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Sugar Bakery Wins ‘Cupcake Wars' Challenge on Food Network

Many residents in town know exactly where to go when they need to satisfy their sweet tooth: Sugar Bakery & Sweet Shop on Main Street. People across the country now also know where they can get competition-winning cupcakes.

Sugar Bakery earned its place in the national spotlight last week when the shop's owners appeared on the competition show Cupcake Wars on Food Network. Brenda DePonte and her mother Carol Vollono appeared on the second-season opening of the series in which they competed with three other talented bakers from across the country to earn the highest praise for their cupcakes from a panel of renowned judges.

DePonte and Vollono were revealed as winners of the $10,000 prize at the end of the episode. For those who missed the broadcast, Food Network will likely replay the episode again.

While bakers typically seek an audition to appear on Cupcake Wars, DePonte said Food Network sought Sugar Bakery out as a competitor. In June, the Food Network called to ask the Sugar Bakery team to audition. A month later, they learned they would appear on the show.

The show had a holiday theme and one of the competitions involved creating a presentation for a tree-lighting ceremony. There were three separate competitions, all requiring competitors to complete tasks within an assigned period of time.

Even as the competition drew to a close, DePonte had doubts that she and her mother would win. She said the last competitor created gluten-free cupcakes that received rave reviews from the judges throughout the competition.

DePonte and Vollono's chocolate peanut butter ball cupcake gave the pair the winning edge. The winning recipe, along with DePonte's bio, currently appear on the Food Network website.

Just a couple of days after the show was first broadcast, DePonte said she has received a lot of phone calls from people throughout the state.

"To be recognized locally and state-wide is huge," said DePonte.

While locals can easily stop by the bakery to taste why DePonte and Vollono won the competition, most Food Network viewers-scattered across the country-can't sample the cupcakes. But that could change; DePonte said the bakery doesn't ship its cupcakes because many are topped with cream cheese frosting, which doesn't tend to travel well. But they're working on it. Among future plans for the store is a shipping area.

DePonte said they would also like to expand the store to include a café. The store doubled in size in May when it expanded into the storefront next door.

"We had 1,000 square feet and now we have 2,100 square feet," said DePonte. "We needed the space."

The space in which the family started their business was much smaller than the original store. They began baking in 2004 in a second kitchen in Vollono's East Haven home and served wholesale customers. They transitioned to serving retail customers when their store opened in 2006.

DePonte learned about baking from her mother, who learned from her mother (and DePonte's grandmother) Elizabeth Bertier, who also has a strong presence at the bakery.

In addition to the cupcakes, Sugar Bakery also offers treats such as cakes and butter cookies and creates gift baskets of the various sweets.

DePonte said they continually fill the cases with cupcakes as they sell and noted that demand will likely continue to grow at a fast pace. DePonte said the family expects to have a very successful holiday season. Yet, coupled with this new national fame, DePonte said she doesn't know what to expect beyond that.

"I can't imagine what's in store," she said.

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