Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lucy & Leo's - Cupcake Wars

Lights.


Camera.


Cupcakes.

On Tuesday night Lucy & Leo's Cupcakery put Tallahassee, FL on the map! They proudly competed in Food Network's Cupcake Wars after being contacted to come out and take a chance on winning $10,000 and instant cupcake fame.


Lucy & Leo's has been a gem of Tallahassee's for several years now. The cupcakery is named after co-owners Jean & Paula's dog Leo & the pup-next-door Lucy. 


Jean & Paula started selling their family recipe cupcakes from their home, and soon had to find a storefront to keep up with demand.


A quaint spot in the area of Tallahassee labeled Midtown is a perfect location to feed die-hard fans and welcome newcomers. Lucy & Leo's is well known for their consistently delectable cupcakes of moist cake and rich frosting, plus their dedication to regularly creating new winning flavors.


They use many organic ingredients, like milk and sugars, in the cupcakes which helps keep the flavors bright and clean, instead of the often artificial synthetic flavors other bakeries use. Although you can't go wrong ordering any of their cupcakes, some of my favorites are the German Chocolate Cake Cupcake and the Grasshopper Cupcake (chocolate + mint). During the holidays, they made an Eggnog cupcake which was pure heaven. To ensure everyone can enjoy a cupcake every now and then, they also feature gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan cupcakes every week. And, my personal favorite, Happy Hour Fridays! They feature 'happy hour' flavored cupcakes like Amaretto Sour, Margarita, and Guiness each Friday and even stay late some days relaxing with the regulars.

In addition to their voluptuous cupcakes, they also create mini-cupcakes and cakeballs from their daily flavors. They love working with clients to create individual requests for weddings and other celebrations, some of which have included Monopoly and Cheshire Cat cupcakes as seen on their website. If you're a Twitter follower of their shop, you can also discover sneak peak announcements of BOGOs and new flavors.

Lucy & Leo's has definitely turned me into a lover of cupcakes, something I was not before they came along.

To thank their loyal fans, Paula & Jean held a premier party Tuesday night during the airing of their show at the 5th Avenue Tap Room across from their shop in Midtown. These two ladies are still humble in their sudden leap in fame, and are as dedicated to their customers as they are Tallahassee. They're often involved in supporting Midtown's shops, as Jean is President of the Midtown Merchants Association, as well as local animal shelters since both Lucy & Leo were adopted from the Leon County Humane Society. They had shared their audition video for Cupcake Wars months ago, so the fans had been waiting a long time to see them on tv!

The room looked sleek and elegant, with their surprise cupcakes lighting up the room. Although we were unable to discuss what magical ingredients were hidden in each one, we were free to taste upon arrival. They had done such a beautiful job of displaying the cupcakes, I was hesitant to pick any up; however, I reminded myself who had made them and quickly snatched up all four flavors. It was at this point I knew if they had made four flavors, they had at least made it to Round 2, but I sequestered my excitement for the moment.

Soon Jean & Paula took to the stage to welcome everyone and thank their fans for their support not only of their cupcakes for these past several years, but also for their excitement and believing in them to do well on Cupcake Wars.

Moments later, after the cheering had died down, the speakers began playing the familiar introduction to the show and Jean was on screen! Thankfully nothing much happened in those first few minutes because you wouldn't have been able to hear them over the roar of the fans.


The theme of their show was 'Weddings'. Thus, their first cupcake had to include the old adage, 'Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue'. Jean & Paula had to include ingredients that fit these four criteria into one single cupcake. Their cupcake included the following: Old - balsamic vinegar, New - marzipan, Borrowed - matcha powder, Blue - blueberries. This was the most complexly flavored cupcake of the evening, and my personal favorite (I went and bought two more the next day since I was modest and only had one at the party).The matcha powder I had guessed incorrectly as being wasabi due to the tang from the balsamic vinegar reduction. The cupcake was vanilla and had blueberries in it, with the green tea frosting topped by a marzipan flower which held another blueberry with the reduction. The flavors were not busy as one might expect, but melded perfectly. Although this cupcake is time consuming, I would buy it regularly for its sophisticated notes. The judges seemed to enjoy the cupcake, and only complained that the vanilla cupcake was too plain with all the available options. Thankfully not a real complaint, but I assume they must find something to spice up the show.

With the success of the first round, Jean & Paula made it to Round 2! This round required them to invent three more cupcakes. Whew.


