Tasty details

Grand Valley woman tells of 'Cupcake Wars' appearance

Pattie Dravis of Pattie’s Tiny Cakes holds a tray with an assortment of mini cupcakes that she made for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Among Pattie Dravis’ most beloved cupcake flavors are chocolate cream cheese, margarita and a twist on fruit cake, so imagine the horror when the Redlands baker was challenged to bake with beets and apple pie.

Well, the apple pie was fine, but Dravis hates beets and couldn’t bring herself to bake a beet cupcake. So she didn’t, and it may have cost her $10,000.

Dravis, owner of Pattie’s Tiny Cakes, appeared on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” on Sunday, May 19, as one of four national cupcake bakers selected to compete in three elimination rounds for $10,000.

Dravis was eliminated in the first round, which is perhaps the toughest round because it is the only one where bakers have little control over what ingredients they can use.

“It would have been fun to win, but I didn’t,” Dravis said with a smile.

During Dravis’ episode, which will air again at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 25, on Food Network, the theme was “Cosmic Cupcakes” in honor of the arrival of Space Shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center. Producers gave the competitors classic American and Russian ingredients to pair in homage to joint space interests.

Among the American ingredients Dravis could use were apple pie, grilled cheese sandwiches or fried chicken. Among the Russian ingredients she could pair with an American ingredient were borscht, picked herring or blinis.

Pickled herring is, well, pickled herring. Fried chicken is, well, fried chicken, and borscht is, well, beet soup.

Dravis selected apple pie and blinis because she thought those two flavors would work together and because “everyone else grabbed beets.”

None of the contestants knew the round one ingredients in advance, Dravis said.

After baking, frosting and decorating a dozen cupcakes in 45 minutes, Dravis was sent home because the two main judges, Candace Nelson and Florian Bellanger, didn’t like her concept. Dravis said she thought Nelson barely even touched one of her cupcakes.

In other words, Dravis was beaten by beets. But during a small viewing party May 19 at her Redlands home, Dravis was far from beaten down.

The entire experience is one Dravis is glad she did instead of wishing she’d done.

“I told her to go for it,” said longtime friend Joyce Looney.

When Dravis opened Pattie’s Tiny Cakes several years ago after a long career as a flight attendant, she simply wanted people to taste her cupcakes. The opportunity to be on “Cupcake Wars,” a show she watched for years, came when she was selected in October after sending in an audition video.

Her episode was recorded in Los Angeles in early November and around that time a camera crew came to Grand Junction to record video of Dravis baking here. Few people knew about any of it, and for the past six months, Dravis was contractually obligated to keep her appearance on the show a secret.

One of those people in on the “Cupcake Wars” secret was Dravis’ younger sister and baking assistant, Kelly Kenyon, who lives in Wisconsin.

Dravis picked her sister because she’s a good decorator and “I knew I could yell at her, and she wouldn’t care.”

A few seconds of the introductory video on the May 19 “Cupcake Wars” premiere showed Dravis yelling at Kenyon because the blinis were burning.

Dravis just laughed and rolled her eyes. It was intense in the kitchen, she said.

What viewers didn’t see was Kenyon struggling to stand. She had an infection that sent both sisters searching for a hospital shortly after their elimination from the show.

Once Kenyon returned to Wisconsin, she was admitted to a hospital and a blood test revealed she had leukemia. After chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, Kenyon is doing better, Dravis said.

“She’s almost ready to drive,” Dravis said.

Dravis called Kenyon several minutes before the May 19 episode came on to make sure the family was watching. “Cupcake Wars” is a favorite show of Kenyon’s 10-year-old daughter.

Admittedly, running around for 45 minutes baking cupcakes, as cameras recorded every move “was more work than I want to do to make a cupcake,” said Dravis, who won Best Dessert at Taste of the Grand Valley earlier this year.

In the months after Cupcake Wars recorded, Dravis tried to make beet cupcakes in the comfort of her own kitchen. They were just not good, Dravis said, shaking her head.

She also baked the three signature cupcakes she would have prepared had she advanced to round two of “Cupcake Wars.”

“Round two is where you shine,” Dravis said.

Given that the theme was space-centric for Dravis’ episode, she would have made: “Man In the Pumpkin,” a pumpkin turtle cake with pecan and chocolate chip filling, a pumpkin frosting and topped with a white chocolate astronaut; “Fly Me To the Fruit,” an orange cake with raspberry filling, pineapple frosting and topped with a milk chocolate space shuttle; and “Moon Pie,” a chocolate cake with marshmallow whipped cream filling, chocolate ganache frosting and topped with a white chocolate half moon.

Dravis served the three samplers at her viewing party, where her three close girlfriends agreed that Dravis won simply by being on the show.

“I’m a baker,” Dravis said. “I’m not a TV personality.”

Online: Pattie’s Tiny Cakes, pattiestinycakes.com.


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