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Minn. Cupcake Warrior Takes Home First Prize On TV

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Esme Murphy Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, has...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota’s sports teams may struggle, but there is a local champion you can cheer for.

Kevin VanDeraa, of the Minneapolis Cupcake restaurant, won first prize in the Food Network’s hit show “Cupcake Wars.”

The show pits contestants against each other in a series of cupcake baking challenges involving unexpected ingredients or specific themes. To add to the pressure, the bakers have to perform under a tight deadline.

VanDeraa won for his tasty creations based on Nickoledeon’s hit children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba.”

A decade ago, VanDeraa ditched his PR job for a pastry bag and has never looked back. At his Minneapolis restaurant Monday, customers wanted to hear all about his big win on TV.

During the show, VanDeraa and his assistant had 75 minutes to create cupcakes inspired Yo Gabba Gabba.

“Making the cupcake in that period of time, it’s a high energy thing,” VanDeraa said. “You can easily make mistakes.”

He created three of the shows characters: Foofa, DJ Lance and Toodee.

VanDeraa said that for Toodee he made a blueberry cheesecake with googly eyes on top.

On Monday the character cupcakes were a hit with customers like Katy Hays. Hays described the Toodee cupcake as adorable.

“Makes me happy,” she said. “Look at it. Makes me smile.”

VanDeraa was way ahead of the national cupcake craze, his restaurant has been open for eight years, and he and friends came up with the name will brainstorming together.

Despite being in the middle of light rail construction on University Avenue, his restaurant has a cult following. One customer said she was obsessed with VanDeraa’s creations.

VanDeraa draws inspiration from just about anything. Take the Elvis cupcake — a banana cupcake filled with peanut butter and topped with marshmallow and sprinkles.

For taking first place on the show,VanDeraa won $10,000, bragging rights and a chance to compete in “Cupcake Wars” semi-finals.

When asked what it is that makes people love his cupcakes, VanDeraa said it’s in the sweetness.

“It’s a high ratio of frosting to cake, and most people, whether they admit it or not, like the frosting better than the cake,” he said.

VanDeraa is working to expand his business to a second location on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.

His winning recipes can be found on our in the links below:
Lancer Dancer Cupcake Recipe
Dragonberry Cupcake Recipe
Toodee Fruity Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcake
Pretty Girl Passion Fruit Curd-Filled Chocolate Cupcake

If you missed this week’s “Cupcake Wars,” it airs again Tuesday night on the Food Network at 7 p.m.

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