Story transcripts

Queen of Cakes

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reporter: Allison Langdon
Producer: Sandra Cleary

Whoever would have thought that cakes could be so cool or that baking and decorating them could lead to international stardom?

Aussie Kerry Vincent is a household name in the U.S. as the tough judge on a reality cake show.

She has quite a story to tell, from her early days growing up on a farm in Western Australia to her new home on the plains of Oklahoma.

Along the way, Kerry has won hundreds of awards and created America's biggest cake show. Little wonder she's known as the "Queen of Cakes".

Full transcript:

STORY – ALLISON LANGDON: Deep in America's heartland, one of the country's great traditions - it's the Tulsa State Fair in Oklahoma. But it's not just the cowboys that attract the crowds - it's cakes. The big, the fancy, and the ostentatious. And amid all the icing on these cakes, Australian Kerry Vincent is the star of the show. You're a celebrity in the US!

KERRY: In the cake niche, yes. I'm not up there with Nicole Kidman or any of those, but I certainly have my followers.

ALLISON LANGDON: They love you so much here, they've even named a day after you!

KERRY: Yes, they did.

ALLISON LANGDON: October 6 is Kerry Vincent Day.

KERRY: It is. Not bad, having your own day, is it?

TELEVISION HOST: From Tulsa, Oklahoma - Kerry Vincent.

ALLISON LANGDON: Kerry Vincent has the unlikely title of “Queen of the Cakes.”

KERRY: All I can say is get it right, or don't do it at all.

ALLISON LANGDON: At 67, she is America's most famous cake judge, a fixture on the popular cooking show 'Challenge', as the acid-tongued, tough-talking Aussie.

KERRY: I could hit you, Marina. What could you have been thinking? I'm not as bad as people think. I'm known by many names. “The Simon Cowell of Cake.” “The Dominatrix of Decorating.” “Sugar Tsar.” “The Queen of Cakes.” You name it. And “Mamma Cake.” We need the sound set up for there! It should be set up.

ALLISON LANGDON: When she's not slicing and dicing contestants on the small screen, Kerry reigns supreme as queen bee at the cake show that she founded 19 years ago. I do have one gripe. I'm surrounded by cake, yet there's nothing I can eat.

KERRY: Yes, because they're like styrofoam inside. And the reason for that is because we are about decoration, circus decoration, not about cake. Welcome to styrofoam heaven!

ALLISON LANGDON: It's grown into the biggest, and the richest, cake competition in the land.

KERRY: I can't talk to you now.

ALLISON LANGDON: Thanks to Kerry's trademark force of personality.

KERRY: Ok, and then just roll it over there behind the scenes out of my sight. What's going on here? There's no mike? I'm back! Somebody said to me once that there's a whole bunch of people like me stacked away in Australian schools - the headmistress one of the good old days, where, whack on the fingers! And if I would be living at home, that this would never have happened to me, because there's too many like me there.

ALLISON LANGDON: I don't think there's too many Kerry Vincents in the world, Kerry. I think there's only one.

KERRY: That one's actually quite nice-looking, there.

ALLISON LANGDON: How Kerry ended up in America's Midwest is really a love story.

KERRY: There's cute little ones. I like those.

ALLISON LANGDON: Oil businessman Doug Vincent met the beautiful young model 38 years ago, and brought her home to Oklahoma. What do you love most about her?

DOUG: Just her. Everything.

ALLISON LANGDON: Good answer, Doug.

DOUG: If I answer the wrong way, you get a big fight right here, going on the cameras! That wouldn't be very good.

ALLISON LANGDON: Not going to happen.

DOUG: No.

KERRY: There’s a dear little fellow, look at that.

ALLISON LANGDON: It's all a long way from the sheep station in Western Australia, where she grew up baking sponge cakes for the shearers.

KERRY: I was cracking eggs into basins, and mixing sugar and so forth, when I was five. I mean, we made vanilla slices, we made all sorts of lamingtons, the coconut ice - all the old-fashioned staples that are really the backbone of Australian cooking.

ALLISON LANGDON: Do you still consider Australia home?

KERRY: Yes. I'm a card-carrying Australian. I haven't taken dual citizenship. And if I would have a tattoo, it would be a kangaroo on my backside.

ALLISON LANGDON: This is just like Play-Doh.

KERRY: It is. Roll it out.

ALLISON LANGDON: At home, in Kerry's kitchen, is where she's always honed her exceptional skills.

