Successful Capitol Hill bakery owner? Check. Fellow at the National Institutes of Health? Check. Winner of the Food Network TV show “Cupcake Wars”? Check.
When Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and her brother Timothy McIntosh aren’t using their degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they’re whipping up cupcakes, Parisian-inspired macarons and loose tea at the Sweet Lobby on Barracks Row.
And it paid off last week, when the pair won a baking battle on the Food Network show.
“It was a good time,” McIntosh Ambrose said.
In the first round, contestants bake a cupcake that incorporates three ingredients fitting with the theme of the show. Their theme was “Year of the Dragon,” in celebration of the Chinese New Year.
The pair made a fresh ginger five-spice cupcake with red bean mousse, lychee butter cream frosting and ginger caramel drizzle, which instantly won over the judges, including 2011 Miss Chinatown Los Angeles Shirley Zhang.
During the second round, contestants are tasked with baking and decorating three cupcakes to match the theme. Here, the brother-and-sister duo went with a fire-breathing “chocolate dragon” cupcake, a “green tea jade lantern” and a “sesame chestnut mountain.”
Although the cupcakes met the taste expectations, the team was unable to finish the decorations on time.
“We have to come back strong,” McIntosh Ambrose said she was thinking. “We have to win this thing.”
For the final round, contestants — with the help of baking assistants and a carpenter — bake 1,000 cupcakes to put on a display they design and build.
The Sweet Lobby bakers designed a pagoda, with a shoutout to architect
I. M. Pei.
“We wanted to do something that would be inspired by him,” McIntosh Ambrose said.
The final product was good enough to win the Barracks Row bakers a display at Los Angeles’ Chinese New Year parade and $10,000.
“That’s going to help defray our start-up costs and take us closer to expansion,” she said, referring to the bakery, which opened in June 2011.
McIntosh Ambrose and her brother grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, and she said they have spent much of their adult lives traveling around the world.
“That’s what really helped in that challenge,” she said, “having that global perspective.”
McIntosh Ambrose said that, despite the stress, the competition “was actually fun.”
And winning? That’s just the icing on the cake.