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Catch beary cake artist Gene Shepherd on Food Network’s ‘Easter Basket Challenge’!

Big, handsome bear? Check! Food Network? Check! Big, tasty cakes? Double check!  What more does a bear need?

Bears who love the Food Network got a tasty treat last week when they turned to Food Network’s Easter Basket Challenge. The beary talented cake artist Gene Shepherd of Washington, D.C. is competing on this season of the Food Network show, and we’ve never seen cakes like these before!

The show, which will run for four weeks, premiered Monday, March 1, at 10:00 p.m. EST, and is the latest in Food Network’s decadent and over-the-top bake-off shows. Hosted by the bubbly Sunny Anderson, the show also features well-respected chefs Jordan Andino and Claudia Sandova as judges. 

When speaking to Metro Weekly about competing in his first challenge on the show and the moment the bunny head for his first cake started to crumble to pieces, Gene says: “I was in complete and utter panic. I stood there for at least 20 minutes, chin on hand, thinking ‘What the hell am I going to do?’”

Aside from being a competitor on Easter Basket Challenge, Gene is also a Washington, D.C area baker who runs a DMV-based online bakery called Cakes by Gene. But, even with all his experience, he still says being on a reality TV series can be a humbling experience. 

“I’ve spent years and years and years watching these shows, criticizing the contestants for the dumb, dumb mistakes they may have made,” says Gene to Metro Weekly

“I’d be thinking, ‘Of course I would never do that.’ And then, when you’re in it, and there’s a camera pointing at you, and Sunny says, ‘GO!’ your brain turns to mush. All the things you’ve spent years perfecting become silly mistakes you make yourself. It’s a humbling experience, that’s for sure.”

Leaving behind a twenty-year career in retail merchandising, Shepherd opened Cakes by Gene two-and-a-half years ago. Though he has been fulfilling most of his orders during the COVID-19 pandemic from his home kitchen as he’s always done, he says he does definitely miss working in an industrial kitchen. 

“Before the pandemic started, my focus was on custom cakes — cakes for events and birthdays and weddings, things like that,” he tells Metro Weekly

“Obviously, when the pandemic started, that came to a screeching halt. So I pivoted and started doing these little mini cakes. I called them ‘Quarantine Qakes,’ and right out of the gate they sold like gangbusters. They’re just little five-inch, eight-to-ten serving cakes, perfect for small gatherings and things like that. They come in four flavors and four designs. My business thrived on those for about three months. And they’re still going strong.”

Well, I’m sure many of the bears at home would love to taste test Gene’s cakes. But, don’t get too carried away — he does have a taste tester at home. However, Gene says that while his husband used to be his original taste tester, “he’s now kind of sick of cake,” says Gene. “So unless it’s something very new that I’m trying, he’s like, ‘No, I’m good.’”

Catch beary cake artist Gene Shepherd on Easter Basket Challenge, Mondays at 10;00 p.m. EST on the Food Network. 

Catch the entire series now on Discovery+, or visit www.foodnetwork.com or www.discoveryplus.com.

Visit www.cakesbygene.com, and follow Gene on Instagram at @cakesbygene.

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