It’s been nine years since I was a judge on the pilot episode of Cupcake Wars, but my tell-all post about the experience is still one of my most popular! At the time I just wanted to address the questions I was getting about my specific episode, but now I want to address some of the more general questions people search, leading them to my original post.
Oh, and if you want to see the episode I was on, it’s on Amazon for $1.99.
1. What Happens to All the Cupcakes?
Again, it’s been nine years since I was on the show, but on my episode there was no shortage of people willing to take cupcakes home. When we filmed the pilot there were probably 50 people involved – hair and makeup, editors, producers, a zillion camera operators, sound engineers, show runners – and we were filming inside a giant tent on the UCLA campus. So imagine how much production got ramped up once the series was actually picked up.
Some of the cupcakes quite honestly weren’t worth keeping either from not being well-prepared or just melting under the studio lights. But the ones that survived were snatched up by the show staff pretty quickly.
2. How Do They Come Up With Recipes On the Spot?
In the interest of not getting sued by Food Network, I should say that I actually didn’t ask anyone about this, so my answer is simply speculation from the perspective of someone who has been on the show. That being said, I believe the contestants are told ahead of time what the general theme of each challenge will be so they can prepare.
It’s a pretty common practice for cooking competitions – Iron Chef does it. Sorry to disappoint if you’re someone who still believes reality TV and food competitions are 100% real and unscripted. I guess this would be a good time to let you know that the outcome of professional wrestling matches is also pre-determined.
3. How Do the Contestants Build Their Displays So Quickly?
On the pilot episode, the on-site carpenters were part of the show. I haven’t watched lately, but if I remember correctly that’s an aspect that didn’t make it into any of the regular seasons. For our episode, they did meet with the contestants before we even started filming to plan their displays, which leads me back to my theory that the contestants know the themes ahead of time. The carpenters worked off camera during filming to build the display, but all of that was edited to appear that they only had an hour to complete their work.
It also took two days to film the episode I was on – so even though the contestants really did only have 30 minutes to do this, or an hour to do that, it was spread out over multiple days.
4. How Do the Judges Choose a Winner?
This is probably the trickiest one to answer, which is weird because I was a judge, right? I can only speak for my episode, but on the first day of filming one of the producers was telling us about each of the contestants. It was a casual run-down, and not framed as instructions in any way. When he got to Elfie, the baker who won the episode, he said some nice things about her bakery and her personality and then he said, “She’s going to win.” It was definitely not “you are going to choose her,” it was more like a prediction. But I remember thinking it was a weird thing to say to the judges before the competition even started.
As the contest went on, it was clear that Elfie was, in fact, the superior baker, and she did end up winning. We judges had maybe a two-minute whispered conversation about who we were choosing, and I remember a production assistant looming over us insisting we hurry the whole time. (Which is also weird because it took two days to film this show – why are we in a big hurry all of the sudden?)
Nevertheless, we ended up agreeing with the producer and choosing Elfie as the winner. But I often wonder if they cast the show with a ringer, knowing full well who will win ahead of time. They definitely didn’t tell us who to eliminate, or in what order, so maybe it’s just chance that it ended up the way it did? Who knows.
5. How Do You Get on Cupcake Wars?
In my case, as a judge, the casting director and I had actually previously chatted about me possibly being on a different show she was working on. When they decided at the last minute that they needed a third judge she called me and I flew to L.A. the next day. But if you’re looking to compete on the show, keep your eye on the Food Network casting call page – it’s where they post about all of their competitions. They definitely also scout social media to see if any bakers are shaking things up on the Internet, too.
I hope that quenches people’s surprising thirst for knowledge about this show! If you still have questions leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!
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