A Bell County baker managed to secure a spot on Santa’s nice list this season by winning one of the Food Network’s newest holiday competition shows.
Lily Halabi, owner of Lily’s Cakes in Temple and Harker Heights, was a member of the winning team of “Holiday Wars,” which aired Sunday night.
The competition pitted three teams of four confectionary artists against each other to create giant holiday displays for a grand prize of $10,000. Each team had three cake artists and one sugar artist.
Halabi, who won “Cake Wars” in January 2017, said it feels amazing to have won another Food Network competition.
“It’s such a nice opportunity, especially being this is much bigger than ‘Cake Wars,’” she said. “So working with other people who have never met — we don’t know each other. They put us together in a team and we definitely have to figure out who’s strong at what so we can make it work, and we pulled it.”
Halabi said she’s excited the episode finally aired on television.
“We’ve been waiting for it, especially now with the holidays coming up it was the perfect time for it,” she said. “Right after Thanksgiving, everybody’s preparing for Christmas, and this is what the episode was all about.”
“Holiday Wars” consisted of two rounds of competition. In the first round, teams had 45 minutes to create an edible holiday-themed design.
Halabi’s team, Frost Sleighers, won the first challenge and earned the advantage of an extra assistant going into the second round.
The theme of the second challenge was “When the Elves Call in Sick.” The three teams each had five hours to build a giant display on a 5-foot by 5-foot platform.
“So it’s the night before Christmas and the elves are all sick with the sniffles, and somebody has to come and help build the toys so Christmas is not ruined,” Halabi said.
She said the Frost Sleighers wanted to keep the theme tied to the Christmas spirit, so they decided to create a family of snowmen that would take over for the sick elves to save the day.
“Now there’s the twist to it,” she said. “Since they are working inside the house at Santa’s toy shop, of course it’s hot and the fireplace is on. So what’s going to happen, they have to try to beat the time, first of all to finish making all the toys before midnight, and at the same time try to finish before they melt.”
Halabi said they wanted their display to be “fun, exciting and at the same time, dramatic.”
The team built their snowman family out of cake, rice cereal treats and fondant. Halabi said the shortest character was about 18 inches tall, and the largest was about 4 feet high. Other components of the display were made with fondant, rice cereal treats, buttercream, chocolate and sugar.
One of the most important elements to the story were the flames for the fireplace, made out of pulled sugar. While assembling their display, the team had a slight mishap. Halabi tripped and bumped into the sugar artist, causing him to drop the flames, which shattered on the floor and set the team behind.
“We were freaking out, because without the flames we’re not going to have a story,” she said. “That doesn’t make sense. So we were able to come back and have it done.”
Halabi said the judges, Shinmin Li and Jason Smith, told the team they wished the sugar flames were bigger, but the team was happy to be able to put any flames in the fireplace at all.
Halabi said the team wanted to incorporate another Christmas tradition, so they came up with the idea to have little gingerbread men try to help save the melting snowmen.
“Some of them we gave little shovels, so they were trying to shovel the snow back together on the snowmen to try to save them so they can finish working,” she said. “So that was also like a last-minute idea to put all of those gingerbread men. And we did what we call a baker’s dozen, so there were 13 of them.”
Halabi said she celebrated the release of her “Holiday Wars” episode by hosting a watch party for family and friends at The Inn at Salado Bed and Breakfast.
“Everyone was sitting on the edge of their seats, especially when I broke the sugar,” she said.
Halabi said the prize money will be split evenly between the four members of Frost Sleighers. She said she plans to use the money to buy some “new toys” for her bakery.
“With so many new trends and so many new things that are coming out for sugar and cake, I always like to use that money to improve the business and that way I have more possibility to offer my customers what they are looking for,” she said.
Halabi opened her flagship store at 360 W. Central Texas Expressway in Harker Heights in 2012. She opened her Temple location at 2102 S. 31st St. in July 2017. She specializes in customized, handmade cakes and cupcakes.