Borough bakers compete on ‘Cake Wars’  

Ashley Grom, left, lead decorator at Stonehouse Baked Goods in Naugatuck, and John Cummings, owner of the bakery, competed on the Food Network’s ‘Cake Wars.’ The episode they were on aired Dec. 26. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — A borough bakery went to battle this summer.

In July, Stonehouse Baked Goods owner John Cummings and lead decorator Ashley Grom flew out to Los Angeles to compete in an episode of the Food Network’s “Cake Wars.” The episode they were on aired Monday night.

“It was very exciting. When you apply you think that would be great. But when they actually get in touch with you it’s like, ‘Wow, this is real,’” Cummings said.

The show features four teams of bakers creating cakes around a central theme for two rounds. After the first round the judges vote one team off the show. The remaining three teams compete against each other for first place.

Cummings originally applied to be on the show two years ago but was told the show had all the contestants it needed. He was told the same thing six months later.

Cummings got his shot in December 2015 when the network asked him to send in a video of himself and his shop.

“So we went a step further,” Cummings said. “In July they called and said, “What are you guys doing the week after next?’”

Cummings and Grom hopped on a plane and flew out to California. The day after they arrived the pair went shopping for ingredients and took some time to get acquainted with the kitchen.

The next day they were competing in an episode of the show titled “Rose Bowl,” which had contestants make football-themed cakes. They quickly found out baking on a TV show wouldn’t exactly be a piece of cake.

Cumming said it is hard enough to adapt to a new kitchen, but having to do so in a TV studio made it more difficult.

“The thing that was even harder to get used to is that there was a boom camera directly above you. There were GoPro (cameras) all over the counter, there was an operator with a camera ruining around following you, and then there was somebody in the middle of the floor doing general shots. So, while you are trying to bake with new equipment, every time you turn around there is a camera,” Cummings said.

Grom typically works behind the closed doors of the kitchen.

“I am always behind the scenes so I was completely out of my element for this. It was terrifying for me,” Grom said.

Grom has participated in other decorating competitions, such as the Connecticut Cake Competition, but never at this scale.

“You can never be ready for that. Nothing can prepare you for that. They only tell you so much. You walk in and they say, ‘Here’s your prep day.’ Then the next day is go make some cakes,” Grom said.

Cummings and Grom advanced to the second round, where the three remaining teams had four hours to prepare a cake.

“The most difficult thing was dealing with the time because no matter what happens in a bakery you always need five more minutes. But you can call somebody and say, ‘Hey, your cake is going to be a few minutes late,’” Cummings said. “There, when they hit the clock and say it’s four hours, it’s four hours. If you have to use the bathroom, that’s your loss. If something falls and part of your cake is destroyed, you have to figure out what do I do to fix it.”

Cummings and Grom only ran into one snag, they said, when a portion of their helmet-shaped cake crumbled. However, they quickly fixed it and continued with the competition.

Cummings and Grom ultimately came in second place.

“It was a learning experience, that’s for sure,” Cummings said. “It was well worth it.”

“My favorite part was being there. Just being able to go and say we went,” Grom said.

Cummings pointed out that the show often invites back competitors. He said would be more prepared if he is ever gets the chance to compete again.

“The pace will be the same, the cameras will be the same, but you are used to it in a way. You know what to expect,” he said.