Nearly six months ago, the Cooking Channel visited three Jacksonville-area bakeries to showcase larger-than-life desserts for a new television show, “Epic Sweets.”
On Friday, Aug. 25, viewers across the country will get a taste of Alleycakes Bakery, Amaretti Desserts and Cinotti’s Bakery.
Amaretti Desserts owner Donna Damiano said she couldn’t believe it when the television network called her about the show in February. “I was so excited they found me and thought I was good enough to showcase my desserts,” she said.
Damiano worked with television producers to come up with what she would make for “Epic Sweets.”
She ultimately decided on an éclair cake, a combination of éclairs and cream puffs, and white chocolate bread pudding, which is made from cinnamon roll sticky buns and croissants.
“They thought the cake was cool, because it’s so big compared to regular éclair and cream puff,” she said. “The bread pudding is one of our best sellers and they liked the fact that I created something out of a repurposed day-old product.”
In early April, the television show’s host, Chef Jeff Mahin, creative force behind Chicago’s Do-Rite Donuts, arrived at Amaretti Desserts on Old St. Augustine Road with a camera crew and producers in tow to bake with Damiano.
“It was surreal and so much bigger than we were anticipating,” she said. “They were there for 13 hours shooting, so it was a long day, but it was a lot of fun.”
Damiano opened Amaretti Desserts in Mandarin more than four years ago and it was a long time in the making for the lifelong baker.
“I’ve been baking for as long as I could pull a chair up to the counter,” she said. “I loved to help my mom in the kitchen growing up and baking always came out ahead of cooking.”
Damiano opened a second Amaretti Desserts location last spring in San Marco adjacent to the San Marco Theatre.
“My dream had always been to open a dessert and coffee shop,” she said. “It’s been a lifelong dream to have this.”
Damiano said she’s hoping to host a preview of “Epic Sweets” at the San Marco Theatre for family and friends.
“To showcase my bakery on national television is huge,” she said. “I’ve worked my entire life to have something like this and to have that recognition for the work I’ve put into it means a lot.”
Ali Webb, owner of Alleycakes Bakery, also couldn’t believe it when the Cooking Channel called her Neptune Beach shop about “Epic Sweets.” “It was a dream of mine to be contacted by them,” she said.
Webb opened the Atlantic Boulevard shop in Neptune Beach nearly four years ago.
“It started as a place for me to bake, so I wouldn’t bother my roommates,” she said. “Since we’re next to the DMV, it brought a lot of attention to us.”
In addition to a large array of cupcake flavors, Alleycakes Bakery also makes macaroons, cakes, cake pops and other sweet treats.
The bakery also makes giant breakfast pastries, and Webb decided to make a 12-pound one for “Epic Sweets” while filming in early April.
“It was a full day of baking,” she said. “The first half of the day was spent baking and the second part was interacting with Jeff.”
Webb said she’s looking forward to her bakery being highlighted on the national television show.
“I’m excited to see how much more of the world discovers Alleycakes,” she said. “It was a really cool experience.”
While phone calls from television networks aren’t uncommon at Cinotti’s Bakery, co-owner Michelle Cinotti-Vining said “Epic Sweets” was a unique experience for the more than 80-year-old Jacksonville Beach bakery.
“We’ve gotten calls before, but one of our customer’s sisters was producing it and it was a pilot show,” she said. “They were also coming here on our turf and that made the biggest difference for us.”
Cinotti-Vining said cameras and crew members were spread out throughout the bakery during the filming.
“It was both fun and chaotic at the same time,” she said. “We’re family-owned and operated, and it’s not always easy working with your family, so I’m sure they got some great clips.”
Cinotti’s Bakery made a three-foot-tall maple bacon doughnut tower and a 25-pound candy bar cake.
“We always have our staples and remember where we came from, but we try to also be cutting edge and trendy,” Cinotti-Vining said of the bakery’s offerings. “We’ve learned to keep up with the trends in order to be relevant.”
Cinotti-Vining said she’s looking forward to watching the show with her family when it airs Friday, Aug. 25 at 10:30 p.m.
“We’ll be watching it together and making fun of each other,” she said. “We’re a tight-knit family, so it’ll be cool to laugh at each other on television.”