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USO Takes Center Stage for Food Network's 'Cupcake Wars'

Monday, July 02, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

Food Network’s most recent episode of “Cupcake Wars” entitled “Saluting the USO” called for the kind of passion that the military has for America and that the USO has for those troops and their families. Sure the cupcakes have to taste terrific, but they also need to showcase the kind of creativity and symbolism that makes the special event that they appear at even more special.

For Anthony Valerio, co-owner of Wonderland Custom Cakes in Pasadena, Calif., his confections and vision set him apart and crowned him the victor amongst a battle of three other former “Wars” winners. The win brought him $10,000 and granted him the honor of having his creations spotlighted at last October’s USO Gala in Washington, D.C.

Valerio was honored by his inclusion in the big event.

“It was a big event,” he said. “It struck me as probably the biggest, most grand event ‘Cupcake Wars’ does. And that was exciting and it was doing something for the country … This was a really exciting feeling, more so than other events that we’ve done.” 

The lineup of Valerio’s cupcakes is listed below and he had this to say regarding the thought process behind them:

“The inspiration was pulled from the history of the USO. Seventy years is a long time and I’m young [28] but I heard of Bob Hope and I knew there were a lot of things the USO does for troops to give them a part of home. [It was] kind of like a timeline of the USO.”

Home: Fresh ginger, sugar-beet spice cake with homemade cranberry compote filling and spiced orange zest frosting adorned with a “made in the USA” dog tag.

Heart: Peanut butter chocolate chip cake with peanut butter frosting, homemade caramel drizzle and Cracker Jacks adorned with a red, white and blue fondant heart

Hope: Chocolate bourbon cake with a bourbon-chocolate ganache center and vanilla-bourbon cream cheese 

Honor: Coconut cake with coconut crème filling, cream cheese frosting and rolled in toasted coconut adorned with a fondant shield of honor celebrating 70 years of the USO.

For Valerio, who moved to Pasadena from Washington Township, N.J. about seven years ago to open the bakery with his aunt, being able to play a part and actually attend the event meant a great deal to him.

“It was really thrilling. It felt incredible. It was bigger to me than some of the past events and it makes you feel really good to compete and draw from something so important, to prepare something powerful. It’s not an awards show. It’s a celebration of an organization that does a lot for the country and that’s really important.”

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*See more delicious images from the USO Gala on our Flickr set. 

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