Sweet victory: CLE-based bakers win $10,000 on Netflix baking competition “Sugar Rush Christmas"

Like chocolate and peanut butter, or cupcakes and frosting, Katie Gayner and Anthony Radencic make the perfect pair when it comes to baking. The two were recently crowned winners of Netflix’s “Sugar Rush Christmas” baking competition, which debuted its new season in late November.

 

“It’s funny because Anthony and I had known each other less than two months when we applied for the show,” says Gayner, a Shaker Heights resident who owns the home-based online bakery Whimsicakes. “We were instant best friends.”

 

Katie Gayner and Anthony Radencic of WhimsicakesAnd that tight twosome is now $10,000 richer, having triumphed over other teams from Washington, D.C., Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay area to take home the grand prize. Gayner and Radencic filmed the show in early March, “right before California closed down [due to COVID-19],” says Gayner. “It was the best possible last week of normalcy—we were hugging the judges, shaking hands, just having a grand old time in Hollywood.”

 

While filming the show, Gayner and Radencic faced three rounds of competition including cupcakes, confections, and cakes. Their first creation was a gingerbread cupcake with cheesecake filling, while the second featured miso ice cream with caramel sauce and a black sesame cookie. For the piece de resistance, the pair made a “Secret Santa”-inspired pistachio almond cake filled with cherry jam and chocolate ganache—measuring more than two feet tall.

 

“We hid a gingerbread house with Santa in it in the bottom tier of the cake,” says Gayner. “Everything was really festive and inspired; we tried to tap into nostalgic flavors and put our own twist on them.”

 

Creative twists are nothing new for Gayner, who studied fine arts at Miami University and went on to found Whimsicakes. Her specialty is “extremely detailed fondant work”—with some of her favorite past creations including a Louis Vuitton shoe made out of fondant and an elaborate “Candy Crush”-themed cake. “It was really my art background that got me started in baking,” says Gayner. “I realized that people are a lot more likely to buy art you can eat than art you can put on the wall. People love customized creations that are edible.”

 

And with her “Sugar Rush Christmas” win, Gayner is taking her newfound notoriety and turning her eye to the future. Having run Whimsicakes from Cincinnati for several years, Gayner moved back to Northeast Ohio in July 2019 to be closer to family and spend some time discerning her next steps. Over the last year, she has worked as a pastry chef and chocolatier for local spots such as Mitchell’s Chocolates and C’est Macaron, but Gayner is now back on track with Whimsicakes and offering a seasonal holiday menu based on the show.

"I just started operating again as Whimsicakes this month, and I've released a special menu based on recipes from the show," says Gayner, adding that the limited-edition menu is available through December 16.


Gayner's eventual goal is to open a brick-and-mortar bakery, and she says she believes that "Sugar Rush Christmas" might just be the secret ingredient for getting her there.

"I want to save the prize money and invest in my business," says Gayner. "I spent the first few years operating Whimsicakes wondering if I was good enough to do this. To see myself do it on TV and come home with that win, I finally feel like I know I can do it; I feel really inspired and confident after the show."

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.