Rebecca Hauger and Mara Hodge weren't strangers to baking or reality TV when, earlier this year, they were asked to sculpt a gigantic cake bearing the likeness of Flavor Flav.
The couple — baking fanatics who met in 2018 and got engaged the next year, but came to the hobby separately — are the founders of Geek Desserts, a home-based bakery. Hodge has competed on a Minecraft-themed episode of Cake Wars, while Hauger starred on the "Monster Weddings" episode of Halloween Cake Off!
By early 2020, they were looking for the right brick-and-mortar location to take their baking dreams to the next level. But when COVID hit, they pumped the brakes on the search. Soon enough, though, the north Phoenix pair were approached about participating as contestants on a new Food Network show, Cakealikes, where cake artists are asked to create realistic replicas of celebrities.
They flew to Los Angeles in January to participate but didn't know which celebrity they'd be asked to cake-clone. After hair, makeup, and a 20-minute rehearsal run, it was finally revealed.
"They said, 'You're going to be making a life-size cake of Flavor Flav,' and they brought out three of his famous pictures," Hauger said in a phone interview with Phoenix New Times. They picked one of the photos and began crafting their Flav tribute.
After 14 hours, the Flav replica was ready. In it, the rapper-turned-reality-star donned a crisp white suit. A gold crown rested atop its head. A telltale purple clock hung from its neck. It was handcrafted of sheet cakes, rice cereal treats, ganache, and buttercream. The massive cake stood as tall as its muse — 5 feet, 7 inches — and earned Hodge and Hauger second place in the competition. Flav himself, who appeared as a surprise guest on the show, even approved.
"He said, 'You know what, this is my favorite clock,' and he pointed to my clock," Hodge says. "I thought I had made this horrible clock because I had to piece it together in the last 10 minutes — but he loved it!"
(Flav was just like his television personality, the women said, swaggering with a flashy gold clock around his neck. He answered the phone a few times, only to tell the person on the other end he was busy on a baking show. Then his attention would turn back to the cakes.)
With the show wrapped, Hodge and Hauger are back working at their north Valley home, where they bake, sculpt, and frost from a white subway-tiled kitchen. Besides the Flav reproduction, their favorite replicakes include video-game characters like Raven from Fortnite and Foxy, a bear with claws as hands, razor-sharp teeth, and an eye patch from Five Nights at Freddy's.
Their custom cakes begin at $100, but something simpler could go for less. Why be simple, though? Go for a Chipotle burrito cake, a White Castle burger cake, or ask for some horrible character from your childhood nightmares. It's been done. (They recently bought a 3D printer, too.)
The women also provide custom birthday cakes for chronically-ill children and their families in partnership with Icing Smiles, a local nonprofit — something of a different situation from showing off a cake to a celebrity. "It's a very sensitive experience because sometimes you deliver this cake in the hospital and the child is hooked up to an IV and they just kind of give you this weak smile," Hauger says. "It takes everything in you to hold it together."
The pandemic has proved challenging. Orders were canceled in March 2020, then began trickling back in, starting with 6-inch cake requests for more intimate gatherings. But the couple remains optimistic, hoping to soon be full-time bakers in a storefront dusted with powdered sugar and marital bliss. (They're back on the hunt for a space.)
"Sometimes it's long hours of work and it's frustrating and there's a million things to do," Hauger says, "but we love it."
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