Questions For Ultimate Cake Competitors

Decorating By -Tubbs Updated 1 Apr 2010 , 3:36pm by KimAZ

-Tubbs Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 3:43pm
post #1 of 41

I know we have a few very talented cakers here on this site who have taken part in some of the Ultimate Cake competitions. I'd love to have the inside scoop on.....

1. How much notice the team is given on what the theme will be. Obviously when the client comes in and gives their little brief, that's just for the cameras, but I wonder how much planning and prep time is given beforehand.

2. How much actual work is done beforehand. I know the cakes are all baked, BC made etc. But is the fondant already coloured? What design elements are allowed to be made off-site?

3. Do the competitors get a financial allowance to take part? It must cost $$$ for all the materials, even if everyone gives their time for free.

4. I noticed the little disclaimer at the end of the credits, which says something to the effect of "The cake from the competition is not the cake served at the actual event". What's the story there? Is the winner required to recreate the cake at a later date?

Thanks for any inside info! Inquiring minds want to know!

40 replies
mamawrobin Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 5:17pm
post #2 of 41

I know that the competitors are given $3,000.00 and that they throw away the cakes made on the show. Can't answer the rest of your questions icon_smile.gif I was wondering about the coloring of fondant myself. That is such a time consuming element to decorating. Anxious to see the answers to your questions.

KimAZ Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 6:58pm
post #3 of 41

Hi there,
I'll share what I know from my experience of being on the show.

There is a huge contract to sign with all the rules. They are suppose to let the teams know one month in advance of taping the show what the theme is. However, in my team's case, we only got 2 1/2 weeks. I've read elsewhere that someone from another team knew 2 months in advance. Not sure why though as that wouldn't seem too fair.

Every team has to bring everything they'll need to the studio. All cakes, frosting, fondant, supplies, tools, right down to toothpicks, paper towels, dish rags, etc.

All cake is baked in advance. Obviously since teams know their design, they have to prepare and know exactly how much they'll need. I personally did 99% of the baking of all our cakes and made all the buttercream and royal icing a couple days before we travelled. Then packed it all up in boxes for the drive to CA. That's not true for all teams however. Other teams have to fly so they do it differently. Some baked once in CA at another bakery and other teams purchased their cakes premade. The sets at the studio are not working equipment except for the fridge and freezers.

My team colored fondant ahead of time and used fondant that was already colored. Other teams did color some fondant on the prep day which is the day before taping.

As for premaking items, they allow things to be made in advance but the teams are suppose to make those exact same items, same amount, during the show up to the point of drying time. The premade items can be used on the cake. All support structures such as the base board and support pieces for any cakes can be made in advance. All styrofoam pieces are cut in advance as well.

UCO provides the team leader with compensation which they get after the show is taped. All supplies and materials come out of the team leader's pocket until then and it was easily above the dollar amount they give.

The winning cake is taken to the event the next day and presented as a show piece. This was not in the rules, but I've read from other people who've been on the show that UCO provides sheet cakes to be served at the event. The two cakes that did not win are disassembled and thrown away the same night after taping.

I'm sure it's not all exactly the same for every show, but this was my experience.


Kiddiekakes Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 7:23pm
post #4 of 41

Wow..Thanks Kim for the inside info...Seems like a huge waste of cake though to just toss it away...They couldn't serve it to the sudience or something....Great to know the inside workings that go on though...

Chasey Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 7:37pm
post #5 of 41
Originally Posted by Kiddiekakes

...Seems like a huge waste of cake though to just toss it away...They couldn't serve it to the sudience or something.

I read on another thread (maybe by Sharon and Patty?) that the cake layers are most likely several days old by the time the show is taped and of course, another day or two older for the actual event. Yuck! I'm sure that there is a liability issue in serving the audience those cakes baked who knows where, in addition to the stale factor. icon_razz.gif

Kiddiekakes Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 7:47pm
post #6 of 41

Oh...I see icon_redface.gificon_redface.gif ..I guess I didn't think of that..You are right...Yuck!!!!

