When the judges unveiled the theme for the first challenge on the Food Network's latest episode of Cupcake Wars, Manhattan Beach resident Todd Becker knew exactly what he was going to bake. He pulled a recipe from his own menu at his shop on Manhattan Avenue.
With the clock ticking, Becker went for a cinnamon cupcake with maple buttercup icing, crumbled bacon and maple syrup drizzle.
The contestants on Tuesday's episode included Catarah Hampshire of Southern Girl Desserts, Karla Jennings of Sugar Cupcakery and Hollis Wilder of Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Molly. Each was asked to make a "cupcake breakfast" from both sweet and savory ingredients.
The challenge required them to pick at least one item from a table of sweet ingredients, which had apples, maple syrup and strawberries, among others. The contestants also had to use one ingredient from a table of savory items, like salmon, cheese, sausage and capers.
The winner would be rewarded $10,000 and the opportunity to have his or her cupcakes be the centerpiece at a charity golf event hosted by George and Ann Lopez.
During the first round of elimination, the contestants presented concoctions made of an array of foods, including salmon, goat cheese frosting and organic apples. One even had the exact same idea as Becker, a maple and bacon recipe.
The judges–heavyweights Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, Florian Bellanger, owner of Mad-Mac's Chefs, and guest judge Ann Lopez–said the maple drizzle on Becker's cupcakes was "overpowering." Nelson also wasn't impressed with his staple dessert seasoning, labeling it "a little bit like a drugstore candy cinnamon." They decided that Becker would not go on to the next challenge, and two eliminations later, Wilder took home the grand prize.
Becker's Food Network appearance (and loss) was the second by a Manhattan Beach culinary personality in just one week. But the criticism from the show's judges didn't dampen Becker's high energy and passion for his 68-year-old family business.
"You have to know me to love me," Becker said. "They wanted me to be the bad guy."
Becker and his wife Brigid are the owners of Beckers Bakery & Deli, founded in 1942 by his grandfather, Harry Becker. The shop became known for its buttercream cupcakes with eye-popping colors and fresh baked squaw bread, which Becker uses in his deli sandwiches.
Becker, a man who enjoys a goofy joke here and there, wasn't bothered by the competition and made the most out of his appearance on the show. He wishes the producers hadn't edited out some of his funniest stunts, he said.
"When they eliminated me, I collapsed to the floor like I fainted," he said.
In another outtake, Becker offered a tongue-in-cheek response to Bellanger's criticism that his cupcakes were too light and sweet.
"I was like, 'Dude, aren't they supposed to be light and sweet?'" Becker said. "I was just bummed they cut it out."
Becker said business has always been busy, but since the episode aired, more customers have been giving him kudos for his TV appearance.
If given the chance, he said, he would definitely compete again... maybe without the cinnamon.