Declaring 'war': Dickinson native takes 2nd place in Food Network's cupcake showPineapple and pork. They’re not the usual ingredients in baker Audrey Hermes’ cupcakes, but the Dickinson native and owner of Frost Me Gourmet Cupcakes in San Diego took the challenge in stride when she appeared on the Food Network’s first episode this season of “Cupcake Wars.” She placed second in the episode that aired Sunday.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
Pineapple and pork.
They’re not the usual ingredients in baker Audrey Hermes’ cupcakes, but the Dickinson native and owner of Frost Me Gourmet Cupcakes in San Diego took the challenge in stride when she appeared on the Food Network’s first episode this season of “Cupcake Wars.” She placed second in the episode that aired Sunday.
“I don’t usually make cupcakes with pork, but I decided to do a pineapple and pork cupcake with a maple crème cheese frosting,” said Hermes, 25, daughter of Karen and Duane Hermes of Dickinson. “I was the only person on the show who used meat or ‘gross’ ingredients.”
Hermes graduated from Dickinson High School and attended college in Salt Lake City. She studied modern dance and fine arts before graduating in 2010 and then opened a bakery in San Diego more than a year ago.
“As a viewer of the show, I have watched bakers come on and use average ingredients and be sent home,” she said. “I decided that I was on TV for the first time so I might as well do something crazy and it ended up tasting wonderful.”
Hermes took a chance eight months ago and sent a video application into “Cupcake Wars,” but wasn’t chosen for the show’s sixth season.
In May, Hermes received a call from the show’s producers, asking her to appear on season 7, and she jumped at the chance.
“I was looking for a way to get my business more well-known in San Diego and boy, did I get that,” she said.
In the episode, which first aired Sunday on Food Network and will air again at 6 p.m. Tuesday, four bakers, including Hermes, baked their butts off to be selected to serve their cupcakes at an exclusive backstage party for boy band Big Time Rush.
Hermes, who opened her bakery more than a year ago, fell just short of winning, but she said the Dickinson community still rallied behind her and the experience proved to her that her cupcakes are among the best.
“One of the judges said to me, ‘Where have these flavors been all my life?’” Hermes said. “I was excited about that because I figure those judges have probably tasted tons of cupcakes during their careers as judges on the show, and if my flavors were one of the best, that’s pretty high praise and I’m proud of that.”
Her mother, Karen, is pretty proud, she told The Dickinson Press on Wednesday.
“I stayed up until 2 a.m. (Wednesday) to watch the episode, which reran again,” Karen said. “Audrey absolutely did not learn how to make cupcakes from me because I am not much of a cook or a baker, but her grandma was always quite a cook, which might have had something to do with inspiring her to cook. But mostly, I think she learned to cook from simply experiencing it.”
Karen said her daughter’s adventurous spirit led her to a cooking career.
“Audrey has always loved to dance and was on the Dickinson High School dance team, and she still loves to dance but cupcakes came into play too,” Karen said. “I always thought I would see her on TV dancing, but she sure does know how to make wonderful cupcakes.”
Hermes couldn’t have created the fabulous cupcakes on her own during Cupcake Wars. Her boyfriend, Jon Parker, stepped in as her assistant after a crash course in baking in the few weeks leading up to the taping.
“It was an awesome experience and one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done,” Parker said. “It was a high-energy atmosphere and we were really under the gun as time ticked away.”
What started out as a hobby for Hermes quickly turned into a career while she was studying modern dance in Salt Lake City.
“I started bringing goodies into work around the time the cupcake craze fired up across the country,” she said. “I would bake for my friends and make my own recipes, and people started asking me to bake things for them. It all worked out because I was looking for career change at the time and moved to San Diego and decided to open up a delivery bakery.”
The competition was definitely hard but Hermes said the only thing that might have rivaled it was keeping her lips zipped about the outcome for nearly three months.
“We taped the show in July and I couldn’t tell anyone what happened until after it aired on Sunday,” she said. “I did watch it myself that night and even though I watched myself take second place, I didn’t feel like I was second. It was a close competition and the girl I was up against in the final round made good cupcakes and so did I.”
Hermes second-place finish has yielded her several new orders.
“I’m not a trained baker, but I think my fine arts background influences my baking,” she said. “My cupcakes are artistic in the way they look and are presented. It’s just like an art form.”