First, a Groom's Cake Cupcake consisting of chocolate and espresso flavors with a white chocolate drizzle and chocolate covered espresso bean as garnish.


Second, a timeless Raspberry Chambord Cupcake and champagne frosting, garnished with a fresh raspberry and sweet raspberry sauce.

Third, a classic Southern Hummingbird Cupcake with fruity flavors and topped with pineapple and pecans in the shape of a hummingbird.

I was attempting to take notes on all the components of each cupcake, but I should have reserved eating them after hearing the descriptions, not at the same time. I just kept drifting off into space mumbling to myself how delicious they all were and so impressed how these amazing cupcakes could be made on a whim.

The judges decided to fault these cupcakes as not being decorated enough. Lame. The flavors were outstanding and the decorations were a classic representation of such a mature theme. Although I admit to being partial, the flavors were outstanding and thankfully the judges recognized this by advancing them to Round 3!

In this round, Jean & Paula had to create a tablescape to hold 1,000 cupcakes. 1,000. Yikes. They decided to create a Japanese oval table, which reminded me of the sideways 8 eternity symbol, complete with dark wood branches and wispy cherry blossoms. The table was gorgeous and brought the theme into focus, since all the cupcakes looked like they belonged on that table together. Jean gave a great speech to the judges explaining their choices and everyone at the party went wild with excitement!

The Tap Room seemed to be buzzing with anticipation over the next few minutes until the announcement of the winner. Everyone was on their feet ready to celebrate, but, alas our beloved cupcakery took second place. While we think the judges chose wrong (they did admit to deliberating much longer than normal), Lucy & Leo's has much to be proud of. Their feature on Cupcake Wars has brought them to a new level of recognition in the cupcake world and will bring many new customers, near and far.

I was able to steal Paula away from the party for a few minutes to answer some behind-the-scenes questions about the show. While I knew filming would have to be long, I was surprised to learn they spent at least 15 hours filming in one day in Los Angeles. They had to buy new equipment and have it shipped out to be ready for anything that might be brought as a challenge on the show, since the studio is not fully equipped for each contestant (since they assume each team will want to use items that are familiar to them and their usual kitchens). Plus, the studio was kept freezing cold and extremely bright from a plethora of lights. The physical and emotion drain of filming sounded exhausting.

All their decisions were made on the spot. They do not have any time to sit and think about what they should make or build, so the timed portion of the show is true to real time. The assistants in the third round are local chefs, culinary students, or volunteers that want to participate in the show. And what about all those extra cupcakes? Paula said they are donated to local food shelters or community programs for hungry children, plus the crew get their pick as well.

Although it would have been a pleasure to see Lucy & Leo's win, I'm happy to hold onto them for a bit longer locally. Their publicity has opened them up to national clientele who can always send away for delicious individualized cupcake flavors for weddings and other parties.

Congratulations to Lucy & Leo's for their amazing display of cupcakes and talent on the Food Network! Make sure to thank them when you become a regular, too.

Lucy & Leo's Cupcakery on Urbanspoon

12 comments:

  1. Wow, their shop looks so cute! It's quaint and comfy looking.

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  2. Those cupcakes are adorable! And it's good to know they are using organic ingredients...not many bakeries do that.

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  3. The cupcakes are too pretty to eat...!

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  4. I haven't visited your blog in a while. It's looking great! Your photography is awesome.

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  5. Is the girl in the pic the one who was on Food Network last night? I liked her cupcake display better than the one who won.

    Nisrine

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  6. hi, Nisrine! yes, those two lovely ladies are Paula & Jean, the co-owners of Lucy & Leo's Cupcakery. i agree with you and wish they had won since i can attest to the deliciousness of those cupcakes on the show, plus their elegant display!

    your blog is lovely, by the way!

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  7. What a beautiful post! I like to watch that show because of the amazing creativity it seems to instill in the contestants. The cupcake flavors, the garnishes... absolutely breath-taking!

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  8. I agree with you - I think those cupcakes are elegant and classically decorated ... sounds like the judges wanted something more busy and show-y. Well, you are lucky you get to hang on to them!!

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  9. I just went to Sift, a cupcakery in Napa, CA. The minute I saw the sign - "Winner of Cupcake Wars, Season 2 Episode 5" - I immediately remembered your blog and this particular entry. If Lucy and Leo's cupcakes are anything like Sift's, I'm surprised you didn't walk away with sugar shock!

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  10. just ate the humming bird cupcake from Lucy and Leo's!!

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