KERRY: So this is not something that you're going to sit and make 300, otherwise you'd be here until the Second Coming.

ALLISON LANGDON: You'd never get out of your kitchen.

KERRY: No.

ALLISON LANGDON: Whether it's cupcakes or the exquisite wedding cakes that made her famous, this is where you appreciate just what a gifted artist she is. Do you say I'm the most talented amateur cake decorator you've dealt with?

KERRY: I suppose, probably if I want to suck up, yeah. You are a successful cupcake-maker.

ALLISON LANGDON: They’re so cute! Not bad for half an hour’s worth of work! And in kitchens across America, Kerry Vincent wannabes are sweating over their own works of art. In Springdale, Arkansas, Jennifer Matsubara is beavering away on her entry for the Tulsa Fair.

JENNIFER: Alright! It's ready.

ALLISON LANGDON: She's clocked up 200 hours, and is on her fourth attempt.

JENNIFER: To win this is like becoming Miss America. It is the best experience that any cake decorator could ever hope or dream for.

ALLISON LANGDON: And it could be you this year. You could be the Miss America of Cakes.

JENNIFER: I could be the Miss America of Cakes!

ALLISON LANGDON: Do you get a tiara?

JENNIFER: I hope so! Maybe a headband from Kerry.

ALLISON LANGDON: But Jennifer won't be taking home the top prize if defending champion Gary Silverthorn has anything to do with it. For Gary, decorating the cake is the easy part. It's the 19-hour drive from Michigan that he's dreading, with his precious cargo onboard. Many bumps along the way?

GARY: Many bumps. Ok, so we had some damage. We lost our topper. But I do have some spare parts, so hopefully we can put it together to look good. I've been doing cakes since I was 10 years old. I'm passionate about it. I dream about it. I love it every day. And, so this is just an outlet. Cakes are my life. Always have been. Kind of sad, sometimes. But, um, that’s - that's who I am.

ALLISON LANGDON: The stakes couldn't be higher, so Kerry is exacting, if not, well, a little brutal. So intricate.

KERRY: He’s put a lot of work into the birds. The only thing I see - this bird looks good. I'm a bit worried about his neck. He looks like he's a bit sad and depressed bird.

ALLISON LANGDON: Come on! That is way too harsh.

KERRY: Oh, dear.

ALLISON LANGDON: It is!

KERRY: We can't ever let you on a judging panel. Never, never, never, never. All of this placating people for their sensibilities and making them feel good – you know, so, if you're not up to it, you know, there's always next year.

ALLISON LANGDON: See, that's the acid tongue I was talking about. I knew it was in there.

KERRY: It's in there somewhere.

ALLISON LANGDON: You were being way too nice earlier! Nice, or nasty, these people simply can't get enough of her. And you get the sense that Kerry can't quite believe that fame has found her at all, let alone at this stage in her life.

KERRY: I'm a cake lady. I can go out and meet fans all over the place. I can find them in the grocery store. They hear my voice two aisles away, and the next minute I’ve got somebody like, "Mrs Vincent is there."

ALLISON LANGDON: You're liking this fame thing, aren't you?

KERRY: I had a really good time at the Golden Globes. There I was, running around with Kate Winslet, and John Travolta – and then suddenly I rounded the corner, and there was this avalanche of cameras and stuff going off, and I said, "Well, where do – what do I do now?" And the woman said, "Well, haven't your people told you what to do?" I said, "I don't have any people!" I am my people!

ALLISON LANGDON: Two days, 600 cakes, and it all comes down to that defining moment all contestants both dread and anticipate. Silverthorn - silver, 922. But for Gary and Jennifer, all those hours - all that sugar - couldn't compete with this show-stopper.

KERRY: It may be over for them, but it's not over for me. They're still packing up. There's a long road ahead tonight.

ALLISON LANGDON: Are you exhausted?

KERRY: I actually am pretty good. I just go like the Eveready bunny and keep on rolling and rolling and rolling. So far as I'm concerned, it's like, "Keep on keeping on, until it's over." And the cake lady sang!

ALLISON LANGDON: Kerry Vincent is certainly a surprise. This queen of cakes is irrepressible - a girl from the bush who was teaching the world how to enjoy the sweeter things in life.

KERRY: I can't see myself sitting on a couch and waiting to die, so I will probably go a little slower as the years pass, but I still will have my skates on. And I can beat you. On my feet.

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