Encinitas baker tastes sweet victory on ‘Cake Wars’

Twelve years ago when she started baking, Monika Stout just wanted to impress her children with homemade birthday cakes. But last summer, the Encinitas woman impressed people who most would consider harder to please — the judges of Cake Wars.

Stout, 53, won her episode of the Food Network reality competition television show last July. The episode aired last month.

Keeping quiet about the win — and its $10,000 prize — was a challenge, she said.

“Some people knew we had been on the show, so they wanted us to tell them what happened,” Stout said recently in her kitchen as she prepared a chocolate mocha cake. “We couldn’t tell them. I would tell them we made it past the first round.”

The episode started out with four bakers and their assistants.

Some bakers were eliminated after the first “Batter Up” round, in which they were asked to create a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cake with pizza ingredients.

Stout and her assistant, Louise Pass, decided to sculpt Michelangelo popping out of a pipe. The cake, which took an hour-and-15-minutes to complete, was made with tomato spice and Mascarpone frosting with a caramel drizzle and candied pepperonis with cayenne pepper.

Then came the big cake, which was Stout’s goal to create all along. (She said her victory was a nice extra accomplishment.)

The winning confection was a chocolate mocha cake with candied pecans and butter cream with a butterscotch drizzle. The three-foot-tall cake displayed the four turtles battling different villains on top of two buildings.

About five winning Cake Wars creations will be on display at the San Diego Cake Show, which Stout and Pass both sit on the board for at the San Diego Cake Club. The public event will take place March 18 and 19 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Tickets are available now at sandiegocakeshow.com.

Stout, who has never gone to a formal culinary school, said she is hoping to use her earnings from the show toward a trip to Ireland later this year with her husband.

Stout, a graphic designer who has been baking since she was 40 and took classes at La Costa Canyon High School, said the hobby was an instant love for her.

“The minute I started doing it, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. This is what I was meant to do,’” she said.

She has since taken classes all over the country and also teaches decorating classes in her home kitchen — which is a certified cottage food operation — and at Standlee’s Cake & Party Shop in Chula Vista.

Stout said she enjoys baking because of how calming it can be and how exact the recipes are. She’s not as fond of cooking.

Croissants are an ideal treat to create when she is stressed out, she added.

“Everything has to be precise and perfect for croissants to work out,” she said. “For me, that’s like zen.”

While the baking originally started out as something for Stout’s children, her now 20-year-old son’s and 24-year-old daughter’s sugar cravings have died a bit.

“They’re over it,” Stout said, laughing, adding that the kitchen counters and their cabinet space are usually filled with homemade desserts.

Still, she’s got her own sweet tooth to please, anyway.

“I like chocolate,” she said with a smile as she stirred a generous amount of cocoa powder into her mixture. “I’m like any woman.”

She said she spends about 15 hours a week baking. Reservations can be made four-to-six weeks in advance on her website, www.trulyscrumptiouscakes.com or by calling her at 760-803-0869.

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