Ashley Foxen doesn’t prepare any cookie-cutter cupcakes.
A new Food Network series takes viewers behind the scenes of the creation of cupcakes that look like bagels, lobster rolls, cheeseburgers — anything other than cake.
Foxen, the owner of the cupcake catering company “Reality Bites” and star of the upcoming “Reality Cupcakes,” started crafting her cupcakes with a twist in 2012 as a creative outlet from her career in advertising. Previously, she had only ever baked from a box.
She created her first cupcake, which resembled a bagel, with her little sister, Lindsay, who appears on the show. She left her job to bake full-time with no formal training, aided by her art degree from the University of Richmond. “A friend who I went to college with worked at a production company, and she mentioned that they were looking for some food content, and the rest is history,” Foxen said.
“Reality Cupcakes” follows Foxen and her family as they prepare cupcake orders and deliver them to their customers. The first episode has Foxen baking cupcake versions of pork chops, succulent plants and pastrami sandwiches. You name it, she can bake it.
“They are cupcakes that tease your taste buds,” Foxen said. “It’s really, really cool to watch people think that they’re going to eat one thing and then taste something different. It’s a little bit of a mess-with-your-mind moment that ends up creating this really, really fun reaction. I haven’t seen a bad reaction yet.”
The cupcakes, which range in price from $3.50 to $15 each, are popular surprises at catered events like engagement parties. The show captures diners’ reactions as they bite into what appears to be a savory meat and receive a sweet treat instead. Foxen said that it is especially rewarding to allow people with dietary restrictions, like vegetarians and those with allergies, to enjoy simulacra of their forbidden foods.
The show also displays Foxen’s interactions with her mother, brother and sister as she instructs them on how to help her bake. Despite inter-family tension during some high-stress moments, Foxen said that operating her business with her family has been positive overall. “When you do have the luxury of working with the people that are closest to you, you know that everybody loves each other at the end of the day,” she said.
Looking forward, Foxen hopes to eventually expand “Reality Bites.” But the show is her biggest focus at the moment.
“I think that the season is going to be incredibly fun,” she said. “It’s a really great family show and shows a really wonderful family business that has a fun dynamic in the kitchen and at deliveries.”
“Reality Cupcakes” premieres at 10 p.m. Aug. 6 on the Food Network.