While most people gathered with friends on a recent Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl, friends of founders of "The Sweet Lobby," Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and her brother, Timothy McIntosh, could not wait for the game to end.
They were eager to watch the siblings compete on the Food Network's show that pits cupcake against cupcake in a tasty competition known as "Cupcake Wars!" After three intense rounds, the siblings, originally from Trinidad, put their science degrees to the test to win the $10,000 prize.
"I think our engineering background uniquely influences our approach to baking," said Ambrose. "We leveraged creativity, a global perspective and an understanding of scientific principles to gain a tasteful advantage."
Ambrose, who has bachelor's degrees in chemical engineering, French and Literature from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University, is a self-taught baker. While studying French in Paris, Ambrose became so intrigued by the sophisticated and delicate craft of French patisseries that she began developing her own recipes.
Younger brother McIntosh -- also an MIT chemical engineering graduate -- shares the passion. In June 2011, they founded "The Sweet Lobby," a boutique bakery blocks from the nation's Capitol. The term "Lobby" refers to the various meeting and showcase areas on MIT's campus. The store, about the size of a hallway, is designed to highlight their signature French, gluten-free macarons, gourmet cupcakes, shortbread, European-style hot chocolate and other treats.
"Consistent with the obvious political connotation, we strive to be the ultimate advocate for your sweet tooth," said Ambrose.
During the Chinese New Year's- themed "Food Network" show, "The Sweet Lobby" team faced three rounds of challenges. The first required them to use three of more than a dozen of the exotic Chinese cooking ingredients that were provided. However, the over-achievers impressed the judges by using five items to create a fresh ginger, five-spice cupcake with red bean mousse filling, lychee butter cream and a ginger caramel drizzle.
The second challenge was to prepare -- within 75 minutes -- three additional Chinese-inspired cupcakes. The results: Fire-breathing Chocolate Dragon, Sesame Chestnut Mountain and Green Tea Jade Lantern. Unfortunately, the clock beat the siblings and they were unable to finish the delicate cupcake toppings. Nevertheless, judges were so captivated by the taste and partial presentation that the team was spared elimination.
For the final challenge, they overcame their time issues to complete a stunning display of 1,000 intricately adorned cupcakes displayed on an impressive multi-tiered pagoda, that impressed both the judges and the competition.
"Being on 'Cupcakes Wars' was amazing and we're excited about the opportunity to introduce the world to our approach and our products," said Ambrose.