Cupcake Wars: Cupcake Champions premiered May 13 on the Food Network with the first of five intense battles featuring returning winners. The four talented bakers invited to take part in the premiere episode were charged with creating cupcakes good enough to please a superhero.
Participants included Rebecca Ybarra of Suite 106 Cupcakes, Lily Fischer of A Cupcake Wonderland, Ron Bzdewka of House of Cupcakes Bakery, and Heather McDonnell of Cupcraze Cakery.
Host Justin Willman kicked off the hour by revealing that the winner of the night's competition would advance to the next round in the quest for the $50,000 prize, and hop on a plane to have his or her cupcake display featured at a party for the Broadway musical Spiderman - Turn off the Dark.
Assisted by Spiderman himself, Justin unveiled the table of ingredients, which featured currants, pumpkin, apricots, molasses, oats and kale, and threw in an unpleasant surprise: the bakers were required to use not just two but all six items in their cupcakes. With 45 minutes on the clock, the hopefuls got to work creating their masterpieces.
When time expired, they faced judges Candace Nelson and Florian Bellanger and guest judge Phil McKinley, director of the musical. While Lily's confection was praised by all three panelists, the others' offerings weren't so well-received. Rebecca was panned for making pumpkin "the star" of her cake and for using some of the ingredients as nothing more than a garnish. Candace called Heather's cupcake "confused," and Phil deemed it "a preview" rather than the "main show." Ron took heat for an overly simplistic vanilla/cream cheese frosting. After deliberations, Ron was first to be dismissed.
The three remaining bakers then moved on to round two, which required them to creating cupcakes embodying the characters of three of Spiderman's nemeses. All were required to represent the Green Goblin, but were allowed to choose their other two from among the musical's Sinister Six.
Lily was pumped over her first round success, but got down to business. In addition to the Green Goblin, she went with Swiss Miss and Swarm. Heather's second and third choices were Swarm and Carnage, while Rebecca opted to go with Swiss Miss and Carnage.
Lily once again presented the judges with three beautifully executed and visually pleasing cupcakes. Candace was especially pleased with her Swiss Miss offering. Florian called them "pretty good" but said that she should've made the lime flavoring in her Green Goblin cupcake more intense. Heather's trio left Candace feeling "crestfallen," and Florian disliked her decorations and the cupcakes themselves. Rebecca was last to present. Florian wanted "more decoration, more volume, more color" but called her Green Goblin cupcake excellent. He especially loved her use of pop rocks. Moments later, Heather's lack of good execution led to her ouster, leaving Rebecca and Lily to face round three.
The two were charged with creating a 1,000-cupcake display worthy of appearing at a New York VIP Party for the musical. They were each given two carpenters, four baking assistants, and a special effects technician to help them make their cupcakes literally "fly" like Spiderman.
While Rebecca worked to create a traditionally bright lights of Broadway kind of display, Lily focused on big buildings in "gritty New York City." Rebecca addressed the judges' concerns with her cupcakes, and everyone else worked frenetically to get the job done.
Lily was pleased with her display, but Rebecca criticized it was "not really comic book-y." Rebecca was very pleased with her "glittery," "glammy" display, but of course Lily wasn't impressed with her competitor's showpiece.
When time expired and the showpieces were filled with cupcakes, an upset seemed in store. But what did the judges think? After deliberations, Rebecca Ybarra was declared the winner, mostly thanks to her heavy, "dead-on" Spiderman branding.
Who will win the second battle of Cupcake Wars: Cupcake Champions on the Food Network? Watch the next episode on May 20 to find out.