Alright lets see… where were we? Ah yes, it was 7:45 and the producer for our segment had just taken me downstairs to assemble my cake. This was the moment that I was most nervous for because either this was gong to come out semi- resembling my original cake, or it was going to be a total disaster.
When we got downstairs there were people running all over since the studio doors for 1A are right next to the kitchen that I was in. I was handed an apron so that my dress had little chance of getting dirty and then the crew brought over the two halves of my cake. They were intact, and my only complaint was that I had to leave them in the fridge (since the bottom was just baked) and therefore the fondant gets all shiny and sticky and nothing really holds its shape the way I want it too. I think I was most disappointed about my curly cues drooping. Oh well though if that’s the small price I have to pay to guarantee that my cake stays together on national TV then so be it! The producer told me that she would be back down to get me in ten minutes so that was the amount of time I had to put my tiers together and pipe my icing around the gap between the layers.
All said and done, and considering everything that happened, my cake came out pretty decent. The producer came back down and kept telling me how amazed she was that I was able to make my cake look like ‘that’ (referring to the finished cake) with all the issues that I faced. She said that I had so much against me, yet look at the creation that I was able to come up with and on crutches none the less she remarked. We stood there talking a bit more about how proud she was and that I had certainly proved myself to them all, when who other than Matt Lauer walks trying to get through and stops and has a casual conversation of “Hi how was your day” I thought to myself… unreal I am standing here just talking with Matt Lauer. Ha! For those few split seconds my mind was off the fact that my cake still had a bit over an hour to go to air time.
I was brought back upstairs to the green room where I waited with the rest of the people to air on the Today show that day. At one
point Dr. Nancy Sneiderman, and Donny Deutsch came into the green room just to film a teaser on the couch in there! We were told that we would also be filming a teaser (which is neat because not every segment gets to do this!) and that we would be brought back down to the kitchen right outside studio 1A at about 8:45. Until that time we enjoyed watching everything that occurred on the plaza from front row seats on the inside of NBC Today studio; Such a neat vantage point for everything that morning.
By 8:45 we were called downstairs where we met with the producer and a camera crew ready to film the teaser. Our cakes were lined up on glass rolling tables with two slices neatly plated from each of our 6 inch sample cakes. Everything down there was like organized chaos with people running around, fixing us up, hooking microphones onto us, it was all a whirlwind. “You’re on stand-by” the camera man said, meaning that we had 30 seconds before we were live on national TV. There would be no sound to the teaser; all we had to do was stand there, smile, and wave, and make ourselves and the cake look good. It was over before we knew it, and as soon as they finished and the TV had cut to commercial the breaks on the tables were released and the cakes were lined up to be rolled into the studio. This was really happening, and surprisingly I was not nervous at all! We had no idea who would be judging the segment and were unaware of what questions we would be asked as well. It was all like a dream, somehow I had arrived in NYC, repaired/ re created a broken cake, been through more emotions than one person should go through in a week let alone a day, gone out to dinner, slept (somewhere in here) gotten up early, been whisked away to hair and makeup, met some incredibly famous people, and now here I was standing in the kitchen outside the doors to studio 1A ready to go in and appear with my cake on national TV. No. Freakin. Way. This was really happening.
During the next commercial everything was rolled in and we were lined up to begin our segment. My crutches were taken away from me and the countdown started from 30 seconds. All of a sudden Natalie Morales was introducing our segment and we were live on the NBC Today Show!! There were three cameras in the studio, and on each we could see what was being filmed. In this one little studio are 5 different set ups including the white corner couch on the morning show, the today show backdrop and others. I never knew it was all in one room!
Our cakes were lined up and they would be starting with Mona, one of the other contenders and finishing with me. Natalie announced that we had a real pro coming in and then announced it was Martha Stewart. I was beyond excited! In terms of baking, she truly is a person to idolize as she has this “baking fortress” so to speak and is known as the domestic diva. When I think of Martha Stewart I think of things being very particular and in place and here she was about to judge the taste and appearance of my cake. AHH!! It was neat to listen to the others as they were interviewed and since both Mona and Kathy were asked the same questions, who they made the cake for and what the flavor of their cake was, I thought I was prepared for my piece of the segment. Guess again! I was thrown a total curve ball and asked completely different questions!
