Kastle Sorensen has only been making cupcakes for about three years, but she has already found success in her food truck and catering business. Recently, she achieved a whole other kind of accomplishment: Sorensen recently returned from Los Angeles as the winner of an episode of "Cupcake Wars," a baking competition on the Food Network channel, which aired late last month.
As a champion of one of the show's ninth season episodes, Sorenson netted $10,000 from the network, as well as some local recognition -- Mayor Dan Sullivan presented Sorensen an official city proclamation on Wednesday at City Hall, recognizing her win.
Sorensen owns and operates Kastle's Kreations from a food truck she bought two years ago. The truck, a 1985 model, was custom-outfitted with baking equipment in Portland, Ore., and barged to Alaska at a cost of about $75,000. Today she can be found selling cupcakes out of her truck in parking lots throughout Anchorage, and near her home in Eagle River.
Her current profession is a far cry from where she started. Sorensen, who has a teaching degree, said that five years ago she was a part-time Spanish teacher. But a lack of full-time work sent her looking for another job. Time spent working at a local bank convinced her that she needed to do something else. But cupcakes weren't her first creative endeavor.
"I began by knitting and making scarves, but in February, with spring coming, I realized I needed to do something else, because people weren't going to buy scarves in the summer," Sorensen said after receiving the mayoral proclamation on Wednesday.
After baking some cupcakes for a church fundraiser, Sorensen found that she had a talent for creating the portable pastry.
"People began calling me and asking me to sell them cupcakes or cater an event," Sorensen said.
Cupcakes soon became a full-time passion, and three years later, Sorensen still operates her food truck as well as a newly-built commercial kitchen that's connected to her Eagle River home. Her cupcakes have become a huge hit with Southcentral Alaskans, and when she sets up shop in one of the many locations she frequents around town, she often sells out in less than an hour. A legion of cupcake-crazed fans follow her movements and offerings throughout Anchorage and Eagle River. The win on "Cupcake Wars" has only turned up the volume on an already popular reputation.
"My phone has been ringing a lot, and I am getting a lot more requests to cater parties," Sorensen said.
But it wasn't easy for Sorensen to get on the show. She had tried twice before and was rejected by producers. The third time, she and her assistant Amy Grue concentrated on making their audition video a memorable one. While Sorensen talked about her business, in the background, Grue was "seducing a cupcake" -- telling the camera she was deciding which one to take to bed with her. The audition tape ended with Sorensen catching Grue eating the cupcake in bed.
The ploy worked, and in June, Sorensen and Grue flew to Los Angeles to tape the show. But they couldn't tell anyone what they were doing.
"We signed contracts that said if we told anyone we were even invited to the show, we would be fined $50,000," Sorensen said.
So, she packed up, and told her father that she was heading to Las Vegas to cater a wedding.
But the show had an abrupt beginning for Sorensen and Grue. They had studied over 12 hours of previous "Cupcake Wars" episodes to prepare for their appearance. But nothing they saw prepared them for what they would be asked to create in the first of the show's three rounds: seafood cupcakes.
"When they revealed the ingredients, I was freaking out," said Sorensen, whose offering are usually sweet, not savory.
A smoked salmon cupcake saw her through the first round.
"It's actually very good and we have added it to our menu now," Sorensen said.
After two more rounds, Sorensen was crowned the winner.
She brought cupcakes to City Hall on Wednesday, but although he's a cupcake fan, Mayor Dan Sullivan is unlikely to eat them. Sullivan's office just started a contest to see who can lose the most weight.
But the cupcakes wouldn't go to waste.
"I am going to give them out to my competition," Sullivan said.
Sorensen will be serving her new salmon cupcake, along with other flavors, on Thursday from noon until 4 p.m. in the parking lot of Chilkoot Charlie's -- a popular bar in the Spenard neighborhood. Sorensen also frequently updates her Facebook page with where hungry patrons can find her around Anchorage. And if you want a cupcake, the best advice is to get there early.
"She sold out in less than an hour last time," her father said.
Contact Sean Doogan at sean(at)alaskadispatch.com