Cake artist Tracy Irwin, of Sugar by Tracy, teams up with baker Julie Hallman on “Winner Bake All” on Food Network on Jan. 14. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Penhold baker competes in Food Network baking contest

Sugar by Tracy travels to California

A cake artist is putting Penhold on the culinary map.

Tracy Irwin, of Sugar by Tracy, was a competitor on Winner Cake All on the Food Network and the only Albertan on the new, televised contest that was filmed last October in California.

Hosted by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, four different baking teams go head to head each episode to create intricate cake toppers before tackling a massive theme cake display. The winner takes home $10,000.

Central Albertans will have to wait until Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. to see the episode when Irwin and baker Julie Hallman team up against challengers from New York, Los Angeles and Texas.

Irwin, 31, can’t reveal the winner, but said the five hours allotted to bake, build and decorate her 1.2-metre-tall cake display went by fast.

“It was an insane, gravity-defying structural cake that we’d never done before. And it worked. Our cake didn’t fall apart, which is great,” Irwin said with a laugh.

She said they had to change their plan halfway through, so stress ran high.

“There was a point where my teammate Julie thought I was going to walk off and leave. I was chewing the inside of my cheeks. I was like — don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry on TV,” Irwin said.

They worked with equipment they had never used before and they baked in an open-air tent in 30 C heat. Cameras were watching their every move, along with the judges.

Irwin said it was a surreal experience and it is still hard to believe Gida De Laurentiis ate her cake and watched her work.

Irwin started baking and decorating cakes in a commercial kitchen in her basement about seven years ago, and opened her Penhold bakery about a year ago. She was contacted by Winner Cake All after they saw her work on Instagram.

“They asked me if I was interested in coming down to compete. Who says no to that?”

Irwin’s cakes have been featured in a variety of wedding magazines, including Wedding Bells and Martha Stewart Weddings.

“My style is really quite edgy and different. I’m into texture. I do lots of butter cream and fondant work.”

Her interest in cakes began when she was young and watched baking shows on TV.

To come full circle and end up on a show was amazing, Irwin said.

“It was the most unreal, overwhelming, exciting experience of probably my entire life. I’m super crazy proud of what we did.”

Winner Cake All premiered Monday.

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