When one thinks of Jersey food-what comes to mind? Tomatoes, corn, diners? How about cupcakes? Now Jersey can claim cupcake pride, with Princeton’s House of Cupcakes taking the cake on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” show.
Ruthie and Ron Bzdewka have been creating sweet confections at the shop on Witherspoon Street in Princeton Borough for more than two years.
With victory under their belt, their yummy confections will be flying off the shelves faster than ever before, and the shop has seen a boost in business since the show aired for the first time last week.
Their most popular flavor is red velvet, which outsells all other flavors two to one. Even their sons, Rage and Riot, have their own signature cupcakes–Chocolate Rage and Vanilla Riot.
Flavors range from maple frosted (pictured here) to Nerds to Key Lime to peanut butter cup and seasonal selections are offered throughout the year.
Their win has been under wraps since the couple taped the show in September in Los Angeles. The challenge for their episode was to create 1,000 cupcakes in four different flavors with a Cirque du Soleil theme. The winners were whisked off to the album release party in Las Vegas for the newest Cirque du Soleil show, “Viva Elvis,” and their cupcakes were the star of the show.
With a Cirque de Soile theme, contestants chose between ingredients that began with o for the “O” show at the Bellagio or Asian themed ingredients for the “Ka” show at the MGM Grand for the first challenge.
Contestants have no idea of the theme or ingredients beforehand. They arrive in LA, come to the kitchen and begin baking with no prep time at all. The Bzdewkas only found out they were on the show a few days beforehand, so they didn’t even have time to practice their speed-baking.
“You get there and they spring this on you,” said Ms. Bzdewka. The Bzdewkas had seen both shows, so they chose “O.”
First cupcake was a two-layer cupcake with an oatmeal base of cake topped with an oatmeal cookie and frosted with black and white orange cream cheese frosting. An orange liquor shooter was in the middle as part of the decoration.
The judges found his cupcake to be very flavorful with the theme ingredients, but one judge called the frosting too sweet and did not like the black food coloring, which left the judges lips and teeth a dark purple color after tasting. Competitors made flavors like coconut thai basil cupcakes, oxtail cupcakes and wasabi frosting.
For round two, they stepped up their game and went with two savory cupcakes and one sweet when they had to create three additional cupcake flavors. The first one they came up for this round was a beer and sauerkraut cupcake. “The beer makes it light and airy,” said Ron Bzdewka. It had a chocolate base with beer frosting with a chocolate liquor shooter.
The second creation was a tomato soup cake, which when baked is left with the spice of the cupcake with an amaretto icing and amaretto shooter. The final cupcake was an espresso cupcake and peanut butter frosting with a coffee tequila shooter.
All the cupcakes were decorated with fondants cut outs representative of the shows. Competitors created passion-fruit pineapple cupcakes, chocolate raspberry, banana split, and strawberry cupcakes.
Ron, “green giant” Bzdewka managed their time well, and had three frosted, decorated cupcakes ready on time for the judges. The competition didn’t fare so well, with frosting melting off hot cupcakes, no decorations or not finishing all three on time. “We bake every day so we know how fast we can do stuff,” said Ms. Bzdewka. “We use our recipes every day and went with that. There is no recipe, you don’t know the kitchen, you just go; that’s why it’s so hard.”
Judges were mixed on their reviews, not liking the sauerkraut or saying come of the cupcakes were dry. For the third round they had to create 1,000 cupcakes with their four recipes and create displays. The three-part display Ron came up with rotated and had lights on it. They had a half dozen assistants to help them.
The other team began to melt down over orange zest as the House of Cupcakes worked in harmony. The other team called the Bdzweka’s display with blinking lights “hi, we sell used cars,” as Ron called theirs “80’s themed” with zebra stripes and feathers. The judges called the Bdzweka’s shooters different and never before seen on the show, and liked that you could eat and drink at the same time.
Eventually the flavors will be making appearances at the store, said Ms. Bdzweka. The family is donating their $10,000 cash prize to St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital. Cupcakes are $2.25 each, when you buy five, you get one free. When you buy 10, you get two free.
House of Cupcakes can be found on the web at: www.thehouseofcupcakes.com/home. Their audition video is online as well.
Victoria Hurley-Schubert, Regional Editor Ocean County, is a true Jersey girl. Raised in Marlboro, Vikki has lived in the area her whole life. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and is happiest when feeding a houseful of friends and family. A journalist for 10 years, she now serves on the staff of the Princeton Packet. Vikki is happiest on the road, so it should be no Surprise she is a travel agent specializing in Disney destinations. Follow her on Twitter @vikkihs.