DanaG21 Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 7:54pm
post #7 of 41

Sorry if this is a silly question but I'm dying to know if they use an shortening based BC or a traditional butter based BC? I would assume the first one due to the lights and heat on the set? I always thought it was funny that for the cake tasting someone would offer chocolate cake yet the cake they were creating in the kitchen was all yellow cake!

-Tubbs Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 8:38pm
post #8 of 41

This is all fascinating information, Kim. Thanks very much for sharing! It's so interesting to see behind the scenes of 'TV caking', and how different it is from 'real caking'!

I also wondered about the cakes, since the cake tasted in the Taste Test cake is clearly not what they are working with. So the taste test is all for show, then?

KimAZ Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 10:21pm
post #9 of 41

To answer the questions from above:

There is no audience. It's a closed set so only the 3 teams, judges, host and production team are there.

Again, I don't know the real reasoning for not serving the winning cake but I do know that the cakes are stored in the fridge and freezers the whole time (other than during transportation) so even though they were baked in advance they would be perfectly fine to serve and eat even a week later. It's not like the cake was sitting out on some counter the whole time.

Each team uses their own buttercream according to whatever recipe they like. I know ours was made using Sweetex, Bright White, butavan and powdered sugar so it was made with good ingredients. The lights in the studio were not hot so it wasn't an issue of melting.

The actual cake is not the same cake as the Tasting cake. Those are made seperate just for the judging. I can't imagine making thousands of servings for the real cake using the specialized flavors and fillings used for the taste test cake. Can you imagine the cost? Whoa!! Our cake was over 3500 servings. So yes, the tasting cake is just for show.


cammyblake1 Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 10:38pm
post #10 of 41

Because it would be gross to serve it? You're threading it over pipes, pvc, your hot sweaty hands are all over it, all sanitary concerns are out the window when you are assembling, there is no quality control "tracking" from when you bake it to when it's assembled. Probably many more factors.

mkolmar Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 11:08pm
post #11 of 41

ewww, good point cammyblake1.

I wonder if SMBC or IMBC would hold up under the lights, that would be my icing of choice. YUM!

costumeczar Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 11:37pm
post #12 of 41

I wouldn't want to eat any of those things! Too many cooks in the kitchen/hands on the product.

mamawrobin Posted 24 Mar 2010 , 11:42pm
post #13 of 41
Originally Posted by costumeczar

I wouldn't want to eat any of those things! Too many cooks in the kitchen/hands on the product.

I agree. Yuck.

sugarshack Posted 25 Mar 2010 , 1:43am
post #14 of 41

Yep, and it is a dirty studio, not a food safe kitchen. yucky poo.

-Tubbs Posted 25 Mar 2010 , 2:04am
post #15 of 41

Ha! And my daughter asked me to ask about that ramp/bump that has to be negotiated when the cake is finished. She said "You can't tell me there wasn't another studio available somewhere that didn't have a bump to get over!" Good point. Is it just to add drama?

The_Lil_Cakehouse Posted 25 Mar 2010 , 2:12am
post #16 of 41

I was wondering the other day if you get to keep your competition chef shirt things (lol can you tell I don't know the technical name for them)

KimAZ Posted 25 Mar 2010 , 5:04am
post #17 of 41

Yes, the ramp bump is just for drama. The cakes are super heavy on the transporter so they have to be lifted onto the ramp over that bump. Makes for good drama I guess.

And yes, we got to keep our chef jackets. thumbs_up.gif


JenniferAtwood Posted 25 Mar 2010 , 8:35pm
post #18 of 41

A portion of your cake does have to be the tasting cake.

As far as the notice you get. They try to give teams 1 month notice they will be on the show. A team might get less if a team drops out and a replacement team has to be found.

We have a friend that owns a bakery 6 blocks from the studio so we baked our cake at his shop.

The type of icing used depends on the decorator and their personal likes.

Denise Posted 25 Mar 2010 , 9:54pm
post #19 of 41

they built a false floor in the studio - I guess because there is a ton of electrical cords! The ramp is to get from the regular floor to the false floor. They could have built it to where there is no bump though if they had wanted.

As for the jackets - we competed twice - last year in July and no we didn't get to keep the jacket. We competed in January and we did get to keep the jacket. Woot. Becky and Martha did buy Jennifer and I pink jackets last year and had the UCO logo embroidered on them so I have two jackets - a pink and a gold one!

