Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Food Network Challenge: Newlywed Cakes

Newlywed Cakes…….?

The first thing I thought when Food Network asked me to do this Challenge was, “What is a newlywed cake?” I asked the producers to elaborate. They wouldn’t. In fact, they told me that Newlywed Cakes will be a challenge with a mystery client, a mystery assistant, and a twist in the judging.

No, no, no…. I’m not the right girl for this Challenge. I need time to plan and practice. I can’t jump into the bottomless pit of mystery. No. I will not do this challenge.

That was my stance until the producer of the show called me again the next week and talked me into it, telling me it will be a fun show with a lot of interaction. Ok. I’ll do it. So back to my question…What is a newlywed cake?

I thought about what it meant to be a newlywed. When I was a newlywed we had gifts and moving boxes, packing peanuts and wrapping paper…It was all over our new home. Pictures of our honeymoon, and after the long wait, our wedding portrait. This is a common story among many newlywed couples and I’m going to turn this into my blank canvas in order to tell a story of this mystery newlywed couple.

Many times in mystery challenges cake designers bring stacked tiers that look like wedding cakes. They fill up the sides of the tiers with items made to please the client. A lot of these cakes turn out great. But I love to sculpt. That’s what I do best and it’s what I bring to Challenge every time. If done well, a sculpted cake can score high points, too.

So, instead of planning on stacking round tiers and placing objects on them I came up with another plan. Essentially, my approach was very similar to what the other decorators where doing with their cakes…. Items of significance….anything on this cake that can personalize a newlywed couple. I just chose to present these items in a different way. I needed to stand out in order to win.

The morning of the Challenge was when all the missing parts came together. Each contestant got a newlywed couple. The theme was revealed… “Each cake should represent your couple’s new life together.” The husbands are our assistants and we were to design our cake together. The wives were banished from the studio all day. The cakes would be placed 4th through 1st. The 1st place cake must be identified by the wife as her cake in order to win.

The couple I got were Trey and Mandy. Trey was a great assistant. Funny and smart and very eager to win. I asked him what he thought a newlywed cake was. He was just as baffled as I was at the mention of this. I told him my idea and that I needed him to fill in all the blanks, choose the color palette (preferably his wife’s favorite colors), and make all the key design choices, including what items are in the boxes, on the scrapbook and how it’s all designed.

It was important to me that I keep the theme of this cake “newlywed.” Meaning that I wanted Trey and Mandy represented as a married couple. The theme was “their new life together” so Trey and I worked hard to make sure that all the items on the cake were post-wedding, not from when they met or anything before their wedding.

The big cardboard box tier at the bottom of the cake was to hold a large item that Trey and Mandy had bought or received for their new home. Trey chose their new dining room table.
The gift box was to hold anything that Trey thought Mandy would find significant. He bought her a diamond necklace after they got married, and he wanted me to incorporate her favorite flowers…calla lilies. Trey designed the box to match the kitchen bar in their home, which had a cool pressed letter design, and he wanted me to use the colors in their home…pink and teal. We created wrapping paper for the bottom box in the same colors to pull our palette together.

The scrapbook…. I wanted to use this for Trey and Mandy’s memories or wishes of the future. He chose their honeymoon on the beach in Mexico. Perfect!!!

The wedding portrait on top… Now, I had always intended on creating a wedding portrait of the mystery newlywed couple on my cake. I didn’t know that the cake would have to be identified by anyone until the morning of the Challenge. I had the portrait planned since I began to design this cake and the Food Network producers knew about this. Why they choose to edit this in the show as a “last minute” idea is beyond me. You can even see Trey using the stencil and pre-colored edible papers I brought to create the portrait.

No element on this cake was an after thought. It turned out that the portrait was a great idea because of the “identity” element in the end. Trey and Mandy are an inter-racial couple, but that really didn’t matter because each couple was really different from one another. One couple both had brown hair, one couple both had blonde hair, and one couple was a man with grey hair and a woman with brown hair. Each couple was very distinguishable from the next.

Trey and I had problems from the edible paper ripping, to the lid of the box sagging. But we finished on time and it was the first time in Challenge that I was able to finish a cake to completion. It felt great, and I felt lucky to have had Trey as an assistant.

I will never do another mystery challenge. Even though I won, I struggled with this one. There were too many variables, too many unknowns. I much prefer doing a character driven cake at Challenge like Mary Poppins or Elmo or Spongebob. Although the character challenges are technically more difficult and take longer to prepare for, I am able to create better work without the panic of the endless guessing games of mystery challenges.

Lauren Bozich's wonderful 2nd place cake. I loved this cake. Lauren is a friend of mine and a gifted artist. I knew she would be able to make a ton of different items for her cake and boy, did she. Every item on her cake is easily identifiable. She's a great artist and came close to beating me!!!


  1. Congratulations Lauren. You did an awesome job! We are wathcing the show again now.

  2. Darn I missed this episode! Wonderful concept! Love it! Congratulations!

  3. Amazing planning, incredibly skillful and fun cake...
    I loved your Sesame Street one before, and this one really showed off your professionalism. Kudos!! Plus, you're amazingly cute. Wait... that's not appropriate at all. Please ignore the last few sentences.

  4. Hi Lauren! I always love it when you're a competitor on the Cake Challenges. I would love to come to TX and take your Muppet class.


  5. Nice wedding cakes is superb. you need more different cakes styles designs visit wedding cakes in dallas and choose which cake design is your favorite one to order in your weddings.



About Me

Lauren Kitchens, owner and executive chef of Fancy Cakes by Lauren, opened her bakery in 2000 and quickly became one of the premiere cake bakeries in the Dallas wedding and event industry. Lauren has her complete cake portfolio on-line at