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Willy Wonka dreaming

Elizabeth Rackoff
Special to the Daily/Toni AxelrodPastry chefs Julie Durkee of Torino Baking in Berkeley, Calif., right, and Rebecca Sutterby of Sugar Creations in Savonburg, Kan., won first place at the Cake Relay competition in Beaver Creek Wednesday. Other winners were: second place Lisa Raffael of Delicious Desserts in Falmouth, Mass., and Marjorie Chua of Let Them Eat Cake in Costa Mesa, Calif. Third place Richard Ruskell of Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, Calif., and Carol Murdock of Classic Cakes in West Hartford, Conn.
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BEAVER CREEK Isnt it everyones dream to enter Willy Wonkas candy room where the chocolate river flows and candied mushroom caps host whipped cream dwellings? In a youthful effort to fulfill a part of that dream, I traveled to the Cake Relay competition in Beaver Creek on Wednesday. Taped by the Food Network, the event was part of the Beaver Creek Culinary Classic, sponsored by Bon Appetit. It will be aired on the network in the spring or early summer.With two pastry chefs per team, five sets of culinary duos competed for best celebration cake. One chef is sequestered in the green room while their partner works, then they switch hence relay in the contests title every hour until eight hours pass. Winners received $10,000. Walking through the familiar doors of the Vilar Center, I hoped to see buttercream adornments and tubby chefs with rosy cheeks. Instead, theres an eclectic mix of five chefs standing upstage dressed in jazzy television colors, and black-clad crew members man the downstage area. Camera crews hunting for the perfect angle blocked the view a bit, but with a slight turn of the head, I could see the chef of the hour Steven Watts from Rockport, Maine. He was carving away the edges of a square Styrofoam base in order to create an edge flush to the chocolate cake that was perched on top.Each chef was at a different stage, some building the architecture of the design while others kneaded pink dye into fondant, which I learned when watching is a confection that starts as sugar syrup and is crystallized to a smooth, creamy white mass. Its used for both icing cakes and cake decorations and looks like it just sprung out of Wonkas world. Chef Marjorie Chua from Costa Mesa, Calif., kneaded her fondant from from blanch white to sweet-16 pink, and it appeared as if she was trying to manipulate a frozen strawberry-flavored Charleston Chew. Her relaxed pace sets the standard for the relay; surprisingly, since its a timed competition. I wait for the intensity, a fire in the kitchen per se, but I only see a glimmer of urgency from the Alexandra Frankel of Brownstone Cake Company in New York and Steven Watts of Sweet Sensations in Rockport Maine. For a moment it seems that this couple must surely be ahead of the rest because that kind of subtle attitude makes a Food Network winner. But the Green Team, chefs Julie Durkee and Rebecca Sutterby, earn the win and the $10,000 with their Dr. Suess-esque six-layered creation complete with stars springing from the layers. In the end, all of the cakes reminded me of Willy Wonkas land of sugar dreams. It triggered my youth and the sweet tooth in all who was watching.

In a youthful effort to fulfill a part of that dream, I traveled to the Cake Relay competition in Beaver Creek on snowy Wednesday. Taped by the Food Network, the event was part of the Beaver Creek Culinary Classic, sponsored by Bon Appetit. It will be aired on the network in the spring or early summer.With two pastry chefs per team, five sets of culinary duos competed for best celebration cake. One chef is sequestered in the green room while their partner works, then they switch – hence “relay” in the contest’s title. This occurs every hour until eight hours pass. Winners received $10,000.

Walking through the familiar doors of the Vilar Center, I hoped to see buttercream adornments and tubby chefs with rosy cheeks. Instead, there’s an eclectic mix of five chefs standing upstage dressed in jazzy television colors, and black-clad crew members man the downstage area. Camera crews hunting for the perfect angle blocked the view a bit, but with a slight turn of the head, I could see the chef of the hour – Steven Watts from Rockport, Maine. He was carving away the edges of a square Styrofoam base in order to create an edge flush to the chocolate cake that was perched on top.

Each chef was at a different stage, some building the architecture of the design while others kneaded pink dye into their fondant, which I learned when watching, is a confection that starts as sugar syrup and is crystallized to a smooth, creamy white mass. It’s used for both icing cakes and cake decorations and looks like it just sprung out of Wonka’s world. Chef Marjorie Chua from Costa Mesa, Calif., kneaded her fondant from from blanch white to sweet-16 pink, and it appeared as if she was trying to manipulate a frozen strawberry flavored Charleston Chew. Her relaxed pace sets the standard for the relay; surprisingly, since it’s a timed competition.

I wait for the intensity, a fire in the kitchen per se, but I only see a glimmer of urgency from the Black Team. For a moment it seems that this group must surely be ahead of the rest because that kind of subtle attitude makes a Food Network winner. They already have four different-flavored cakes prepared to frost when the other teams have one or two, and it is only Round No. 1.

But the Green Team, chefs Julie Durkee and Rebecca Sutterby, earn the win – and the $10,000 – with their Dr. Suess-esque six-layered creation complete with stars springing from the layers. In the end, all of the cakes reminded me of Willy Wonka’s land of sugar dreams. It triggered my youth and the sweet tooth in all who was watching.

Vail, Colorado


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