Alumnae compete on Food Network’s ‘Cupcake Wars’

Harley Williams and Paula McGee stand inside their bakery, Sugar on Top, located on East Tuscaloosa Street in Florence.

Mother-daughter bakery owners Paula McGee and Harley Williams recently announced their participation on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” a competition awarding $10,000 to the most innovative cupcake concepts.

The owners of Sugar on Top on East Tuscaloosa Street participated in the event in July this year but were not given the option to speak about it until Food Network gave the OK.

“I’d hesitate to say that was the hardest part,” Williams said. “We’d have regulars come in and say, ‘You guys should go on “Cupcake Wars,”’ and we’d just have to nod and say we were working on it.”

The theme of the episode Williams and McGee participated in focused on Cody Simpson, an Australian pop star.

“I knew the guest judge,” Williams said. “It made me so much more excited because he’s just starting to reach popularity in the United States. Being a part of something like that with a rising star is just a new level of excitement.”

Given the ingredients of Vegemite, lamington, meat pie and barbecue shrimp, the contestants were asked to incorporate a “taste of Australia” into their creations. Williams promptly came up with recipes for Pineapple Inside-Out Cake, Sticky Date and Raspberry Lemonade cupcakes.

Judges responded to Williams’ creations with such praises as “You nailed it” and “a very nice interpretation.”

Though the competition was one in a million, Williams said the best part of the experience was “being able to do it with my mom.”

Prior to the filming in July, McGee had a heart attack.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it,” McGee said. “They told us if I collapsed that they’d come pull me off-screen, but that (Williams) would have to keep working.”

Among the other girls on the show who snapped at their mothers with things like “You’re just making a mess,” the relationship between Williams and McGee definitely stood out on camera.

“Stop it,” McGee said as Williams described the fear of not having her mother with her for the competition. “You’re going to make me cry.”

Though the duo did not come in first place, they came a close second only to competitors who had been on the show once before. Regardless, customers are coming in more than ever, saying, “We saw you on TV,” and “We were on the edge of our seats.”

Sugar on Top plans to recreate their competition pieces and are currently awaiting the arrival of a shipment of Vegemite.

“I would say that regardless of someone’s goals in life, you get out what you put into it,” Williams said. “That sounds cheesy, but that’s how you achieve your dreams. There’s no fairy godmother — only sweat and tears.”