Cake Queen

Reporter: Mark Gibson

You might not know the name, but the accent is unmistakably Australian. In the cut-throat world of cakes, Aussie Kerry Vincent cuts a controversial figure. "People say oh she's mean, but there's a difference between mean and honest and if people don't want to hear the truth to help themselves improve themselves, then they've got a problem and they shouldn't be here."

She's even been compared with the nastiest TV judge of all,

Kerry says "So I've been called the Simon Cowell of cake, I've been called the dominatrix of decorating, I'm the sultana of sugar, all sorts of weird and wonderful names."

Kerry doesn't care what she's called, while she's watched by millions of viewers. Today, we're on the set of the American Food Network's "Challenge" program-- just one of Kerry's three hit shows. "We do more and more and more episodes of cake and when they're doing cake I'm a happy camper because I'm the cake girl. And Americans love their cake. They do."

So how did Kerry Vincent get here to Denver Colorado, as a tough-talking judge on a TV cooking show? Well, she turned cake making into an artform. You see, Kerry makes cakes that have to be seen to be believed. You and I might call it baking a cake-- to the experts, it's sugar art. And Kerry Vincent is the undisputed master artist. "I have actually been awarded two halls of fame and they're international, so it's quite a heady cocktail for an old lady I think (laugh)."

Kerry Flynn, as she was then, was born in Wyalkatchem, Western Australia, grew up in Mount Manypeaks, near Albany. "When you're on a farm in Australia you know very well, every hand on deck and it doesn't matter how little you are, you pull your weight."

As a young girl, Kerry made cakes for shearers. "And we were very busy churning out sponge cake and lots of scolded cream and jam, probably clogged their arteries, poor darlings." She took up modelling in Perth, made the finals of the 1964 Miss Australia contest but it wasn't until she married Doug Vincent and moved to Oklahoma, that Kerry discovered her passion for wedding cakes.

Kerry says "I had an arrow in my quiver that nobody else did, I had knowledge of what was happening in Australia, what I'd grown up with, what the expectation of a wedding cake and the refined style of Australian decorating which is exquisite."

In a few short years, Kerry changed the face of cakes, with an old fashioned favourite. "There will always be butter cream, that's the sort of bread and butter of the cake industry in the United States, but if you want really something phenomenal you're going to do plastic icing, the old-fashioned way."

20 years ago, Kerry dreamed of starting her own Sugar Art Show. "I went to New York and told the happy little souls up there what I planned to do and there was like oh yawn, that will never happen in Oklahoma, wrong thing to say to an Australian person with great determination."

Now, the show attracts 82 thousand visitors each year. This ten metre tall sugar super-structure holds the world record for the biggest edible scene. "Sometimes I have to pinch myself now to believe that all of this is happening to me."

Next came the TV career. Kerry says "As you know Australians are pretty bloody-minded and no-nonsense and they wanted a bloody-minded no-nonsense judge."

The contestants quake before the queen of cake.

Tracey says "She can be very intimidating because she's very direct."

"So Tracey what's it like standing before her, do you get a bit nervous? I do, it makes you sweat."

"She's not acting that role, she takes cake very seriously, you know cake is Kerry's whole life." Keegan Gerhard is a fellow judge on the show. "She's not cruel, I think she's quite appropriate, she's not afraid to tell someone when they don't have the skill set to do this that they don't."

So what are the ingredients that make cooking shows so popular? "I actually liken it to gladiatorial sport, used to be that these gladiators killed themselves for people to watch, then we went to football and now we have armchair watchers watching cake."

Keegan says "She's a worldwide known figure and really the ultimate authority on cake in a country that is currently featuring 7 cake shows in prime time."

Not bad for a girl from the Aussie outback. "It's been a hell of a ride and I've enjoyed every minute of it."

Further Details

Kerry Vincent appears on three TV shows in the U.S. -

Food Network Challenge, Last Cake Standing and The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

To view the Today Tonight story, go to www.thewest.com.au