Local shop takes second in event
Though Sweet Reasons came up short on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” national exposure has certainly helped business.
The four cupcakes that co-owner and baker Lenny Schafer created on the Miss America-themed episode have been popular this week, and sales have doubled. They’ll be available again next month.
Most customers Monday evening picked up one of each—at least of the flavors remaining in the bakery case. Schafer was even baking additional cupcakes so they wouldn’t run out.
As the show aired Saturday evening, Facebook fans told owners Schafer and his wife, Juli, that Sweet Reasons was still their No. 1.
“Proud to have such an awesome cupcake bakery in our hometown. You guys are the winners in our book. Way to go team!” wrote one woman.
The two-year-old specialty bakery faced off against three other teams in the fast-paced competition show.
Despite receiving compliments from the judges about the quality of the cupcakes—and the final opponent leaving out sugar and baking soda in different batches—the Fredericksburg cupcake shop didn’t win. Instead the honor and $10,000 went to Sinsational Cakes Bakery of North Richland Hills, Texas.
“To get that close and not win a prize, it’s hard,” Schafer said in the show.
The couple opened the bakery in Central Park in November 2011. Head baker Kelsey Gibson accompanied Schafer to the competition, filmed in one long day in June in Los Angeles.
In the first challenge, contestants had to use ingredients representative of the states where the past six Miss America winners came from, including Virginia ham, Michigan cherries and New York cheesecake. Miss America 2013, Malloray Hagan, a guest judge on the 60-minute episode, told contestants that she was looking for something “bold in flavor and funky.” Schafer and Gibson crafted a rich chocolate cupcake with a cheesecake filling, a cream cheese frosting and a cherry compote—a twist on their classic black and white cupcake.
“Miss America is typically a perfect combination of beauty, talent and poise, and your cupcake was just a beautiful combination of flavor and texture. I was really indulged and delighted by this cupcake,” said judge Candace Nelson, founder of the first cupcake shop.
In the second round, contestants had to make three cupcakes that were judged equally on taste and looks. Schafer made a cinnamon cupcake with apple pie filling; an orange cardamom and honey cupcake with a honey and lemon swiss buttercream; and a hazelnut cupcake filled with raspberry mousee, topped with chocolate swiss buttercream.
The winning baker, Nicole Ward, forgot sugar in her chocolate cupcakes and brushed them with a simple syrup at the last minute, hoping to scrape by. It wasn’t her last mishap.
Schafer got some harsh words from judge Nelson in this round: “Your decoration left a lot to be desired.” Judge Florian Bellanger also wasn’t thrilled with the appearance, but said about the taste, “I thought they were very good.”
Sweet Reasons still advanced to the final round.
That’s when the two teams had two hours to make 1,000 cupcakes and design an elaborate display to be set up at the Miss America competition in Atlantic City. The bakers got some help from a carpenter and four baking assistants.
Schafer asked for a four-tier display reminiscent of pageant gowns, with glitter, lights and satin.
“Their display was much better—it was more elegant,” said frequent customer Pam Duff, who stopped by the shop Monday evening and purchased two of the special flavors.
Time moves fast, as the bakers and assistants rush through mixing ingredients, baking, cooling and decorating the cupcakes—and then placing them on the display.
But Schafer and Gibson’s attempt wasn’t enough. Judges said that their display, with an arch and sash on top, was “stately” and represented the grace of the pageant. “Lenny really gave us some delicious tasting cupcakes today, really solid baking throughout the day,” said judge Nelson.
But Ward’s cupcakes from Sinsational Cakes Bakery had enough improvements that pulled them to the top.
Longtime customer Kate Meadows of Locust Grove was surprised by the outcome. “I thought they were going to win from the comments,” she said. But Monday evening, she and family members picked up 10 cupcakes from the shop, including six of the just-made chocolate-cherry.
“Everyone loves the cupcakes.”
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975
TRY THE CUPCAKES
Sweet Reasons, located at at 1672 Carl D. Silver Parkway in Central Park, added the four flavors featured on “Cupcake Wars” to its menu. Find out more about the regular flavors and the rotating weekly choices at sweetreasons.com.
Round One: A semi-sweet chocolate cake with a cheesecake center plus cream cheese frosting, cherry compote and drizzled ganache.
The Crown: A honey-orange cardamom cake plus honey lemon buttercream.
Heart of Gold: A crushed hazelnut cake with a raspberry mousse center plus chocolate buttercream and a raspberry drizzle.
The Sash: Farm-fresh apples baked into a cinnamon cake with cinnamon caramel buttercream.
Recipes for the four winning cupcakes from Texas-based Sinsational Cakes Bakery can be found on foodnetwork.com.