FLORENCE - War has never been accused of being sweet.
But Sunday night it will be thanks to two Florence women who will sprinkle a little Sugar on Top.
Harley Williams and her mother, Paula McGee, will face off against three other mother-daughter teams on a new episode of "Cupcake Wars" on Food Network. The episode, featuring Australian-born pop star Cody Simpson as the guest judge, airs at 7 p.m. Sunday.
The show also is judged by Candace Nelson, owner of Sprinkles Cupcakes, and Florian Bellanger, chef and co-owner of online macaroon company, MadMac.
Williams, owner of Sugar on Top bakery, called the fast-paced baking experience wonderful and hectic, almost in the same breath. She and her mother were chosen from what is thought to be thousands of applicants for a coveted spot on the baking competition series.
Four teams of two from across the United States compete in three rounds of cupcake battles for $10,000 and the chance to showcase their creations at a high-profile event.
Williams and McGee are legally bound to be tight-lipped about their showing at the competition, but Williams did say she is "proud of how we competed and how we represented Florence."
More than a year ago, Williams submitted an application for the show's sixth season, but she didn't get a call back for that season as it focused on champions from past shows. Then, unexpectedly, Williams was asked by the show's producers to reapply for this season. She did and after several steps, including an audition video, she got the call.
"I was at home alone when the phone rang, and I saw the call was from Los Angeles," she said. "I sat there, looked at it and almost didn't know what to do.
"Then I thought ‘I can't miss the call. I have to answer.' "
That was the beginning of July. Less than three weeks later, Williams and McGee were on a plane to Los Angeles for filming.
In the time between the call and filming, the team tried to prepare. They timed themselves, memorized recipes, tinkered with ingredients and put themselves in "high-stress situations," Williams said.
When it came time to film, the pair faced three teams that had competed on the show before, McGee said.
"We didn't know that before, and we didn't find out until after we had filmed everything," she said.
That's because they were basically sequestered from the other teams while they were in Los Angeles.
"On the show, you can see where we go off set while the judges deliberate," Williams said. "Even during that time, we were in separate rooms, and there were people sitting outside our rooms."
McGee added, "Anytime we were near the other teams, there were people with us making sure we didn't talk."
The show presents several challenges — short time frames, off-the-wall ingredients and unfamiliar equipment are likely the top three.
"That clock is 1,000 percent real," Williams said. "Once it starts, it doesn't stop."
"I asked them ‘What if I fall out,' " McGee said. "They told me ‘We have a medic that will tend to you, but Harley has to keep on baking.' "
In the first round, contestants are given 45 minutes to bake, cool, frost and decorate a cupcake to be judged on its taste. The catch is the table of secret ingredients. For Sunday's episode the tricky ingredients were Australian-themed to pay homage to the guest judge, Simpson.
"None of the ingredients were things we had ever worked with," Williams said.
McGee added this: "And most of them are things that wouldn't even go in a cupcake."
One team is eliminated after each round. The three teams that make it into the second round are then challenged to develop three "innovative and creative" cupcakes that are judged on decoration and taste in 75 minutes.
"I learned from watching ‘Cupcake Wars' that the judges don't want something traditional," Williams said. "And you certainly don't bake a red velvet cupcake. Florian hates red velvet."
The final two teams have to bake and decorate 1,000 cupcakes and design a display in just two hours.
Williams started her family centered bakery just more than two years ago. Before having a storefront on Tuscaloosa Street in downtown Florence, Williams was baking and decorating wedding cakes in rented kitchen space. She said her orders grew to the point she was ready to take the jump into the life of a bakery owner.
She did so with her mother and grandmother, Peggy Jones, in the kitchen with her. And, really, that was the only way that would have been appropriate.
"From the time I was big enough to help, my mother and grandmother had me at the kitchen counter baking," she said. "Because of that, I've always dreamed of owning a bakery."
Now the kitchen is full of three generations, but soon they will have to make room for another. Williams' twin daughters, Layla and Piper, though just 2, will be pulling up a stool soon, too.
"As soon as they are big enough to mix something, I'm sure they will be helping," Williams said, laughing. They have already picked a favorite flavor from their mother's creations.
"Frosting," she said. "Any flavor cake as long as there is frosting."
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.
Florence bakery Sugar on Top will compete on an episode of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars to air 7 p.m. Sunday.