Local baker to be featured on ‘Cupcake Wars’
Nicole Storey of Izzabee’s Confectioneries is a firm believer in enhancing the best flavors from nature in her creations. And she isn’t afraid to try out fresh ideas. Her creativity has not only made her booth a popular one at the Lexington Farmers Market this summer, but it also won her a spot on a national baking competition show.
Even though Storey doesn’t yet have a storefront to showcase her goods, the producers at Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” saw her potential. The journey from casting to filming to the episode airing this weekend was a quick one, but the opportunity has been building for years for the mother of two.
“I’ve always been culinary-inclined,” Storey said. “All the women in my family have baked. My earliest memory is making chocolate chip cookies with my grandmother.”
Named after Storey’s 8-year-old daughter, Isabel, Izzabee’s Confectioneries has allowed Storey to carry on the baking tradition with the family’s next generation, although her 1-year-old son, Declan, isn’t able to help out in the kitchen just yet.
Storey began to garner attention for her baking skills in San Diego, where she and her family lived before moving to South Carolina in July. She soon found herself with a growing stack of cake orders as friends started to spread the word.
Upon hearing about casting for Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” Storey decided to send in an application although she was just starting to grow her bakery business after several years of event planning and catering. Producers then asked Storey for a casting video, and the next thing she knew she had been booked to compete on the show.
At the same time, Storey’s husband, Tim, a former Marine, was hired by Amazon to be an area manager for its West Columbia distribution center. The family began to make plans to transition from military life in California to the South as Storey prepared for the competition.
“We were in the middle of the moving process when I did my filming,” she said.
Storey’s husband was scheduled to travel with her for the show but had to complete training with Amazon instead. Storey’s mother was available to pitch in as her partner during the June taping.
Each episode of “Cupcake Wars” features four two-person teams competing for a chance to win $10,000 and the opportunity to showcase their work at a prestigious event with hundreds of guests. While not able to reveal the results of the competition, Storey described the experience as being quite different than baking at home in her own kitchen.
“There’s a lot of pressure, and it’s very intense,” she said. “The judges are as tough as they appear on TV.”
The judges might have been critical, but Storey thinks she’s better for their evaluation.
“It’s great to have someone critique your work,” she said. “I was humbled to be competing alongside people who have large shops.”
Locals who order from Izzabee’s or who pick up a treat at the Lexington Farmers Market will reap the benefits of Storey’s experience as she is working to make her recipes better by using some of the judges’ suggestions.
“I saw some things I can work on,” she said. “I’m already tweaking a few things.”
Even when mixing in something unique or unusual, Storey always makes sure to bring out what she calls the “beauty in the basics of flavors,” which she said helped her impress the “Cupcake Wars” judges.
“I’m a big fan of vanilla bean and want to make everything whimsical and sweet,” she said. “But I’m willing to experiment.”
The “Cupcake Wars” challenges allowed Storey to do just that with a few Southern flavors during the competition.
“I think people will be a fan of my first cupcake,” she said.
There are just two Saturdays left on the Lexington Farmers Market schedule, but people can order Izzabee’s treats online. Storey also specializes in cakes for special events, cinnamon rolls, other baked goods and even candied bacon. She is looking for a storefront to house Izzabee’s but has not yet decided on a location.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for several years in addition to working as a business manager for a bakery in Boston, Storey said she expects to hit the ground running. In the midst of ramping up her online ordering site and planning what to bring to this Saturday’s farmers market, she said that the Storeys are very happy to be in the Midlands.
“The people here are just amazing,” she said. “It’s a great place to raise a family.”
Food Network will air the episode of “Cupcake Wars” featuring Storey at 8 p.m. Saturday and again at 11 a.m. Oct. 23. Storey and Isabel will be selling treats and taking orders Saturday and Oct. 26 at the Lexington Farmers Market.