West Jordan local to appear on ‘The Big Bake’ food network showApr 03, 2022 08:09PM ● By Linda Steele
A large cake with roses made by Mandy Clifford, who will appear on Canada’s “The Big Bake.” (Courtesy Mandy Clifford Mandy’s Custom Cakes)
By Linda Steele | [email protected]
Mandy Clifford has been living in West Jordan for 13 years, and she has been running Mandy’s Custom Cakes for six years.
“I make cakes for a living,” she said. “I love making sculpted, impressive, over-the-top cakes. I recently competed on an episode of Food Network Canada’s ‘The Big Bake.’ This is a cake competition making larger-than-life carved cakes that need to move. I have competed on Food Network before, but this was a very challenging show to get on and succeed in.”
The cake artists made a 4-foot cake structure from the base up, put the cake on the structure, carve the cake, bake other cakes with all the fillings, cover the whole cake and make sure it is huge and that it moves—all in five hours.
“It was a very tall order to fit in that small five-hour time period,” Clifford said.
Competitors had to cut out a couple of their initial plans just to fit the cake in. They had two cakes over 4 feet tall with the moving parts and finished it in five hours. “It is extremely impressive, and I am so proud of my team for turning that out,” Clifford said. The work paid off, and they won the competition.
“The judges said it was the best cake they ever tasted,” Clifford said.
Clifford’s teammates are Utah residents and run their own cake business. Emerlie Miller, business owner of My Sugar Rush, has been making cakes for over 11 years. Jen Vesper, business owner of Layers of Love, has been in business for over 20 years.
Cakes are a big forte for Clifford, Miller and Vesper. They have built up a good clientele. They did not know each other, but they formed a team for the competition and built a cake together. Clifford, Miller and Vesper have their own businesses, but they collaborated for The Big Bake Competition.
The cake competition was held in Canada last January during the pandemic. When Clifford, Miller and Vesper entered Canada, the whole country was in lockdown. To enter Canada, they needed to abide by the government mandated quarantine order.
“We were under strict orders not to leave our room, or we would have to pay the Canadian government a heavy fine,” Clifford said. “Room service, in-room workouts and bubble baths worked day in and day out. Once the day came we were extremely well rested and all set to go.”
“The task was to make an over-the-top cake that would transport the judges to the summer nights at the Carnival,” Clifford said. “We hit a couple bumps along the way and ended up having to pare down our design because we found we were too ambitious for the very real five-hour time limit. But in the end, we had a huge pivoting blue ribbon pig getting popcorn from a working popcorn machine.”
Their tasting cake was a chocolate cake,with pretzels, marshmallow fluff, peanut butter and caramelized bananas, with the surprise bake being popcorn-flavored cupcakes.
“The judges loved our design and flavors so much that our prize-winning pig ended up bringing home the bacon in a big way,” Clifford said. “We won. We were beyond ecstatic.” The show aired in Canada following May 2021 and is currently airing Mondays at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network U.S.
These bakers have a background of baking and decorated cakes. Miller worked at several bakeries and started off self-taught. She went to a cake design college in Canada. She got her confectionary art diploma and learned a little bit of everything. She came back and started doing cake decorating on her own. For this Food Network Canada show she was the sugar artist and the baker. She does most of the baking, and isomalt for the cakes.
Clifford ended up making up a recipe, and she specializes in carving and baked cakes and making 3D cakes. Vesper was brought in to do structuring. She was the structuring queen.
“For “The Big Bake,” you have to make one big massive display of over 4 feet tall, and on a table 2 feet tall,” Miller said. “It was taller than us. We had to use step stools to reach certain elements, and Jen was able to help bring structure and help with dynamic elements, the cake has to have dynamic elements of movement.”
Macy’s department store managers asked Vesper to do spinning globes at Christmastime. Then, South Jordan officials reached out and asked her to do sculptures for South Jordan City Hall.
“Part of how I learned to do structure is because I do candy sculptures in South Jordan at Christmastime,” Vesper said. “The sculptures are in the windows in South Jordan City Hall, and in the businesses surrounding South Jordan Business City Hall at Christmastime. I like the positive feedback and it is so much fun.” She has done sculptures at Thanksgiving Point for Luminaria too.
“That's what really impressed us about Jen, because we talked to over 20 people trying to find a teammate who could join our team during quarantine and had the skill set that we needed,” Miller said. “It was hard to talk to all the different people, and that’s how we were really impressed with Jen, because she does huge structures for the candy window displays.”
The reason why Mandy started the business is because she loves impressing people, she loves throwing parties and throwing get-togethers and impressing her friends.
“With making over-the-top of impressive cakes, that is a way to impress other people,” Clifford said. “I think it is a way for them to impress their guests as well, because when they walk into a party and everybody wants to see a cake it is the center of attention at the party. Then when their minds are blown and they are thinking, ‘Oh my goodness how is this a cake?’ it brings me so much joy. Recently I posted a semi-truck cake, and people’s minds are blown thinking, ‘How can this possibly be a cake?’ This is really rewarding for me, and this is what pushes me and encourages me to keep going.”
This Spring 2022 there are new episodes of “The Big Bake” that air weekly Mondays at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network. Here is the episode guide link if you’d like to link to it: https://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/the-bi-bake/ on foodnetwork.com, or people can check their local listings on their cable. Look at the episode guide on cable TV. “The Big Bake” is the show they are on. The episode they are on is “Caketastic Carnival.”