For those of you who have not seen the segment it can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ14m98UwCI
I think the best way to show you what happened during the show is to let you read through a small article that was written about my appearance:
On May 24th, the Today Show announced a new series called Quest for the Best, and announced that the first quest
would be for the best homemade birthday cake. Emily Cioffi, 21 from North Easton, Massachusetts and a student at the University of Vermont, submitted a cake with no expectations to be one of the finalists. Thousands of viewers submitted their pictures and recipes of unique birthday cake designs, but only three creative cakes would be chosen as finalists. On June 21st, one week before the air date for the segment, the three finalist Emily Cioffi, Mona Shroff of Baltimore, Maryland, and Kathy Karrasch of Seattle, Washington, received a call from the Today Show. Each was told that they would arrive in New York on Wednesday, June 27th to assemble and decorate their cake recreations and then appear live on the today show the next morning. What the contenders did not know was that none other than the domestic diva herself, Martha Stewart, would be taste testing their creations.
After a day of unexpected events on Wednesday with little going the way it needed to, the contenders crossed their fingers for a successful segment airing on Thursday morning. Stewart, whose appearance was a surprise, said that when judging cakes,
“I look for creativity, originality. I look for beautiful design, and I look for taste. And that’s all in the execution of a baked cake. These are quite something!” She remarked.
Cioffi submitted her recipe, a chocolate cake passed down from her great grandmother and tweaked over time. “A cake can come out very differently depending on who makes it and the way that they execute each step of the recipe,” Emily says, “for example my mother and I can bake the chocolate cake from the same recipe and come out with two very different cakes. The key is that it stays consistent within the baker.” Her cake was presented as a chocolate cake with an Italian merengue buttercream frosting, covered with a homemade marshmallow fondant.
Stewart started the interview and taste testing with Mona Stroff, who recreated a Champagne bottle cake that was originally crafted for her friend’s 40th birthday. Stroff created a minty chocolate brownie cake, with mint ganache filling, covered with plain frosting.
Martha mentions that “taste is very, very important because you can make the most beautiful cake but if it doesn’t taste good then… well… what the heck!”
Stewart then sampled Kathy Karrasch’s Sand Castle Cake, which was a dark chocolate cake with a peanut butter mousse filling and peanut butter frosting. She coated the cake in graham cracker crumbs to make it appear like sand on the beach. Karrasch tells Martha that she created the cake for her nephews 1st birthday to feed over 100 people.
Cioffi, the third and final contender interviewed by Stewart sampled her cake last.
Cioffi recreated her ‘Whimsical Garden Birthday Cake’ that she had designed for her Aunt’s 40thbirthday. The cake
consisted of two topsy-turvy tiers with the top resembling a present topped with an elaborate bow and the bottom a blossoming flower garden.
“How long have you been baking?” Asked Martha Stewart of the UVM college student.
“Since I was little with my parents, and I have been decorating cakes since high school”
Natalie Morales makes a remark, “A lot of people seem to struggle to make their cakes flat but yours is lopsided by intention right?”
Cioffi replies, “It is by intention, its actually quite stable and it won’t usually fall over” This is in jest to an event that happened the day before where Cioffi’s cake, although perfectly stable and only an illusion, took a bit of a crumble while on a rough jolting train ride to New York City.
Martha seemed very impressed by Cioffi’s homemade marshmallow fondant remarking that it’s “pretty hard to do,” to which Morales responds, “she has quite a career here ahead of her I see.” Stewarts fascination with Cioffi’s cake continues as she rotates the slice to the camera remarking “look how nice the slice is!” referring to the neat layering of the cake.
Stewart asks, “Are you thinking of being a professional cake decorator?”
“I’ve thought about it,” Cioffi replies, ” but I’m also in school, hopefully to go to med school eventually”
After sampling each cake, Stewart had no difficulty choosing the winning entry: Cioffi’s chocolate Whimsical Garden
Cake. Stewart said all three cakes were “amazing and original and creative, but in terms of taste, and it always comes down to taste for me… That one,” she says pointing at Cioffi’s cake.
“Emily takes the cake!” Martha declares as her final decision after sampling each of the finalists creations on the NBC Today Show.
Congratulations, Stewart told Cioffi as she handed her the first ever Quest for the Best Trophy and said “And keep up with your baking, despite the medicine. Medicine is good too, but if you know how to bake you can always pay for medical school!” joked Stewart as she presented Cioffi with a gold trophy filled with a whisk, cake cutter, and spatulas.
Emily’s recipe as well as the other two finalists can be found online at http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/47985668/ns/today-food/t/surprise-martha-judges-today-viewers-birthday-cakes/.
