Can this Hempfield couple ‘Bake It Like Buddy?’ Tune in and find out
Some husbands and wives might throw in the (dish) towel if asked to enter a test kitchen and make a technically difficult cake from scratch in four hours.
While being filmed.
And while competing against another couple.
And being judged by television’s Cake Boss , Buddy Valastro.
Hempfield’s Gabrielle “Gigi,” 57, and Randy Thomas, 61, relished the sweet challenge, and the results will air at 9 p.m. Feb. 16 on Discovery Family Channel’s “Bake It Like Buddy.”
Gigi Thomas owns Gigi’s Signature Bakery, operating out of her home commercial kitchen and a Westmoreland Mall kiosk.
The two compete against another married couple, from Chester, Pa., in the episode titled, “Till Death Do Us Part Cakes.”
Testing the waters
Thomas has operated her business for 22 years, starting in Ohio, and has been in Pennsylvania since 2007.
She is unsure how the show’s producers found her, but believes they may have seen her social media posts.
“I got an email from them (late in 2017) asking if I would be interested in being on the show,” Thomas recalls.
Believing it was spam, she deleted it and a follow-up email. A phone call just before Christmas that year convinced her it was real.
The couple had only weeks to prepare. By February 2018, they were in Jersey City, N.J., where the goodies sold at Carlo’s Bake Shop are manufactured.
It’s also the site of the company’s television studios.
Valastro’s challenge to these bakers is to create cakes that depict their lives together. He, his family members and Carlo’s Bakery staff mentor and judge the creations on design, flavor, technique, finish and how well they follow a central theme.
The couple, married 11 years, are assistant scuba dive instructors.
“That’s our hobby. … The theme had to be about you and your ‘til death do us part,’” Gigi Thomas says.
Their cake combines their interest in under sea adventures and Gigi’s cultural background.
“I’m Hispanic. The Day of the Dead is very important in my culture. My husband, lovely man that he is, goes with it,” she says.
Thus what appear to be octopus tentacles and sugar skulls decorate the cake.
Some assembly required
Just like in a marriage, her husband may not have known what he signed up for when he agreed to be her baking partner.
“I had to practice with him on fondant skills. God bless him. He has two master’s degrees and he sat there and made tentacles,” she says, laughing.
“Probably within a week of knowing each other she had me working. This was the first time I did anything of that degree of difficulty,” Randy Thomas says.“Our degree of difficulty, out of a 10, I’d say was a 9.5,” his wife says.
Certain dimensions and specifications are required.
“It’s really not finalized until filming starts,” Randy Thomas says.
All in a (four-hour) day’s work
“You walk in on Monday morning and start filming,” Randy Thomas says.
Time flies when you’re having fun. It evaporates when you are mixing, baking, assembling, frosting and decorating a cake for a “Cake Boss.”
A large clock ticks in front of the contestants. “They don’t stop it for any reason,” he says.
Gigi Thomas was able to bring some of her own tools. Their ingredient list was filled and the kitchen’s refrigerator and shelves fully stocked.
Still, in an unfamiliar kitchen, with a camera crew hovering, she says, “It is nerve-wracking.”
“At one point, Buddy said, ‘I don’t know how you are going to finish that cake in four hours.’ I said, ‘We came here to go big or go home,’” she says.
Baking and quaking
The judging is not for the thin-skinned. “They tell you the good about yourself and the bad about yourself. But I like to learn. They critique it. They mean business,” Gigi Thomas says.
The episode will include video the couple sent in of themselves at home, and interviews conducted before and after the show.
“It was really fun. It was a great time,” Randy Thomas says.
The good news is the experience did not cause the couple to “part.” Will they walk away with a $1,000 cash prize, professional baking supplies and bragging rights?
Tune in on Saturday night and find out if the couple can create the perfect “marriage” of flavor, meaning and design. “I can’t wait for everyone to see the show and our cake masterpiece,” Gigi Thomas says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaryPickels.