Tammy Varela couldn’t believe it when she first found herself on the set of Food Network’s “Holiday Wars,” waiting with other bakers for the timer to start and the competition to begin.
“It was a very crazy, wild and amazing experience — all at the same time,” Varela said.
The cake and sugar artist from Forsyth County remembers dashing around the set, preparing sugary decorations with her two teammates, Brad Lamb and Piper Guy. Her team rushed to try to beat the clock and present their final, sculpted cakes to Host Maneet Chauhan and the judges, Shinmin Lee and Aarti Sequeira.
Now, months after filming, Varela said she was excited to finally share a moment with her friends and family to watch the Season 3 premier on Sunday, Nov. 7.
“I’ve been holding this in for months now, so I [was] ready,” Varela said.
Varela first started baking and cake decorating about seven years ago when she and her husband were preparing for their wedding. Looking through different wedding cakes and their prices, she remembers thinking, “Wow, I can do this [myself]!”
She had experience in art from college, and knew if she learned more about baking, she could learn to create her own confectionary sculptures. So that’s exactly what she did.
In the middle of planning a wedding and moving jobs after working at Home Depot for more than 12 years, Varela delved into the world of cake art.
“I just started taking little online classes, looking at Pinterest, doing different things and just kind of learning a lot on my own,” Varela said.
After just months of learning techniques and practicing on her own, Varela worked up the nerve to enter her first art competition at a cake show. From there, she said the new passion took off.
She started traveling to cake shows throughout the southeast and even started working them herself, decorating and planning for different shows in the area. Not only was she attending shows and baking occasionally for clients in Forsyth County, she also started teaching others who were interested in cake art.
Although she puts much of her free time into the cake and sugar art community, Varela still works full-time in retail. After moving from her job at Home Depot, she started working at Pike Nurseries in Cumming, and she still manages the merchandise in the store.
Even after beginning to teach baking and landing a job that would have her traveling to cake shows all around the country next year, Varela said she loves her job at Pike and has no plans of turning the hobby into a career.
That was the main reason why she said she never expected to eventually end up on a baking competition show. It wasn’t until she helped to create the featured cake at an art show in Atlanta in 2019 that she thought to audition.
“Through that, I met some people who were on TV and had been on TV for several years,” Varela said. “They were kind of pioneers of all this. So I became friends with them, and talking with them, got some of the behind-the-scenes take on it. They actually convinced me to do it.”
She sent in a video of herself for the audition and, months later, got the call she had been accepted onto the Season 2 cast of “Holiday Wars.” But his was during a peak in the pandemic, and Varela said she ended up having to leave during filming for a family emergency.
Being back for Season 3, Varela said she’s excited she was still able to be part of the show.
On Sunday night, she sat down with her friends and family to watch the first episode of the new season. But by the end of the episode, her loved ones were completely shocked.
Varela and her team, the Holidazers, had been eliminated from the competition.
During that first episode, the teams were tasked with creating unlikely candidates for the job of pulling Santa’s sleigh on Christmas morning, and Varela’s team was able to pull out a confectionary sculpture just in time. But the judges didn’t feel it was up to snuff.
“It was disappointing for us because we were really working hard and pushing to get finished with our project,” Varela said. “We were disappointed, but we felt good about what we did, our concept and how we did. Things just didn’t work out.”
Varela said she still had an amazing time on the show, learning so much more about cake and sugar art and meeting new friends. She said she still talks with her teammates every week — even though they live across the country.
“The best thing I received out of this show was becoming friends with some amazing, humble, sweet, and very talented cake and sugar artists,” Varela wrote in an Instagram post after the show aired.
Overall, Varela hopes to make it back onto the show again someday to take part in a new adventure.
To see more of Varela’s work, visit her Instagram @artisticcakedesigns1.