Sweet Las Vegas: CakeSpy Does the Bake-Off, Volume Two

Remember how last year I went to the Pillsbury Bake-Off and it was basically the best experience of my life? 

Well...in spite of the fact that I hugged the Pillsbury Doughboy with a little too much ferocity and got some funny looks, they invited me back this year. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I hugged that Doughboy again. 

FACT: is a very cool thing and a big honor to be invited as a media guest to the Bake-Off. I am now going to try to give you a behind the scenes look at exactly how cool it was with a day by day review of what went on in Vegas. For more about the recipes of the Bake-Off, visit this post I wrote for Craftsy about the Cakes of the Bake-Off, and check back every five seconds at Serious Eats till they post my "snapshots from the Bake-Off" post. 

Day 1: Saturday 

I departed for Las Vegas from the Albuquerque airport. This is a pretty short flight, about an hour and a half, and I had a chance to catch up on some important world events in a little magazine called In Touch Weekly.

While I was flying, the worker bees were setting up 100 individual cooking stations in the event room, where in a few days 100 bakers would be competing for a million dollar prize.

Setting up bake-off

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, there were people holding "Bake-Off" signs at the airport, which made me feel like a VIP from the get-go. A few of us loaded up into a van, and off we went to the hotel. On the way I met Kelsey from The Naptime Chef who I think is the bee's knees. 

We stayed at a hotel called the Aria Resort. I'll tell the truth: I'm not much of a fancy hotel person. They kind of intimidate me. But when I got to my room and discovered you could operate the curtains with a remote control...well, I will tell you that this kept me amused just about til dinner time. 

Dinner was at the in-hotel restaurant, and it was then that I got to see how many of my friends old and new were at the Bake-Off: Alice of Savory Sweet Life, aforementioned Kelsey of The Naptime Chef, Marla of Family Fresh CookingJeff HouckJenny Flake, Julie of The Little Kitchen, Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie's Kitchen, Nicole of Baking Bites, and...AND! OMG! BAKERELLA! I haven't seen this girl for ages and it was such a pleasant surprise to see her. YES! 

In case you don't remember, me and Bakerella engaged in a war of sweetness a few years back. It included this video she made. Seriously!

Love that lady. 

Day 2: Sunday

Pillsbury does this neat-o thing for the media guests called the Food News Seminar. This is an all-day seminar about the state of the food union, and you have demos and talks from leading food experts. 

Jon ashton

Highlights: an engaging presentation from my new favorite Liverpudlian (sorry John, Paul, George and Ringo), Jon Ashton and a fascinating presentation on supermarket trends from "The Supermarket Guru" Phil Lempert. Seriously, can I tell you how happy I am that this dude exists? I am a big time lover of supermarkets, and can happily wander the aisles for hours considering how many types of off-brand pop tarts there are or why the cream cheese is in the butter aisle in some grocery stores and the cold cuts area in others. I think I've found my soul twin in this regard!

During a break, I got to visit with Bakerella and Tina, the winner of last year's Bake-Off. Aren't you amazed by how attractive we all are?

I also got to ogle some GE appliances that I can't afford during their presentation on their newest lines.

At dinner, I sat between Elise Bauer and Christina Verrelli, the winner of last year's Bake-Off. Talk about inspiring and interesting women. Elise of Simply Recipes is probably my new favorite person. She's interesting, funny, and really curious about and interested in all things food. 

Day 3: Monday. Bake-Off Day. 

It's Go Time. The day started out early--at about 6.30 a.m. I should probably tell you from the get-go that this is what I was wearing.

Photo via Elise of Simply RecipesIt began with a breakfast which was open to contestants and observers, which was interesting. The observers were more psyched, the contestants more nervous. 

The Bake-Off started with a merry band of percussionists playing kitchen utensils.


The entrants / contestants were then led on to a floor with all of the prepared baking stations.Bake-off

They got to work. And after 20 minutes or so of acclimating themselves, we the media guests were allowed to circulate and chat.


I got to see my BFF Brett, who was a third time entrant in the Bake-Off. For those in the know...this was his final chance. It's not a spoiler now: he didn't win a million bucks. But this hazelnut torte he dreamed up is a winner, in my book. So is Brett!


I also got to witness stressful moments like this:


Each person had the chance to bake their recipe a few times, so they could decide which one came out best to deliver to the judges. So you'd walk around and see signs like this:




But then, as the items were baked and the bakers delivered them to the judges, the left-behind ones were re-labeled...



Now, I should mention that as each entrant delivered their recipe to the judges, everyone paused to clap. Isn't that so sweet?



Oh, and Padma Lakshmi was walking the show floor too. No big. 


After the baking was done, we left the judges (who were sequestered) to it, and we all did our own thing for a few hours.


And then there was the awards ceremony. After much pomp and circumstance the winner was announced...


Glori Spriggs! Her recipe for loaded potato pinwheels was declared the winner. Learn more, and find the winning recipe, here.

Wow, what a trip! It was, once again, basically the best trip ever. I consider myself so incredibly lucky to have been invited again, and to have the chance to report on this wonderful event for youse-all. 

Last year, my meeting the Pillsbury people led to a recipe for Tunnel of Fudge Cake appearing in my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. Wonder what this year's Bake-Off will lead to...stay tuned!

To see all of the SWEET recipes from the Bake-Off, click here.