If you’re a fan of televised baking competitions, you might already be familiar with Caitlin Taylor. In 2019, the lead cake artist at Charm City Cakes, who also owns The Artful Apron Cake & Dessert Studio in Silver Spring, made her streaming debut as the winner of Netflix’s Sugar Rush Christmas. This month, the New Jersey-born pastry chef is taking on another baking competition—and a brand new streaming platform.
Hosted by Food Network star Tregaye Fraser, Cakealikes, which premiered earlier this month on Discovery+, challenges three teams of bakers to create life-size replicas of well-known icons the best way they know how—using cake.
We caught up with Taylor to chat about the new comedic baking competition, her thoughts on the viral “Everything is Cake” challenge, and baking for A-listers like Joe Jonas and Drew Barrymore.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your start in the cake world?
I’m pretty blessed to be one of the few who knew what they wanted to do from a very young age. When I was 12 or 13, I saw Ace of Cakes on TV. I’ve always been artistic, so when I saw it, I was like ‘Woah! You can get paid to play with food? This is so cool!’ I went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Florida. Although I went to school for baking and pastry art, I feel like I’m mostly self-taught through what I’ve learned from the industry. I got a couple of jobs at different bakeries in Florida while I was still there, and it was baptism by fire, basically. You didn’t really have time to mess up. It was like, ‘Okay, this order is going out. Figure it out.’ You had to think on your toes, trust your instincts, and trust your talent. From there, I’ve just been obsessed with cakes for years.
How did you find out you’d be competing on the premiere season of Cakealikes?
I was actually contacted by one of the producers. I got an email from them while I was at work, and I was really excited because I’ve wanted to be on TV for a long time to show the world how cool this industry is and have a chance to prove myself. When I competed on Sugar Rush, we were given a very, very short period of time. You had to do something ridiculous in that amount of time and it was just never gonna look good. Whereas with Cakealikes, it’s one task and there is a time limit, but you can really show off your skills.
Did competing on Sugar Rush prepare you for what to expect with Cakealikes?
I definitely think it prepared me in the sense that you’re never really prepared to have cameras in your face. Being on Sugar Rush, because there was such a short time limit for each task, you really couldn’t focus on the cameras. I did get distracted in the beginning of our episode, which, if you go watch it, led me to mess something up—which I won’t give away. After that, I had to be like ‘No! Focus! It’s like any other day at work. The client is coming in and you have to do it.’ So, in that way, it definitely prepared me to be a little bit more relaxed in front of the crew. Just knowing how the filming runs has definitely helped me to not be as nervous.
Cakealikes brings teams of cake artists together to create life-size replicas of celebrities like Lady Gaga and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. What were some of your favorite and most challenging moments?
One of the most challenging moments was, to be honest, the first challenge. We did something called the “Do Me Challenge,” and you only had 20 minutes to create your partner as a cake topper. The 20-minute time limit freaked me out like no tomorrow. It takes 20 minutes to make one thing on a cake, not the whole cake topper. So hearing that was definitely really challenging for me. Some of my favorite moments had to have been when I was doing the face of our Kim Kardashian cake. Where I really shine is detail work, so I was really excited to be able to work on that.
In addition to owning the The Artful Apron, you’re also the lead cake artist at Charm City Cakes. What’s it like to work at the place that paved the way for local legends Duff Goldman and Geof Manthorne?
When I first started, I really got my inspiration from Ace of Cakes and Duff himself. The fact that I even work for [Charm City Cakes] is really, really cool. I got to work with Duff and Geof in 2019 when they came over from L.A. for the Baltimore Homecoming event. We had to make a cake that was all Baltimore food-inspired, so Berger cookies were on there, a bag of crab chips was on there—it was really fun. I think the coolest part for me was when Duff showed up and he sat down with me. He was baking the Berger cookies and we were working side by side, just chatting and getting to know each other, and it was so surreal.
On Cakealikes, contestants compete to sculpt celebrity replica cakes, but in your time at Charm City Cakes, you’ve had the chance to bake cakes for actual celebrities, most recently Joe Jonas and Drew Barrymore. Can you tell us a bit about that?
So, every week, pre-pandemic, we would sit around this big table and go over all of the orders for the following week. We were looking through all of them and we came across the Jonas cake. I was like, ‘Hold the phone! Is this who I think it’s for?’ And they were like ‘Yeah. Joe Jonas’ birthday is on—’ and I cut them off. I was like, ‘August 15. I’m aware.’
I’m from New Jersey, so the Jonas Brothers were a big deal for me because they’re also from Jersey. When I was in high school, me and my friends were obsessed with them and we went to all their concerts, you know, the whole spiel. They let me design the cake, which was crazy. Kim, our lead kitchen girl, came with me [to deliver it to their concert at Capital One Arena.] I asked Joe for a selfie and he was like, ‘Yeah! Of course!’ He was like, ‘This is amazing! I can’t even believe this!’ That was my first ‘Wow, this is really my job. I can’t even believe this is happening,’ kind of moment.
Fast forward a year later and I’m now doing the schedule—that’s one of the new parts of my job. And I’m just scrolling through our management software and I see “Barrymore. Desk Cake.” Then I look at the file and I’m like, ‘Oh shit! It’s for Drew Barrymore!’ Duff was going to be on The Drew Barrymore Show the following week and he wanted to present her with a cake as a surprise. So I made that and it got sent to New York for the episode. Her reaction was priceless.
This past year, you took part in the viral “Everything is Cake” challenge, whipping up mouthwatering replicas of treats like gyros, burgers, and appetizer plates. Can you tell us a bit about your favorite food cake to make?
As far as the food cakes go, I think the gyro [for National Gyro Day] was my favorite. Using wafer paper to make the deli paper, that was a new technique for me. I haven’t really worked with wafer paper before, so being able to use a steamer and make it really look like the paper around the gyro—and then the satisfying video of it getting cut in half—was so amazing. I wanted to do something very jarring when you cut into it, so it wasn’t just like ‘is that cake?’ It was like ‘Woah! That’s cake!’
How do people typically react when they see your food cakes?
It’s like a mixed bag. You get half that are like ‘Oh my god, it’s a cake!’ and then the other half is really mad at you because they thought it was real and now they’re questioning their whole existence.
You mentioned that you have a three-year-old son. Does he like to help you out with baking?
He loves to do anything that mom does. When it’s not for a client, I’ll let him get up on his stool and help me make cookies. For Christmas, I got him his own apron so we can match while we cook together. He really loves to make cookies—especially because he gets to eat the dough off the spatula—so I think we’ll probably be doing a lot more of that.