Millions of people around the country tuned in last night to watch local cupcake guru Kevin VanDeraa win the finale of the Food Network's Cupcake Champions, a tournament of past winners of the popular series Cupcake Wars. VanDeraa, owner of the popular Minneapolis bakery Cupcake, beat out the top three competitors to take home the grand prize of $50,000. At the finale viewing party, VanDeraa's friends and family heard the announcement of his victory for the first time via the big screen.
The event was held at the New Century Theater in downtown Minneapolis. Approximately 150 people gathered to drink wine, eat cupcakes, and await the closely guarded results. VanDeraa's local fans both cheered and jeered as the competition raged on.
An early mistake almost took VanDeraa out of the competition. In the first test of the evening, the contestants had to create a cupcake fashioned out of the flavors of select Food Network stars. Claiming to have the closest connection with one Alton Brown, VanDeraa created a cupcake using a grape-juice-poached pear, a bourbon butterscotch butter cream, and a honey, walnut, pecan nougatine, but VanDeraa made the near fatal mistake of omitting half of the flour from the recipe.
After his near booting from the competition, VanDeraa made a stellar comeback with a trio of cupcakes. His fancy carrot cupcake, a s'more cupcake, and one of our personal favorites and Cupcake staple, the Boston creme cupcake, wowed the judges. Judge and famous pastry chef Florian Bellanger said, "I think that at this level of competition it was pretty risky to give us just a carrot cake, but since it was a really good carrot cake, it worked for you."
Food Network general manager Bob Tuschman said, "It was fantastic storytelling. You did Kevin the mini-series in three cupcakes."
In the end, Minneapolis's VanDeraa won out in a contest that involved not only re-imagining all the cupcakes he had produced previously in the episode, but also creating a staging platform that would display his cakes in proper Food Network fashion. His Food Network-themed tower displayed a spinning cube complete with monitors that streamed the Food Network.
When his victory was announced, the live crowd erupted in a standing ovation. VanDeraa then did a brief Q&A with the audience, clearly reveling in his victory. When asked how he was going to spend his earnings, he said it would be "going back into the business."
When asked how his assistant, Shane, would be compensated, VanDeraa joked that, "he is salaried at Cupcake, so when he was in California he was still getting paid."
VanDeraa also let loose a bit of what to expect in the future, including a long-awaited St. Paul location and a possible Mall of America spot. "We have one more hearing on the 15th [in St. Paul], but then hopefully they'll process the paperwork and then they'll send it off to the City Council, and then maybe we can have a business license and we can start construction again."
"And we are also talking to the Mall of American about a little shop down there, so that could be a lot of fun too down there in that tiny little mall in Bloomington," VanDeraa joked.
You can look for VanDeraa this upcoming Saturday at the Mall of America to commemorate his winning with the general public. There will of course be cupcakes for sale.