When Monday night's video game-themed episode of Food Network's competition show "Cake Wars" came to an end, only one baker emerged victorious — and his name was Pete Tidwell, a Brigham Young University graduate who owns and is the head baker of The Mighty Baker in Provo. Tidwell and his assistant, Katrina Jones, claimed a $10,000 prize for winning and had their cake showcased at a video gaming world championship after the episode was recorded.
On a typical "Cake Wars" episode, four bakers are pitted against each other in unique challenges in hopes of impressing a panel of culinary judges. Monday night's episode was themed around the popular video game "Halo," which follows the story of Master Chief, a space-age war commander, as players battle against a plethora of extraterrestrial foes.
During the episode, Tidwell mentioned that he played "Halo" on a daily basis when it was first released for Xbox back in 2001, and his cake designs certainly benefitted from that familiarity.
In the first round, the four bakers were given a 75-minute time limit and asked to create a cake resembling one of the many alien villains from the game. Tidwell's concoction — a cranberry cake with a honey/blue cheese frosting — was built in the shape of a giant Flood infection form, an eight-legged nemesis of "Halo" gamers.
"We took a chance," Tidwell said of his first cake. "It's going a little out there doing blue cheese in a cake, but blue cheese pairs really well with tart fruit."
The judges — "Cake Wars" regulars Waylynn Lucas and Ron Ben-Israel, along with guest judge and Microsoft Director of Programming Larry Hryb — approved of Tidwell's risky decision.
Lucas called the first round frosting "a nice addition," and Ben-Israel added, "I'm absolutely surprised that you were able to take blue cheese and come up with such a delicious result. It's a really successful cake."
Tidwell was chosen to advance to the final round, along with two other competitors. In the finals, the bakers were given four hours to create a cake that represented the epic nature of the video game franchise.
For his second creation, Tidwell baked a chocolate brownie pound cake with a vanilla Italian buttercream. Despite some initial problems with his buttercream that slowed his progress, Tidwell was able to depict a scene of heroes and villains battling across the bottom layer, along with a victorious Master Chief character perched atop a transparent circular base at the pinnacle of the cake. (Ambitious bakers can view Tidwell's recipe online on the "Cake Wars" website at foodnetwork.com.)
Microsoft's Hryb was impressed by the details he saw Tidwell include as he worked. "This is a nod to many, many parts of the 'Halo' universe," he commented. He later commended Tidwell, saying, "There's a lot going on here. You've done a really great job of capturing the Halo universe."
Additionally, Lucas and Ben-Israel thought the cake tasted delicious.
"This is a brownie cake if I've ever had one," Lucas said. "It absolutely works."
"The problem with your cake is going to keep me playing all night," Ben-Israel joked. "It's packed with such chocolate flavor that it's impossible to have only one bite."
Ultimately, Tidwell was selected by the judges as the winner of the episode, awarding him with the $10,000 cash prize and featuring his second cake at the 2016 "Halo" world championship.
Tidwell's victory was a meaningful one for him. As a father of three, he said that winning would be a great example to his children, "to show them that if you have dreams, you can do it!"
Reflecting upon the competition, he said, "I created this amazing cake and it's going to be a special thing to be able to remember about how special of an experience this has been."
Tidwell's bakery, The Mighty Baker, is located at 50 East 500 North in Provo.