Middle Village baker Denise Passarelli has big things on her horizon, including a star turn in one of her favorite competitive reality shows.
Passarelli — the pastry artist behind Denise Makes Cakes, a custom bakery service — will be one of four expert bakers facing off to make a mind-blowing cake creation and earn a $10,000 prize on an upcoming episode of “Cake Wars” on the Food Network.
Passarelli began baking professionally in 2011 after working in radiation therapy for eight years.
Although baking was a major career switch for Passarelli, she considered it her true calling and was determined to turn it into a successful business venture.
“I felt that it was best to have my own business,” she said, “but was difficult and a sacrifice to do both.”
She continued to work full time as a radiation therapist while studying pastries and baking arts in the Institute of Culinary Education. During this period, she also graduated from the school’s culinary management program, where she was voted most likely to succeed.
Passarelli noted that she is a big fan of “Cake Wars” and it was surreal to be chosen for a program she had watched so many times. She was especially excited to see the set in person and meet Ron Ben-Israel, a widely renowned confectionery master who serves as one of the judges on the show.
She said that being judged on camera was “as nerve-wracking as a firing squad” and she felt vulnerable beside her final presentation because of how much was at stake.
“This is your livelihood,” Passarelli said, “and they’re either going to love it or they’re going to hate it.”
While Passarelli is currently the only employee working under Denise Makes Cakes, she expects to expand soon as business picks up from the exposure of her appearance on reality television. She has recently completed other high-profile projects, including a custom cake order that appeared in an HBO series, and aims to move Denise Makes Cakes into her own storefront or studio in the near future.
“It’s kind of amazing because it’s a hard road when you decide to drop everything you’ve been doing to open a business,” Passarelli said. “It’s exciting that now I can see all these things come to fruition.”
The “Cake Wars” episode featuring Denise Passarelli of Denise Makes Cakes will air on Mar. 28 on the Food Network.