A local baker is bringing her whisk to the Food Network.
Jen Jacobs, who runs Wandering Whisk Bakeshop, will be featured on tonight’s episode of Holiday Baking Championship.
Jacobs, 31, has been creating colorful cakes and cookie sandwiches out of her home kitchen since 2016, when the Clearwater resident launched her baking business. This summer, she plans to open a brick-and-mortar bakery, offering classes and pop-ups from a storefront on the border of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park.
And tonight, you can watch her take on three other contestants in a special Christmas in July-themed episode of the network’s holiday baking competition show. The description: “Four talented bakers are so obsessed with Christmas that they celebrate it twice a year.”
Jacobs said Food Network reached out to her about being on the show after seeing photos of her creations online and liking her mix of decorating and baking skills. Contestants’ baked goods are judged on both flavor and appearance.
“It’s not one of those shows where you just have to decorate,” Jacobs said recently by phone. “You have to be really quick on your feet. You have to come up with something literally in minutes.”
Producers liked that Jacobs was from Florida.
“I joked with them that celebrating Christmas in December in Florida is basically the same as celebrating Christmas in July,” she says.
She tried to incorporate a Florida vibe into the things she made on the show, which she’s not allowed to talk about in detail, except to say that the challenge included melted snowman desserts and “cool and creamy” Christmas ice cream cakes.
For someone who has watched every season of the show, Jacobs said walking into the kitchen for the first time was surreal. Especially because the contestants didn’t set foot onto the set until it was time for the first challenge.
“For me, the pantry was the coolest part of the whole show,” she said. “The other bakers and I, we were the most excited to get into the pantry and see the tools and ingredients. I’ve dreamt about having some of that stuff in my own kitchen.”
Things move as fast as they seem to on TV, Jacobs said, and those time limits are no joke.
“You are literally running,” Jacobs said. “You are running from the oven to the station. It’s not like your home kitchen where it’s all right there. My legs were sore the next day.”
What was her most memorable moment?
“Probably when I set a pot holder on fire,” she said. “We use gas burners, and I’m not used to working with those. I had a pot holder next to the stove top and before I knew it, it was in flames.”
Hopefully her chances of winning the competition prove to be less flammable — the top baker gets a $10,000 prize.
WANDERING WHISK LAUNCHES A KICKSTARTER
Also today, Jacobs is launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the startup costs for her new bakery, which she has been repairing and painting since May.
You can read more about the campaign here, but the general idea is this: Jacobs has set a goal of $20,000 to raise in 30 days, all of which will go directly to getting the bakery up and running.
Lots of small-business owners are turning directly to the community to help fund their projects via fundraising sites like Kickstarter. But unlike some other sites, Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing game.
“Starting a business isn’t cheap,” Jacobs writes on the site, “let alone a food business that requires expensive equipment and specific building requirements. We will be using the Kickstarter funds in a variety of ways.”
Contributors to the Kickstarter will get rewards depending on how much they give, from stickers, tote bags and T-shirts for some of the smaller amounts to a hands-on macaron class and a box of cookie sandwiches for the larger donations.
Look for Jen Jacobs on Holiday Baking Championship: Christmas in July, 9 p.m. tonight on Food Network.