Cupcake Wars: Gluten-Free Goodies vs. Christmas Cannoli

by in Shows, December 9th, 2010
For the premiere of Cupcake Wars Season Two, Candace loved judging alongside Lash Ferry: "Gift-giver to the stars AND an avid home baker!"

Cupcake Wars judge Candace Nelson is the founder and pastry chef of Sprinkles Cupcakes, the world’s first cupcake bakery. She joins us on the FN Dish each week to recap all the sweet details of the competition from her seat at the judges’ table. Here’s what she had to say about the Season Two premiere, Tree Lighting.

If someone had told me that a gluten-free baker would come within inches of winning a Cupcake Wars this season, I wouldn’t have believed it. Having worked with wheat-free flours myself, I know how tricky it is to avoid the gummy, leaden pitfalls of gluten-free baking. But tasting is believing, and Kyra from Crave Bakeshop served up some seriously good cupcakes—gluten-free or not!

Three of Brenda DePonte's winning cupcakes.

However, the win went to Brenda of Sugar Bakery & Sweet Shop, who baked alongside her mom and with a lot of heart all day, and who ultimately dazzled us with a sleek, gorgeous sleigh design that truly belonged at the Hollywood & Highland tree lighting event.

Brenda's sleek and wintry white sleigh display.

Florian and I were initially puzzled by Brenda’s cannoli cupcake. Gingerbread, eggnog, sure… but cannoli? They certainly don’t scream “holidays” to most people. But Brenda’s family is Italian and with her cannoli cupcake she was paying homage to their Italian heritage. Family, food, tradition… now isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Thanks for tuning in to Cupcake Wars Season Two premiere. We have so many more goodies in store for you this season, so keep watching. See you next week at the judges’ table!

Check out for more about Cupcake Wars, plus dozens of our best cupcake recipes.

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Comments (15)

  1. Ashlee says:

    I loved Brenda's cupcakes and her GORGEOUS sleigh display. Both she, her mom, AND her work are so classy and elegant! And her flavors and combinations were unique and interesting without being too over the top!

  2. I loved working with you and your mom on Cupcake Wars! You were so passionate about your product and paid attention to each detail all while keeping a pleasant and professional attitude.

  3. Kyra says:

    Thanks Candace! We had a lot of fun competing!

  4. Amy says:

    I loved wathcing Kyra compete. I have tasted her cupcakes and I have to agree with Candace – they are fabulous. I'm not GF out of necessity but I am GF by choice when I dive into one of Crave Bake Shop's amazing creations!

  5. Jane says:

    Why did Florian recently tell a contestant that isomalt was not edible and would make you sick? There
    are many edible isomalt jewels and decorations.

  6. luvcookin says:

    The Food Network should just relable itself “the Competition Network”. That’s what it has turned into. Endless competitions one after another. Or the Marc Summers network with his “unwrapped” shows. I can’t stand him. The network puts on shows filmed years ago!

  7. michelle says:

    I'm lucky enough to live 10 minutes from Sugar Bakery and enjoy Brenda's cupcakes at least once a month. So glad to see that Food Network can see that that place is AMAZING!

  8. I enjoy watching the show and wish I was there tasting each cupcake sometimes, but, my question is……what do you do with the other 1000 cupcakes?

  9. JoJo says:

    I like watching the show, but am I the only one bothered by Candace being a judge? Her cupcake suck, their really not that good. And yes, I've tried them. They taste like they came out of a box of cupcake mix. The red velvet taste like it was made with old oil. My husband and I were very disappointed. We don't see anything special about her cupcakes. We looked up reviews on sprinkles and all the review say the same thing "Duncan Hines at best".

  10. NATTY says:


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