After Monday night’s episode of “Cake Wars” aired, one baker on the Food Network’s competition show stood victorious — Lilian Halabi, owner of Lily’s Cakes in Harker Heights.
The win was a momentous achievement that Halabi never imagined when she turned her love for baking into a family-owned business in 2011.
“I knew that I wanted a business, and combining my hobby with this bakery worked perfectly for me,” said Halabi, overflowing with joy and thanks to the local communities.
“We share this with our customers and soldiers and everyone that has supported us. I didn’t know we had so many fans.”
Among those fans is Gina Pence, president/CEO of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce, who said winning the competition brought national recognition to the business and city.
“We are thrilled that Lily, owner of Lily’s Cakes has won the national competition on “Cake Wars,” Pence said. “Her business increased tremendously the day after ‘Cake Wars’ Monopoly show aired, and I know visitors will continue to visit our city looking for the sweet destination Lily’s Cakes.”
A “Cake Wars” episode pits four bakers against each other in unique challenges with two elimination rounds overseen by a panel of culinary judges.
Monday night’s episode centered on the popular board game Monopoly. The bakers’ task was to incorporate the spirit of the game, along with as many figures from it, into a cake design.
That challenge was ideal for Lilian, who said Monopoly was one of her favorite games to play growing up in Venezuela.
“My cousins and I played it at night, and that is why I added the nighttime skyline on the cake, but the judges called it too dark,” she said.
Yet the darker motif was the only negative comment from the judges in their final review.
The towering five-tier cake consists of an orange cake made with toasted coconuts, flambe pineapples and orange buttercreme frosting. Many of the Monopoly figures decorate the outside, including a pair of dice, various game tokens and money and all topped by the iconic Mr. Monopoly figure.
Halabi and her assistant, Samantha Adkins, approached the challenge like making a wedding cake that was due by a certain time.
“Samantha is amazing. All I have to do is look at her and she knows what I need and she kicks in quick,” Halabi said. Working under pressure is not a problem for Halabi either. “God has really gifted me with this ability; when I’m rushed, my brain kicks in faster.”
Her design, created in only four hours, was both a delicious and creative masterpiece that brought raves from the judges.
“Lilian delivered a close to flawless cake,” said Waylynn Lucas. Fellow judge Richard Ruskell said the cake made him smile and he loved the flavor. But it was the amount of detail on the cake that caught his eye.
“The fact that she indented the dots on the dice makes me know that she is really a quality cake artist,” Ruskell said.
Assistant Samantha Adkins agreed, “I felt our design was very clean, and that is what our work represents.”
Besides all the instant fame, Halabi received a $10,000 cash prize for winning. Some of that money will buy equipment to open her new bakery in Temple this spring.
Born in Venezuela to Syrian parents, Lilian Halabi and her family came to the area in 1995 for her husband’s work.
A baker and cook since childhood, she is self-taught, with her training coming from the cake decorating classes at Hobby Lobby.
But when a friend entered her in the reality show, she knew that she could win.
“I went to the competition with the purpose of winning, because I love challenges, and I wanted to show what I could do,” Halabi said. “We’re so excited to win this award for us and for everyone.”