It wasn’t until the opening teaser that the public knew for certain—Shawnee Berzonski, proprietor of Cupcakes in Bloom in Berlin, MD had indeed made it onto Cupcake Wars, the Food Network’s popular TV competition. Berzonski had organized a viewing party at Burley Oak Brewery in Berlin, on the evening of December 4th presumedly to watch the season opener of her favorite show, Cupcake Wars. After declaring her undying love for the show, and adding in a few “winks” and “hint-hints” on her Facebook page, Berzonski aimed to get people to her big premier, but couldn’t actually say why. Due to a strict confidentiality agreement, that’s really all she could do.
The first few minutes of Cupcake Wars showed Berzonski declaring her intention to win, followed by “twin powers” Berzonski and sister Charley Revels rushing through the scenes in matching purple dresses, ballet flats, and brandishing flowers in their hair—the veritable logo to Berzonski’s Cupcakes in Bloom. The crowd at Burley Oak and friends and fans of Berzonski and her store had a reason to celebrate. A local girl had made it big—national TV big.
Berzonski, made her popular cupcake bouquets—intricate designs featuring a variety of cupcake flavors dressed up with icing to look like beautiful flowers—out of her home, until a few short months ago. She bought the little historic building on Main St. in Berlin, current home of Cupcakes in Bloom, in July of this past summer.
Just two weeks after opening, Berzonski sent an email, bio, and photos to Cupcake Wars, not really expecting much out of it. Less than 24 hours later, a producer was on the phone, an unexpected call Berzonski received while supporting her daughter at the cheerleading field. Her next step was to make a video, and a week after submitting, she received the call she had made the show, leaving just 12 days later.
A new storefront to maintain, an impending trip to California for a national TV show to prepare for, but perhaps the most difficult aspect of Berzonski’s whirlwind since opening her doors, was what to tell her daughter. She couldn’t risk divulging to truth, expecting that the nine-year-old would be too excited to keep it a secret, thus breaching the confidentiality agreement. She came up with a tiny little fib.
“I told my daughter Jocelyn I was going to Tennessee for a bridal show. She came home after being at the library and told me she checked out a book on Tennessee so she would know all about where I was going, “Berzonski recalled, laughing.
Behind the Scenes of Cupcake Wars
Prior to leaving, Berzonski needed a side-kick, an assistant that could withstand the filming schedule—enter twin sister Charley, who doesn’t work at Cupcakes in Bloom but was certainly the best choice to anticipate her sister’s needs. The sisters spent four days in California, touring the studio, trying to familiarize themselves with the kitchen they would eventually make more than 1,000 cupcakes in, and film in one day, for more than 14 hours.
What viewers don’t have the opportunity to see, is the contestants’ perspective.
“When your on-set, there’s so much going on with the cameras, and your mind is racing to the next steps—you have to work ahead. You really have no idea what’s going on in the other kitchens. There was one team using liquid nitrogen, and I never would have known if I didn’t have to run through their kitchen to get something. You really don’t know what happened with the other contestants until you watch the show,” said Berzonski.
Watching the show was something she didn’t have the opportunity to do, until the premier party. It was during the viewing that Berzonski was able to see the judge’s discussions in the final round, for the first time.
“We weren’t on-set when the judges saw the displays. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go until I heard them describe my display as ‘homey and traditional,’ and then described [other final contestant] Jason’s display as, ‘and the other one gave us a ballet.’”
In hindsight, there’s not much Berzonski would change about her performance or decisions on the show, which had her finishing second.
“Jason’s flavors were more intricate, but that’s what he does. I bake what I bake and I bake what I love. The only thing I would go back and change is to put “The Nutcracker” on my display.”
The editing process did remove a crucial clip for Berzonski.
“It was a very emotional experience. In round three, they showed me spilling dry ingredients. What they didn’t show was I actually had to make that batch three times, and I ended up in the corner crying.”
Berzonski continues, “Producers asked me what pulled me out of that moment, brought me back, and I said it was looking out and seeing my sister taking over. She stepped it up for me.”
The experience as a whole was nothing but positive. Part of that can be attributed to Berzonski’s attitude and bubbly personality.
“I went into it thinking it was an adventure and not a competition, and I think that what really helped me have a good time.”
Normal Life at Cupcakes in Bloom
Berzonski is now back behind the counter and in the kitchen at her bakery. She juggles the balance between raising children and her business as a working mother beautifully. The stress of sometimes having to be at work at 4am to prepare for a particularly busy day marked by a festival in town, made easier by the fact the Berzonski is doing what she loves.
Not a classically trainer baker, Berzonski learned from being in the kitchen with her mother and grandmothers. It’s a love she’s always had. Her chosen career was in the salon industry, working as a nail tech. A few years ago she “stumbled across” cake bouquets and started playing around. She started baking them for friends and family. A bouquet baked for a baby shower resulted in five orders, and the beginnings of Cupcakes in Bloom was born—from her home kitchen. Berzonski maintained her home-based business while still working as a nail tech for three years, until the purchase of the building in Berlin this past summer.
Berzonski now employs six people part-time. Two are high school students, one of whom has just been accepted into the Culinary Academy in Hyde Park, New York. Another employee is off to school to become a pastry chef. Berzonski is proud of the talented team she has with her, and how quickly her business has grown.
As for the show and how it has impacted her daily life, if Cupcake Wars ever comes calling again, Berzonski is ready.
“One of the producers told us that they have ‘redemption’ shows. If they call, I’ll go back in a heartbeat,” said Berzonski.
Berzonski’s favorite memory while sharing her big moment at the premier with friend’s and family, was watching her daughter’s face—the same daughter who thought her mother took a trip to Tennessee, and was instead featured on national TV. Her stunned and very proud reaction was priceless.
The morning after commenced in Berzonski’s home as usual, with one exception. Her four and a half year old son was watching the Tivo’d Cupcake Wars instead of his morning cartoons. It’s not everyday a little boy gets to see his mother on TV—on that day, Shawnee Berzonski cupcake baker, even trumped superheroes in the eyes of her son, perhaps an even bigger win than taking home the title of Cupcake Wars.