Pittsburgh friends show off creative skills on Food Network’s ‘Winner Cake All’
Winner Cake All
This baking experience definitely was the icing on the cake.
That’s what Pittsburgh-area friends Cathy Lucas Burnheimer and Lesley Polinko Wasielewski say about their upcoming appearance on the Food Network’s “Winner Cake All.” The episode airs at 10 p.m. Jan. 21.
The two say the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a pair of individuals who love to collaborate and create beautiful, fun desserts – some of which seem too pretty to eat.
“We both hustle so hard,” Burnheimer says. “No matter what is thrown at us, we can handle it. We both juggle our roles as wives, mothers and business owners. There is no one I would rather be with on the show than Les.”
‘Winner Cake All’
The new series, which premiered Jan. 7, brings together four, two-person baking teams each week in a series of challenges.
Food Network favorite Giada De Laurentiis oversees the themed competitions, in which contestants must create cake toppers as well as a massive themed cake display. They are inspired by personalities in television, sports and restaurants.
The winner gets a $10,000 prize. To do so, bakers must show their mastery of cake flavors and textures, as well as their ability to bring concepts to life in edible form.
The theme for Monday’s show is the performance of “Broadway Princess Party.” Three women from the production, which is led by musical director Benjamin Rauhala, were judges.
A rotating panel of judges decides the contestants’ fate each week. Look out for Dan Langan of “Baked By Dan” fame, Los Angeles bakery owner Kimberly Bailey, pastry chef Damiano Carrara and YouTube baking sensation Yolanda Gampp, among other all-stars. The cakes will be created for clients like TLC’s the Busbys, Guy Fieri, Michael Symon and former National Football League player Rashad Jennings.
The whirlwind experience began with a phone call and included Skype interviews, such as one in August where they had to make a “Super Hero Cake” and cut a slice so the Food Network interviewers could see that it was real cake.
They were sent plane tickets 22 hours before they were flown Oct. 7 to a vineyard in Los Angeles for taping of the show. There were seven cameras on them, and they say it also was a challenge to work in an unfamiliar kitchen.
A clear vision
The vision board in Burnheimer’s house has a certificate that reads “Cake Contest Winner — Cathy Burnheimer.”
The baker from Sarver says being on the show was definitely on her bucket list. She and Wasielewski were not allowed to reveal how they fared against teams from Michigan, Indiana and Texas.
After the first round, one team is eliminated and, of the remaining three, one wins $10,000.
When asked how the Food Network found her, Burnheimer says she would often hashtag the Food Network on Instagram with photos of her cakes. When she got the call from the network, Burnheimer jumped at the chance.
It wasn’t the first time she was contacted about being in a television baking program, but says she felt this one fit her skill set.
“The Food Network is the Super Bowl of what I do,” says Burnheimer, who burned her arm on hot sugar during filming. “It’s an absolute honor to be chosen to be on this show.”
Burnheimer’s business, Frosted Envy, was inspired by making desserts for the oldest of her three daughters, who has food allergies. The goodies became such favorites of friends and families that Burnheimer eventually decided to turn her passion into a profession.
She has fashioned cakes for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and all occasions in between. She has made cakes for singer Bret Michaels, who was in town for an event, and for many Steelers players.
Burnheimer has donated cakes to charitable causes, too.
Wasielewski, who lives in Pittsburgh and has a studio in Swissvale, is a polymer clay sculptor. The two met through a friend and originally offered keepsake toppers for wedding cakes. They teamed up to make Wasielewski’s wedding cake.
Her sculptures have appeared at the annual Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival and the Three Rivers Arts Festival. She hadn’t worked with modeling chocolate in the past, so she studied videos and read all the information she could find about the ingredient they would need to work with as part of the competition.
Both are self taught.
A great team
Being wives and mothers as well as business owners, they spent late nights studying and texting back and forth, sharing strategies and preparing for the competition.
“Cathy and I are so alike,” Wasielewski says. “We have fun. We are both creative, and our goal is to serve other people and make them happy. We share quirky humor. The laughter keeps us going. I knew how much this meant to Cathy and I wanted to help her fulfill this dream.”
“I cannot do what I do without her and she can’t do what she does without me,” Wasielewski says. “We have a lot of faith and trust in each other. It was a privilege to be there.”
They plan to watch Monday’s episode at home. There is a chance they could be called again this year for another appearance on the Food Network.
“I believe everyone is born with a special talent, and I am blessed to be able to be recognized by the world leader,” Burnheimer says. “The Food Network is at the top of the food chain in the food world.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne
at 724-853-5062 , [email protected]
or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .