Utah's very own Janell Brown and Kristen Cold wowed the judges on the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" and took home $10,000 in the Sept. 9 episode.
Brown survived three rounds of intense cupcake-making and decorating, one in which she had to make and decorate 1,000 cupcakes, until finally being crowned the champion. Brown is a mother of four and a member of the West Jordan Utah Oquirrh Point Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Up until the show aired on Sunday, Sept. 9, Brown has had to keep her honor a secret from family and friends, only letting her husband in on it. But after returning last February from filming the show with possibly a little bit more spending money, and a random flight to Orlando, Fla., there were some people who had suspicions.
Yet Brown kept the excitement going as her family and friends had to watch on the edge of their seats at Brown's house Sunday night during a party they put together to watch the show.
"They all figured, 'Why would you throw a party if you didn't win?'" Brown said. "But it was really fun to see their reactions. Especially for my kids. They didn't know — they knew we were on the show, but we couldn't tell them we won because kids can't keep secrets. That was really fun to watch them get excited for us."
Watching the show for the first time was exciting for Brown, too. "It was fun to see what they did, what they kept in it and what they took out," Brown said. This was also the first time Brown could really watch her competitors and see the different processes they went through.
"That was fun to see because you don't know what's going on in the other people's kitchen and the mistakes or problems that they're having," Brown said. "You have no idea what they're coming up with, so that was fun to see."
The first round of competition forced Brown to create an entirely new cupcake because each baker was asked to create a cupcake using one ingredient from the "dark side" and one from the "light side" in the Star Wars-themed contest. This cupcake was judged solely on taste. Brown's spiced black pepper cupcake was just the right mixture of good and bad, according to one of the judges, Candace Nelson, and Brown was safe to go on the next round. (The recipe for that cupcake can be found at the Food Network's website.)
Round 2 was the most challenging of them all, according to Brown, because it required excellence in the taste and design of three different cupcakes.
"There is so much going on in such a short amount of time," Brown said. "There was only Kristen and I there to do that."
Each cupcake needed to represent a classic character from Star Wars, and they only had 45 minutes to complete the task. Brown and Cold decided to stay classic by creating a cupcake for Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Yoda. Brown formed another new creation, a maple brown sugar cupcake with a peanut butter frosting, which they used to represent the sandy home of Skywalker.
Brown easily made it past the second round, which meant she would go head-to-head with California bakers Desiree Corsetti-Meyers and Heather Shansey from D'Vine Pastry Bar, an online-only store. Each contestant had to design a cupcake stand that would outshine the other. With her impressive Star Wars knowledge, Brown quickly came up with an idea to produce a display centered around a TIE fighter.
"With the display I just thought, 'I want to do something that screams 'Star Wars' that nobody would have a question in their mind what it was for when they saw it," Brown said. "So for me, the first thing I think of when I think of Star Wars are the battles and the ships in space, so that was the one that came to mind."
But after barely stocking her display of 1,000 cupcakes in time, Brown and Cold had to leave the set and wait for the judges to make their final decision. Watching what they actually said about her final product was exciting for Brown on Sunday night.
"I was really curious to know, because we don't get to talk to them again, to know what they say to help judge that final outcome," Brown said. "That was really fun to hear."
Brown and Cold were able to present their winning cupcakes at Star Wars Celebration, which was Aug. 23-26 in Orlando, Fla. After the event Brown donated the TIE fighter display to Steve Sansweet, the executive of Rancho Obi-Wan, a non-profit museum that has one of the world's largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia.
Since the show aired, Brown said business has been busy.
"It's been crazy," said Brown, who is owner of the One Sweet Slice bakery in South Jordan. "I thought we were prepared, but it has been so fun."
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Brown has implemented the two new cupcakes created on the show into her menu and also has a display of cupcakes in the theme of Star Wars in her shop.
"It's so fun to get to share with other people," Brown said. "After the show had aired, we went through all of the Facebook posts and email messages, text messages people had sent, and it was so fun to see how much fun our fans were having with it. That was probably one of the best parts of it, to share the thrill of winning."