They Turned Thanksgiving Dinner Into Award-Winning Cupcakes

An East Haven mother-daughter baking team is basking in the national spotlight after winning a recent episode of "Cupcake Wars," the hugely popular show on the Food Network.

Carol Vollono and her daughter Brenda Deponte are the owners of Sugar Bakery and Sweet Shop in East Haven.

The cupcake queens beat two bakeries from Los Angeles and one in Oregon, taking home the $10, 000 top prize.

Carol and Brenda were given surprise ingredients to choose from and had 45 minutes to create and bake a dozen cupcakes.

"You're shown an ingredients table for the first round and we were given the Christmas and Thanksgiving table,” Brenda said.

It had turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry, eggnog, apple cider, chestnuts, sweet potato and marshmallows.

“So you have to take two of those ingredients and, on the spot, run back and tell your partner what the ingredients are, come up with a recipe and you have 45 minutes to make a dozen cupcakes using two of the ingredients,” she said.

They created a sweet potato cupcake with an apple cider reduction. You can find the recipe here.

Mom and daughter said it was a little daunting to be under the spotlight in the Food Network studios, but, in the end, their baking instincts kicked in.

“I wasn't nervous because I felt we were in our element. We were in our own bakery, that's how I looked at it. I ignored the 10 cameras on us at all time and we work so well together we kind of know what the other is thinking," Carol said.

The second round was about taste and presentation and Brenda and Carol showcased some of their store's regular cupcakes.
Brenda and Carol made it to the third and final round, with only one other finalist to contend with. In round three, they had to bake 1,000 cupcakes in two hours.

Sugar has been at the Main Street storefront for seven years, but the company was started in Carol's kitchen and baking cupcakes is a big part of the family's history.

"I started baking when I was 8 years old with my mother, so a lot of recipes now are handed down from my mother my grandmother,” Carol said.

They have 50 different family recipes with about 30 cupcake flavors to choose from on any given day.

"We're self taught. We didn't go to pastry school and to have that recognition was amazing,” Carol said.

The women hope to one day open a cafe to expand their business.

If you go, you’ll want to know that the cannoli cupcake is a favorite among their loyal customer base. You canfind that recipe here.

The episode aired on Tuesday night but is set to re-air during the week.

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