The_Lil_Cakehouse Posted 25 Mar 2010 , 10:25pm
post #20 of 41

How fun!!

adree313 Posted 25 Mar 2010 , 10:30pm
post #21 of 41

I have a question, too.

The teams know what the challenge/theme is before hand, yet when the clock starts they sort of act like they're just coming up with the design. Though, I guess that could be interpreted as just getting the game plan down before you officially start. My question though, is how long are you required to "pretend" or "map all that out"? (It seems like wasting time to me because I would assume you had it all planned down to the minute beforehand. Though... I guess it is for television... ah!)

JaeRodriguez Posted 26 Mar 2010 , 12:02am
post #22 of 41

That's a good question adree! and Tubbs my hubby says the same thing- it drives him nuts to see them have to scoot the cake over that bump! icon_razz.gif

I hate that the tasting challange has nothing to do with the actual cake that will be served, that's one of my favorite parts of the show to see the flavors and then to find out it was all for drama/show broke my heart!

deli1777 Posted 26 Mar 2010 , 4:01am
post #23 of 41

As said above, some competitors drop out and others are brought in to replace.. in the most recent episode, Ameila Carbine from UT had only 2 weeks notice that she was even going to be on the show, much less the theme. Others have been required at the last minute (we're talking after supplies have already been shipped and the day before leaving ourselves) to make changes to design although they had sketches and design plans for over a month. We're talking MAJOR changes. thumbsdown.gif

If I remember correctly, we had to use 15 or 20 minutes of the 9 hours each time "sketching and planning out our design."

The ramp could easily be built so there is a seamless transition from the two levels.

Everything is for the sake of drama. tapedshut.gif

Denise Posted 26 Mar 2010 , 5:55am
post #24 of 41

I think it was 15 minutes. It it is just for show.

I remember last year when Martha called to tell me our theme. We were hoping for a wedding! LOL I was standing in the paddock with my horse and she said it was automotive. I nearly had a cow. icon_cry.gif LOL That was about 4 weeks before we went.

The changing major things just before people fly out is the pits. I don't understand that!

KimAZ Posted 26 Mar 2010 , 4:43pm
post #25 of 41

They told us we had to change the whole bottom part of our cake TWO DAYS before taping. That was the day we arrived, so it was a big scramble to figure out what to do. Totally unnessasary really because they had all three teams' designs two weeks prior.


foxymomma521 Posted 26 Mar 2010 , 5:41pm
post #26 of 41

I have one... Why are there always tubs of Fondarific in the background? It doesn't seem like they are just left there by accident...

JenniferAtwood Posted 26 Mar 2010 , 9:42pm
post #27 of 41

Fonderific is a paid sponsor. You do not have to use the product, but it has to be shown.

foxymomma521 Posted 26 Mar 2010 , 11:28pm
post #28 of 41


sugarshack Posted 27 Mar 2010 , 12:04am
post #29 of 41
Originally Posted by KimAZ

They told us we had to change the whole bottom part of our cake TWO DAYS before taping. That was the day we arrived, so it was a big scramble to figure out what to do. Totally unnessasary really because they had all three teams' designs two weeks prior.


they tried something similar with us


sugarshack Posted 27 Mar 2010 , 12:11am
post #30 of 41

Just another thing to think about: I am NOT complaining, just explaining it so u all get a better idea of the real deal.

The lead competitor is out of the kitchen way more than it shows. The taping of the cake tasting took about 1 hour and 15 mins for our episode, then when I returned to our kitchen after that, we were not allowed to use our sheeter for maybe another hour, as they were taping "sound bites" right next to our kitchen and it was making too much noise. And no, we were not finished putting fondant on our cakes. icon_sad.gif

The skills challenge took a good 45 minutes, then each time they announce a mini test winner, that takes another 15-20 minutes.

Production and filming technicalities really slow down the process, but the clock never stops. So even if you never sit out, you really do not have a full 9 hours of 4 people working.

It was hard ! LOL I built in buffers into our schedule for all of these things, since I had gone last season, and it still was not enough; we barely got finished! But lots of fun too.

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