Highland Bakery cake artists take on “Beast”-ly “Challenge” Sunday on Food Network

Anyone who has ever drooled over the offerings inside the pastry counter at the Highland Bakery will no doubt get a sugar high tuning into Food Network Sunday night.
That’s when Highland Bakery’s acclaimed cake artist Joshua John Russell and sugar artist Karen Portaleo are featured as one of the four competing teams on the “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Cake” episode of “Food Network Challenge” at 8 p.m.
While Russell is a self-described “Food Network Challenge whore,” this was Portaleo’s first time in front of the FN competitive cameras.
Each team was assigned a “Beauty and the Beast” character (Team Highland Bakery was assigned motherly teapot Mrs. Potts and her cup and saucer son Chip) and eight hours to create a Disney-perfect replica of the classic animated film (that not so coincidentally goes on sale in a commemorative blu-ray edition Tuesday).
Each cake had to be three-feet tall. In order to achieve the height requirement on Russell and Portaleo’s storybook creation accented with a long-stemmed rose, Portaleo got out the hammer and nails.
“Karen is incredibly crafty and built this support structure inside the cake,” Russell reveals.
“There was more hammering and sawing going on than baking!”
Adds Portaleo: “Cake is typically really heavy so it was tricky to construct. We knew it would stand up for an hour but we didn’t know beyond that!”
Since Russell and Portaleo spend most days in the Highland Bakery kitchen together giggling, they worked seamlessly on camera.
Not so for the team creating the “Beauty and the Beast” cake featuring Disney heroine Belle. The Disney damsel cake was accidentally dropped during the competition.
“They’re already showing that in the commercials for this Sunday’s episode,” Portaleo says.
“Thankfully, we didn’t do anything dramatic enough to make it into the commercial,” adds Russell.
Still, Portaleo must have done something impressive. She’s already been asked back for the upcoming Halloween-themed episode of “Challenge.”
The winners receive a check for $10,000.
Tune into Food Network Sunday at 8 p.m. to see how the Highland Bakery team’s cake fares.