OSWEGO — Known to Port City patrons for a wide variety of cookies, cakes and traditional Italian almond bars, Chelle’s Bake Shop — operating out of the city of Oswego’s downtown commercial hub Canal Commons — will soon be exposed to a whole new national audience.
Owner, operator and namesake Michelle McVey this week announced on social media her inventive cake creations will be featured on an episode of the Cooking Channel’s “Freakshow Cakes.” The show features three cake artists competing for a $10,000 prize and tasked with crafting novelty baked goods.
The episode featuring the Oswego native is set to air on Oct. 18, featuring Halloween undertones and a “misfortune teller” theme. McVey said the opportunity is both a personal achievement and an opportunity to grow as a professional.
“I made myself respond to the casting call because I am a firm believer that if it doesn't challenge you, you won't grow,” McVey said, noting she almost rejected the correspondence from talent producers as just another spam email. “For me, my biggest challenge is getting over my shyness and becoming more confident.”
McVey said the casting staff found her business on Instagram and after a series of interviews over FaceTime and demonstrations of her abilities, Freakshow Cakes selected her for the limelight.
McVey nominated her sister Nell Pauldine — an “inspiration” and someone who was instrumental in launching the downtown bakery — to join her on the show and add a bit of family magic to their concoctions.
“She is, hands down, the only person who I could have done that with,” McVey said of the three days of filming for the show. “She was ecstatic. I am very lucky to have a sister who is so supportive.”
The sisters got their start in baking at a young age, helping their mother run a cake business out of their East First Street residence.
“I never dreamed I would ever do it,” McVey said about following in her mother’s footsteps as a baker. “It wasn't something I ever wanted to do because I saw how stressful it was.”
Pauldine went on to attend Johnson Wales Culinary School in Rhode Island while McVey and her U.S. Army personnel husband were stationed at the United States Military Academy in West Point.
Their passion for baking kept their relationship strong in spite of the distance.
“My sister had a friend who worked at the Satin Ice Fondant plant in Chester. She told him I had been baking and that I wanted to start using fondant,” McVey recalled. “One day, she gave me a whole 20-pound bucket of fondant and it meant a lot to me. I started playing with it and I went to YouTube and Google for different techniques and recipes for cakes.”
McVey reflected on her fondness for fondant-decorated cakes.
“I love the different techniques,” she said. “You can do anything from modern and trendy to whimsical looks. It is a really cool product.”
After three years of running Chelle’s Bake Shop, McVey said she is appreciative of Port City customers who have found her baked goods and continue to support the business.
“I hope people know that we are here,” she said. “We don’t have a storefront, we are kinda hidden and we have a lot of regulars, but there are people in Oswego who haven’t heard of us,” she said, “I hope the exposure helps the business and people ask me to make more freaky cakes.”
McVey and Pauldine’s episode of “Freakshow Cakes” will air at 11 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18. They’ll compete for a $10,000 prize and title of “Freakshow Champion,” according to Cooking Channel promotional material. The show is hosted by pastry chef Zac Young and digital culinary producer Vivian Chan.