Justin Willman, right, and Candace Nelson, second from right, watch the contestants. Credit: Food Network