Monday, April 11, 2011

Lego Cake (Confessions of a Cake Competition Loser...and a Happy Ending)


The very first time I'd ever heard of a cake competition was 6 years ago when a producer at the Food Network called and asked if I wanted to participate in a "Cake Challenge".
We were already in the process of doing a show for them called Recipe For Success, which was a really great experience with an amazing crew, and I thought, cool, why not?
It was the first season and maybe the second episode shot, so no one really knew what it would look like yet. I was in great company, the other competitors were, Elisa Strauss, Buddy Velestro, and Christpher Garren, all of whom went on to win Cake Challenges...except moi.

At every competition I've been asked the same interview question, over and over. "Are you a competitive person?"
I know full well what I'm supposed to answer: Yes. Unequivocally. Absolutely. "I am here to kick some butt".

But, because I've been focused on the cake and the task ahead, the question always catches me a little bit off-guard. I look blankly at the camera, and try to think of what to say.
Three competitions later,
for better or worse, I can unequivocally say that I am not a competitive person. I am not someone who wants to beat you in a race.
Although, I very much like to run my own race. I like to see if I can do something better than I've ever done before, something I didn't think I could do.


Two years ago when a producer (someone who'd worked on other competitions and seen me crash and burn first-hand) from TLC's Ultimate Cake Off (again in its first season) called, I laughed out loud and said, you're kidding, right?
I'd never successfully completed a three foot cake in a timed competition setting, now this would be a FIVE foot cake that had to have three different mechanical elements.
And I said OK, why not.

Now, of course, I lost again. But this time it was different. Rather than being the dead bottom of the pack, we came in second... OK, second of three. But for all of my not getting it right in a timed and stressful race, in the end, I loved our cake. It was the messiest fondant I can possibly imagine, but it was still the most beautiful, magical, creative cake there that day. And I could say with all honesty, I thought it was a winner : )

Planning the cake. Sketches, scale models, run-throughs, it takes a village to make a ginormous multi-motor spinning, musical cake. Here's Dan Pasky working in NY on the beginning mock-ups of the cake.

Lego brick gummies with lights inside!

My son's Lego ships for inspiration.

Meeting with a Mechanical Engineer.

The little people.

Tons of advance work on Patti's (head assistant and support!) cookies. I did the sketches, and then she crafted hand-made cookie cutters...


The plan: build a strong support structure. Cut sheets of cake into puzzle pieces to fit into structure.


Beth's gorgeous Hydroplane ride car prototype.

Patti Paige, Kate Sullivan, Beth Ayala and Chrisy Platt.
The team: countless of hours of back-breaking, unpaid, under-acknowledged work both behind the scenes and during the show.

P.S. We went to Legoland anyway!

(Lego cake by Kate Sullivan.)

5 comments:

  1. love your lego cake Kate. you were brave to dive back in....
    Bryna

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  2. I missed this show. Your cake is awesome. Having 2 boys that were young once, I can say that this cake would have rocked their world. I am most intrigued by the hand-made cookie cutters. How is this possible? What kind of metal is used? Would you be willing to post something about that process?

    Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes experience. I always wondered how much prework went into one of those shows.

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  3. This is why anyone who has the nerves and patience and strength to even attempt one of these shows is a winner. Not in a cheesy "you're all winners" kind of way, but look at that HARD work you did! And it was utterly beyond amazing!! Bravo!!! You DID win!

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  4. Kate--I have often thought of the "competitive nature" of cake artists while watching this type of show & honestly thought there was something missing in ME because I have never had a drive/desire to "compete" "win" "kick butt". Thanks for letting me know I am not the only one. I loved your cake & thought it was well designed & executed!!
    --- Dana Williams (FB Friend)

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  5. just watched this episode and googled your cake..
    your cake was by far the most creative, 3dimensional, and the best!
    i thought for sure yours would win! i really don't see how that other cake beats yours.......

    anyway, love your work :)

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