MOORPARK, Calif. - As a final-three contestant on the Food Network series "Spring Baking Championship," Damiano Carrara, of Carrara Pastries in Moorpark, did something few bakers have done: He made his very first wedding cake — in four hours.
"I am a machine. I consider myself a Ferrari today," the Italian-born Carrara, 29, said in the season-finale episode, which on Sunday also called on contestants to produce three separate treats for a dessert bar.
Carrara answered the cake portion of the challenge for the $50,000 grand prize with a three-tiered lemon confection filled with limoncello mascarpone custard and fresh raspberry, covered with dozens of pale lilac buttercream rosettes.
Series judge Nancy Fuller said she liked the custard so much she wanted to take some home in a bucket. British model-turned chef Lorraine Pascale deemed the cake fresh and modern.
And celebrity cake chef Duff Goldman, who will be in Camarillo on June 7 for the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival, praised the clarity of the lilac hue.
But the judges ultimately awarded the title of champion baker to Andy Chlebana, of Plainfield, Illinois.
"Did you know he was named National Pastry Chef of the Year?" Carrara said with a smile just moments after the results were announced. "I think after only four years baking, I am pretty satisfied with how I did."
Fans attending the first of two taste-along viewing parties at Carrara Pastries on Sunday met the judges' decision with a collective "Awwwwww!"
Then they stood and applauded Carrara, who in turn stood and applauded brother Massimiliano Carrara, 27, with whom he opened the pasticceria at 476 W. Los Angeles Ave. They opened a second location in Agoura Hills in 2013.
"He did a great job. I expected that," said Massimiliano.
"We are happy to show what our shop is about, what Italian pastries are about," he added.
Also attending the party was their father, Ivan Carrara, visiting from Italy. He paced the floor behind the gelato counter while Massimiliano shifted between the kitchen and the dining room.
Damiano sat in the dining room with former "Spring Baking Championship" competitors turned friends Kristine de la Cruz, of Crème Caramel L.A., and Sandy Hunter, of the Chicago-based Sweet Sensations Pastry.
Hunter spent much of the evening bouncing a finger off the bridge of her nose, in a display of empathetic nerves.
"It was a bold choice," she said of Carrara's pale-violet cake.
And a delicious one, said Jocelyn Peterson, of Camarillo.
A longtime fan of the bakery and café, Peterson attended nearly every Carrara Pastries viewing party during the show's run. The desserts served Sunday were among her favorites.
"Damiano's flavors are so unusual. That's what puts him out ahead of everyone else, in my book," Peterson said.
Sample-size versions of the season-finale treats will also be available during additional viewing parties at 6 and 9 p.m. June 7. Admission is free, but reservations are required. For information, call 552-4250.
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