I could not believe that Martha picked my cake and her reaction on national TV was priceless. The fact that she showed my piece off to the camera commenting on how nice the slice was and that she recognized how much time it takes to make your own fondant. Just the way she closed out with telling me I could pay the bills for medical school was fantastic.
Following the segment, once we were off air, Martha continued to talk to me!! She talked to me more about cake and the taste of mine and how good the fondant was and the chocolate such a rich delicious cake. She talked to me more about how I need to keep baking and not give it up, that I was going places. To be told this by none other than Martha Stewart is amazing! By now she had picked my slice back up and was eating more of it! The crew then handed me my crutches and Martha asked me what had happened. When I told her that I had hip surgery she immediately started to talk to me about hip replacements and how she had had one and even asked me if I had a good doctor and if I needed any recommendations she had one! I was proud to tell her that I am working with a surgeon who has done nothing but stand by me and get me through all this.
We then had to clear out so that they could get the next segment going, thus myself and the two other cake bakers, Mona and Kathy,
went outside back to the kitchen where the samples of our cakes were sitting. None of us had had breakfast so we cut a slice of each and tried bites of all of them, our own little taste testing!
That was pretty much the perfect finish to my Today Show experience and we were then brought up to the green room to meet our families. The look on my Dad’s face said it all, and I will never forget that look of pride happiness and joy, the look that a dad gives when he is proud to say that you are his little girl. I was the hurried off to a car to get me to the airport in time to catch a flight to Boston. The other two would be heading back to the hotel first to gather their things whereas I had brought mine with me. It had been arranged so that I would be able to make it back to Boston for an appointment with my neurologist which my orthopaedic surgeon was also attending. The NBC personnel got me into the arranged car and I was off, headed for the airport the main portion of the experience coming to a close, but the messages and people sharing in my joy was just beginning. My phone was going off with emails, texts, and phone calls from everyone sharing in this one day of happiness and
excitement with me.
At the airport I was dropped off and headed through security, my backpack on my back, and crutches moving as fast as they could take me to get to the gate. Within 20 minutes we were boarding the plane, which is a shuttle from NYC to Boston so it is a little smaller. I sat next to a wonderful woman, who was friendly and chatted with me the entire flight about my experience and also shared some of her life experience with me. I could not have asked for a friendlier seat mate! For those of you who do not know me I love planes, including the up and down part! So I am content staring out the window the whole time. To my excitement we came in over the water in Boston, which is my favorite because it looks like you are going to land right on the ocean.
Upon landing, we taxied and were at the gate within 5 minutes from which point I met my uncle who I could not have been happier to see. I had missed him and I was so psyched that he was picking me up at the airport that day; not to mention I could not wait to tell him all about NYC and the whole experience!!! He is one of my favorite people to talk to and I couldn’t have been happier to have him around on this day
that had started on one of the highest highs, and was soon going to be brought to a low at my appointment at the hospital.
Everyone’s reaction to this event in my life has been amazing and I have loved reading all the emails and texts and facebook messages. It has truly been incredible to get not only a congratulations from people but all the feedback about the segment too! It is hard for me to pick my favorite reaction, but I honestly think that my surgeons made me smile the most. My surgeon and I have been through A LOT (even that is an understatement) and to have him come into the appointment and have the biggest smile on his face and tell me how proud he was watching that segment. THAT was the greatest thing for me, for him to be able to share in this amazing moment in my life. In sharing it with others he was like a proud father and I could not have been happier to let him share in the pride and joy that came along with being on the Today Show and winning a cake competition judged by Martha Stewart! I’ll give you more on this appointment later. Almost like a part three to this I suppose!
That my friends, is my NBC Today Show experience, which happened so quickly after I was notified and carried more emotions in two days than I ever expected. The first day was filled with anger, horror and sadness, a bakers worst nightmare and the second day was filled with one of the highest highs in my life. This was by far one of the greatest, and most unique experiences of my life and one that I will treasure forever. I hope that you enjoyed reading and sharing in it with me! I am not sure yet what opportunities will come out of this experience. Part of me hopes that something good comes from it or some opportunities arise that I never expected. We will see… only time will tell; but until then I am just enjoying the time that I have here up on cloud 9, not free of hip pain by any means but at least with a little temporary good news in my life!
Link to the Segment:
Link to the Today Show article with Recipes:
The Gallery of Pictures from this Segment: