By Maureen McEwan
A local business recently enjoyed some time in the spotlight.
Batter Up Bakery was featured on an episode of the Food Network’s television show The Big Bake: Holiday this fall.
The show is a “larger-than-life baking competition series with themed episodes,” according to the Food Network’s website.
Every episode, three professional baking teams have just five hours to design, bake and decorate a “grand-scale cake creation.” At the end of each episode, the winning team goes home with a $10,000 prize.
The Batter Up team competed on the first episode of the second season—“12 Days of Cakemas”—which aired Nov. 1.
“It was just so surreal. It was one of those things that you dreamt of doing and then it was finally happening,” said Jamie-Lynn Pokrzywka, owner of Batter Up Bakery.
“You can’t help but take it all in—the lights, the camera, the set,” she added. “It’s so unbelievably cool to see that firsthand.”
Batter Up Bakery opened its doors at 396 Athlone Ave. in October 2020. Pokrzywka said she had applied to The Big Bake: Holiday even before she opened the Westboro storefront last year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the show’s filming was put on hold temporarily, but she heard back about her application last November. The bakery team was selected to compete, and filming was set for February 2021.
When the big day came around, Pokrzywka actually had two reasons to celebrate.
“[They] filmed it on my birthday. It was my first COVID birthday, so if you are going to have a COVID birthday, you might as well do it on a TV set is the way I went with it!” she said, laughing.
For her team, Pokrzywka had to choose two bakers to compete alongside her. Her first teammate selection was one of her closest friends, Kristin.
“Kristin is one of my best friends from college. We’ve known each other [for a long time] and she happens to do cakes on the side for fun as well—but she has an interior design background like myself—and I know she works really well under the gun.”
But Pokrzywka was then faced with a tough decision when selecting the third and final teammate. Ultimately, she went with seniority on the Batter Up Bakery team and asked Fiona, the very first employee she hired.
“We brought Fiona along and she was a champion and did a really amazing job,” Pokrzywka said.
The trio worked well under pressure. When the five hour countdown began, Pokrzywka said each team member brought different strengths to the table.
“We all got along really well—there was never any drama. It was easy to work together, we had really great ideas that jived together and we were all able to collaborate.”
And the team leader felt that they were represented well on the show.
“I’m really happy with how they portrayed us because I like to have fun in the kitchen and we work hard, play hard,” she added.
The show’s judges included chef and author Eddie Jackson, chef and author Harry Eastwood and chef and cake designer Ron Ben-Israel.
On the episode, each team’s cake had to feature a lyric from the well-known carol “12 Days of Christmas” in their overall design theme. Batter Up Bakery’s creation “Snowman’s Land” featured the “11 pipers piping” lyric.
But the competition wasn’t a piece of cake. The biggest challenge throughout the day was managing the “unexpected” elements, Pokrzywka said, and staying creative.
“It’s all the unexpected, right?” she said. “Everything that was happening that was out of your control and [there’s] a lot of problem-solving during the episode.”
Thankfully, the team was competing against six friendly fellow bakers from across Canada.
“We got really lucky. We hit the jackpot with our competitors for sure,” Pokrzywka said.
Even with the pandemic restrictions, the teams were able to bond throughout the filming. It was a chance to build friendships with people they wouldn’t normally meet, Pokrzywka said, and one of the highlights of the experience.
“We all keep in touch. We follow each other on Instagram. We’re our biggest supporters,” she added. “And everybody was there to cheer each other on.”
While Team Batter Up didn’t take home the $10,000, Pokrzywka said the competitors were all supportive of one another, no matter who took home the prize.
“We were just so proud of all of us, [proud] of every team because we know we all conquered it. Even if you didn’t win, you achieved something that is so crazy and so magical,” she said. “It’s almost unbelievable because there’s not very many times you’re going to have an opportunity to have to create a cake in five hours and show off your skills.”
And the Batter Up Bakery team is eager to compete on television once again.
“My whole team is asking me when we’re applying for another one because they all want to do it,” Pokrzywka said. “All the girls are excited so hopefully we get an opportunity again to do this in the future. It will be a blast if we do get that chance again.”
To learn more about the “12 Days of Cakemas” episode or The Big Bake: Holiday show, visit foodnetwork.ca/shows/the-big-bake/holiday.
New episodes of The Big Bake: Holiday air Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on Food Network Canada. Viewers can catch up on past episodes via StackTV.