BY MARY L. HEEREN - Highland News Leader
A 4-foot tall evil queen made of cake, puffed rice and PVC pipe netted a Highland woman and her longtime friend from Atlanta silver medals on the “Food Network Challenge.”
Patty Jacoby, owner of Patty-Cakes at 1018 Laurel in Highland, and fellow cake decorator Ashley Vicos taped the challenge Dec. 9 in front of a live audience at the Comcast Media Center in Denver. The one-hour show airs 7 p.m. Sunday. It will re-air at 2 a.m. Monday and 6 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’re going to have a party when it runs,” Jacoby said. “I’ll be very, very anxious to see what they take from the eight hours.”
Pat Jacoby with her Food Network medal and part of the cake she kept from the contest. She is shown at her shop Patty Cakes in Highland Thursday. – BND
Jacoby, who celebrated her 28th year in business in May, was part of a two-person team with Vicos as the contestant and Jacoby as the assistant.
“I volunteered to be her assistant,” Jacoby said. “I plan on going back as a contestant but wanted to see what everything’s about (first).”
The challenge was Disney Classic Cakes, and their assignment was “Snow White.” Other teams decorated cakes representing “Pinocchio,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Mary Poppins.”
Since the Food Network had just done a Disney Princess challenge, the two women decided to create the queen holding out a poison apple rather than the title figure.
The finished product was cake up to the figure’s waist, then puffed rice above.
“You’re required to have a certain amount of real cake but can then use edible things,” Jacoby said. “You have to have at least enough to serve 150 people.”
The Highland businesswoman is not sure how the decorating duo came to the Food Network’s attention.
“They find people through Web sites or other cake decorators,” Jacoby said. “They contacted my friend and asked her if we would (be on the challenge).”
Jacoby opted to bring the cakes they would need in her luggage. When she arrived, the baked goods, which were frozen in the pans and wrapped in cardboard and plastic, were in perfect condition.
“My suitcase weighed 70 pounds and it cost me another $125, but I figured it would be a lot safer than having them thrown around for four days in the UPS truck,” she said.
She also brought her own decorating tools and mixer.
“You can make your own frosting ahead of time, so we made icing in the hotel room,” Jacoby said.
“If you need something that needs to dry, you’re allowed to make it ahead but you have to remake it during the show,” Jacoby said. “(All) you’re gaining is the drying time.”
Each team has its own kitchen, but because there was another challenge the day before theirs, they had to wait to gain access.
“We got into the kitchen about 10 p.m. and by the time we got our kitchen set up and got back to our hotel through a snowstorm, it was almost 1 a.m.” Jacoby said.
“We got to sleep at 2:30 a.m., then the fire alarm went off and it was almost 3:30 a.m. before we got back to sleep,” she said. “Then we got up at 4 a.m.”
What the television viewer sees and what actually happens at the taping is very different, Jacoby said.
“It took six tries to get started,” she said. “Every time you have to act like it’s the first time.”
Once on the clock, each team has eight hours to complete the project. Jacoby started by building the interior PVC structure and icing the cake and Vicos by creating the dwarfs and accessories.
“You have to have a lot of stamina, and it is very stressful, standing there working every second for eight solid hours,” Jacoby said.
When time was up, the two were done, mostly.
“We worked until the last second,” she said. “There were things we would have done a little differently, but the cake was finished.”
But they had one final touch.
Vicos’ husband had built a cake stand with a movable outside ring that played “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off To Work We Go.”
“It was the highlight of our day — the fact that it worked when it was supposed to,” Jacoby said. “The cake was so heavy, we didn’t want it to bog down.”
After time was called, contestants were called back individually for the critique.
“They said it was one of the closest competitions they ever had,” Jacoby said, noting they heard they missed first place by one point.
The winner, who received $10,000, had been on 10 previous challenges, and his assistant had worked for Disney for 15 years, Jacoby said.
“This was our first time, and we only had a week and a half to prepare,” Jacoby said. “We were pretty proud of that.”
This was the first time Jacoby has decorated a cake on television, and the Food Network already has asked her to return, she said. Jacoby plans to ask her daughter, Leah, who works with her and just graduated from culinary school, to be her assistant.
The day after the taping, the two shopped, relaxed and visited with family — Jacoby’s brother, John Stock and his family, and her son, Adam, were in the show’s audience.
Then Jacoby packed up her now-empty cake pans and returned to Highland to await the TV show and the next time she’s decorating a cake under the glare of the TV camera.