Posted by lemonjelly on:
Do you like cupcakes? Sure you do. They are tidy packages of sweet joy. And Santa Barbarans are so crazy about cupcakes, they go to war over them.
Four Santa Barbarans so far have participated in the Food Network's Cupcake Wars in recent years, but last night one of them finally brought home the winning prize. That's Alison Riede from Sugar Cat Studio! I got her meet her Sunday night at a reception and showing of the winning episode of Cupcake Wars at Oreana Winery down in the Funkzone.
The tasting room was bursting with people, standing room only, with just as many people craning their necks in the back as were seated up front by the large viewing screen.
Elaine and her assistant, Erica Livery, were up against three other teams in this episode based on the Hollywood Chrstimas Parade theme and in the first round had the daunting task of producing a cupcake reminiscent of old Christmas traditions, like a green bean casserole or a cheese log. Really? It would take a holiday miracle to turn those two dishes into a delectable cake, IMHO, and unsurprisingly two of the contestants failed miserably. Sugar Cat was on the road to failure when their first attempt at a batter ended up having too much bacon in it. It hurts me to say that. Bacon should never be a bug, it's a feature! Alas, the batter was dumped in the trash and they started over, resulting in a sharp cheddar cheese cupcake with a candied pecan crust and honeyed blue cheese frosting. As with most reality tv shows, the suspense had the audience enthralled, including Alison (pictured below, left). Fortunately, the judges raved over it.
Besides being tasty, what made Sugar Cat's cupcakes stand out was the beautiful design and presentation, that's where Alison's secret powers come from. Sugar Cat Studio originally started as a cupcake wrapper producer, and Alison holds a degree and work experience in art design from New York. She hand made cupcake wrappers and sold them on Etsy. Logic followed that in order to display the wrappers best, there had to be a steady supply of cupcakes in them, so she made those too. It was her former experience in design that gave her the edge over her competition, especially in Round 2 of the Cupcake Wars, when design was weighted 50% of the overall score.
So, how were the goods? Well, we weren't able to try the cheese log cupcakes that soared in the competition when half the contestants crashed and burned, but we did get to gorge ourselves on six other tasty creations:
* Peppermint hot chocolate with mashmallow meringue
* Pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting
* Gingerbread latte with brandy spiced buttercream
* French toast cupcake with maple buttercream
* Mimosa cheesecake with champagne buttercream
* Coconut cream cake with coconut frosting
I sampled four of them and adored the chocolate peppermint with marshmallow best (far left photo). What is it about mashmallows that makes them to gosh darn yummy?
Eventually, Sugar Cat made it to the final round with a 1,000 cupcake display and took home the $10,000 prize. Wired on sugar and toasty on wine, the audience went wild. Way to go, Santa Barbara gals!
Cupcake Wars on Food Network