The spoils of war have never tasted so sweet for Vero Beach bakers Paul and Cassandra Conti.
The husband-and-wife team appeared Sunday night on the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" and took home the $10,000 prize. They also presented their sweet confections at a special VIP party for the biggest stars of opera.
The sugary drama had local fans on the edge of their seats, including the bakers themselves at the couple's viewing party held at their recently opened cake shop, Casereccio Specialty & Fine Cakes.
"I'm gonna be honest, I was a little nervous going into the episode," Paul said. "I wanted to see how they portrayed me and how the editing went — and they did a phenomenal job. The whole show was entertaining and I'm not just saying that because I was on it."
The Contis battled it out with three other pastry chefs in a three-round elimination challenge until only one team remained. They were baking cupcakes with an opera theme.
Their judges: Candace Nelson, Florian Bellanger and guest judge, opera singer Ailyn Perez.
The Contis lucked out in the first round with a challenge to make an Italian cupcake out of various items, from sausages to cheeses and spices to honor the birthplace of opera.
Paul and Cassandra made their Italian chocolate cupcake, a mix of Chianti topped with a mascarpone-tiramisu frosting showered with candied prosciutto and advanced to the next round.
Round two was a bit more difficult. They had 75 minutes to bake and decorate three kinds of cupcakes befitting the night's opera theme.
Paul admits on the show that he messed up by waiting until the last minute to put in his batch of almond cupcakes.
"I knew when they came out of the oven I didn't have enough time to decorate them," Paul said. "I put the buttercream on there anyway and when I watched it melt off, I thought we were done."
Fortunately for Contis, the other contestants had trouble, too, and their champagne, almond and red velvet recipes stood out despite the messy presentation. They advanced to the final round.
They had two hours to make 1,000 cupcakes and a extravagant display.
"We took our skills and our teamwork and brought it to 'Cupcake Wars,'" said Cassandra. "We did what we needed to do and it paid off."