Cafe Society

Denver Roller Dolls, local cake designer skate onto the Food Network Challenge

Roller derby can be a bit naughty -- what with the tight uniforms, tongue-in-cheek nicknames and racy logos. Maybe that's why the Food Network decided to forgo using the Denver Roller Dolls' A-team, the Mile High Club, as inspiration for cake designers tasked with making roller derby-themed cakes on an upcoming episode of Food Network Challenge.

Instead, the network offered up the Dolls' four other teams -- B-team Bruising Altitude, the military-themed Green Barrettes, the cowgirl-themed Shotgun Betties and the devilish Bad Apples -- as real-live inspiration.

Food Network Challenge works like this: Four chefs are given a challenge: i.e., assemble the best panini, bake the best Dora the Explorer cake, create the best non-traditional mac n cheese. (Mac n Cheese Soup, anyone?) They're given eight hours to complete their work, which is judged a la American Idol. The winner goes home with $10,000.

Cakes are a common theme on Food Network Challenge: wedding cakes, high-school reunion cakes, a cake for pop star Miley Cyrus's sixteenth birthday. In mid-February, the Roller Dolls were contacted by the Food Network with an idea for an upcoming show to be filmed in Denver focusing on roller-derby cakes. "As soon as they said what it was, I was like, 'Yes!'" says Dolls' secretary Christi "Sienna Blaze" Rigby, a skater and self-described foodie.

When contacted by Westword, Food Network programming vice president Brian Lando had this to say about the theme:

We chose to do a roller derby challenge because we knew that it would be visual, exciting and packed with fascinating characters with robust stories. We also felt that there was an inherent link between the sport of roller derby and the "sport" of Food Network Challenge.

Cakes are considered cutesy and so are roller skates. But pushed to their limit, roller skates become the catalyst for the hardcore, punk-star-competitive sport of derby. Cakes take on a similar persona when constructed on to the set of Challenge: Just try to step in the way of a cake maker with time running thin! You might catch an elbow, or at least a whack in the head with some chocolate fondant!

The show featured four cake designers, including one local: Rachael Teufel of Intricate Icings Cake Design in Erie. Each designer was assigned a Denver Roller Dolls team and asked to create a cake based on its theme. But first, they got a crash course in roller derby.

"We taught the contestants how to skate," says Lisa "RockScar" Cassell, the captain of the Green Barrettes. "Then they interviewed us to get ideas for their cakes. A lot of it was getting an idea of the team, our logos, our chants, the stuff behind it."

Teufel says she didn't know much about roller derby before the show. But she was given a heads-up as to the theme about three weeks beforehand, and she made a point to go to two roller derby bouts: one featuring the Roller Dolls and another featuring the Slaughterhouse Derby Girls of Greeley. "We did our research, that's for sure," Teufel says. "But there's always some kind of twist with the show, so you can't completely prepare. We were thrown a surprise on the show, and we had to incorporate that as well."

What kind of surprise? Teufel can't say. Nor can she or the skaters reveal who won -- though they admit people have been asking. "I'm like, 'I can't tell you anything about it!' says Rigby. "It's kind of like the Survivor thing."

Everyone will find out on August 22 at 6 p.m., when the show airs. To celebrate her TV fame, Teufel is throwing a premiere party at Casselman's Bar and Venue in Denver. Guests can watch the show, meet the Roller Dolls and sample some of Teufel's custom cakes, which have taken the shape of everything from airplanes to bustiers.

In that way, the party will differ from the show, where no one was offered a slice of the cakes the designers spent eight hours molding, prodding and poking. "Frankly, I think the staff there is probably tired of cake," Teufel jokes.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar