There are tons of cooking contest shows out there right now, most of which never highlight food allergies or intolerances. Which is why I was so intrigued when I saw the two episodes of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network that had one pastry chef who only baked gluten free!  Music to my ears!  How would she make this work? My kids and I had to watch.

Left to Right: Jackie Eizik (Bussanich's baking assistant), Kyra Bussanich, Kyra Sedgwick

Spoiler alert!  In order to go further with my post, I will have to tell you how gluten free pastry chef Kyra Bussanich, owner of Crave Bake Shop, did on the show.  She came in second during her first appearance which originally aired in December of 2010.  Then she WON in the recent episode which first aired in December of 2011. The reward was to bring her cupcake display to the 100th episode party of the show The Closer.*

We chatted for a while on Wednesday night about how she got where she is and what being on Cupcake Wars was like.

Creating Crave Bake Shop

For Bussanich, going gluten free actually began shortly after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.  She was taking medicine which helped with her symptoms, but she says she felt awful.  Her mom had been diagnosed with celiac disease about 1 1/2 years earlier and thought she could try going gluten free to see if it helped. She said she definitely felt better on the diet and was able to stop her medicines.

As with many new gluten free folks, Bussanich was finding the gluten free sweet treats weren’t very tasty. So she started baking, “Man did I experiment,” she told me.  She also went through the Le Cordon Bleu patisserie program, which gave her the foundation she needed and helped her create wonderful gluten free baked goods.  She began making her own sweet treats and bringing them to parties.  With encouragement from her husband, she was able to develop it into a business and Crave Bake Shop was born.  But it didn’t have a store-front–yet.

Cupcake Wars Meets Gluten Free!

Bussanich was watching Cupcake Wars one night and doing some “armchair baking”, when her husband said, “why don’t you go on the show? Your cupcakes are fantastic!”  She said she wasn’t really into contests. But he applied for her anyway, sent in pictures and played up the gluten free angle in her bio.

“I got a call the next morning and they asked for a 2 minute video and it had to be in by the next day.”  Within two weeks she was taping her first episode of Cupcake Wars!

If you have not watched Cupcake Wars, the contestants have three challenges: a taste challenge, a taste/presentation challenge and the final challenge where they make 1,000 cupcakes with a set theme and a creative display. The theme always coincides with a high-profile event where the winning cupcakes will be enjoyed.

The viewer sees everything unveiled in 1 hour.  What we don’t know is how it really comes together.  During the taping for her winning cupcakes earlier this month, everything happened in one day! She  explained the day started at 4:30 a.m. and went into the evening. When she won, she displayed her cupcakes at the event that night!  She only had a little time to clean up in between taping and the event.

Also, there’s no pre-planning the gluten free ingredients in the show’s pantry.  She just used what she knew was gluten free when she got there.  No one checked anything ahead of time for her.

Her first episode loss prepared Bussanich to win the second time around. “We were way more confident going into the second show.  We already knew the judges liked our cupcakes so there was not that nervous factor…” Bussanich said.  They also strategized decoration technique and the display,”Our decorations were way more elegant and classy looking.  We also wanted our display to fully echo our cupcakes.  Every element that was on the cupcakes was on the display.”

With that, they won and got to display her cupcakes at a high-profile TV show party.

Bussanich has a lot to be thankful to Cupcake Wars for…she was able to open her store front this year after all of the buzz surrounding her gluten free baking.  Tomorrow, read part two about how her new Bake Shop is going, what’s next for her and the one gluten free baking tip she has for you!

*You can view the winning Cupcake Wars episode three times before the new year including TONIGHT. Click here for scheduling information from Food Network.

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One Response to “Gluten Free Pastry Chef Makes Her Mark on Cupcake Wars”

  1. There’s an entertaining short video intro to Kyra Bussanich’s just-released book, “Sweet Cravings”, at

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