Grosse Pointe City baker Kara Shall talks to “Christmas Cookie Challenge” show host Eddie Jackson while filming an episode of the Food Network competition show.

Grosse Pointe City baker Kara Shall talks to “Christmas Cookie Challenge” show host Eddie Jackson while filming an episode of the Food Network competition show.

Photo provided by Food Network

City woman chosen for TV competition is no cookie-cutter baker

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 17, 2019

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Viewers of the popular Food Network competition show “Christmas Cookie Challenge” may see a familiar face this season.

Kara Shall, of Grosse Pointe City, who runs Hen & Chick Cakes out of her home, was selected as one of the bakers from around the country who will compete with their culinary confections; her episode will be shown at 11 p.m. Dec. 23.

Shall, who also works as the lead cake decorator at Cornwall Bakery in Grosse Pointe Park, said a friend told her about “Christmas Cookie Challenge” and encouraged her to apply for the show.

“This one seemed to be a perfect fit (for me),” Shall said while preparing an order of cookies for a customer from her kitchen last month. “Cookies are what I really love to do.”

A mother of three boys — William, 15; Edmund, 12; and Henry, 10 — Shall said she started making birthday cakes for her boys “as a hobby.”

“I’ve been baking since I was little,” Shall said. “Both of my grandmas and my mom loved to cook.”

Shall remembers making a miniature pie every year for Thanksgiving using the ingredients left over from her grandma’s pie preparations.

She started out as a special education teacher.

“But I always wanted to be doing something with my hands, doing something crafty,” Shall said. “I never felt I was very artistic until I found my medium, which is sugar.”

Initially, Shall made cakes for friends and family, but she gradually came to the realization that she could make a career out of her passion.

“I wanted to do something I really loved,” said Shall, 43. “I was about 37 when I learned what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

Producers for “Christmas Cookie Challenge” flew Shall and the four other contestants on her episode to Los Angeles for three days in February. Although her episode wrapped months ago, Shall has only recently been able to tell people about it — but she isn’t revealing the results. She said the other contestants — who hail from North Carolina, Washington state, Pennsylvania and Florida — “all got to be really good friends” and will be reuniting at an upcoming cookie baking convention.

Shall said contestants only got a five-minute tour of the studio kitchen in advance of the shoot, so they didn’t know where ingredients or baking tools were.

“‘Intense’ is the word that comes to mind,” said Shall, who also noted that the contestants couldn’t bring their cellphones with them.

“It’s the most challenging thing I’ve done in my career,” Shall said. “I’m just proud of putting myself out there and going for it. I learned not to second-guess myself — to trust myself.”

Freeman Gunnell, the owner and chef at Cornwall Bakery, said Shall has worked there since about May.

“She has a very creative imagination, and she’s very accommodating to whatever people request,” he said of her cake decorating. “She’s done some unique things. She likes doing sculpted cakes and cakes with fondant.”

Gunnell said Shall has been doing a great job since she started at his business. He said that he was excited when he learned that she had been chosen to appear on a national baking show.

“I think it’s great,” Gunnell said. “I was really happy for her.”

“Christmas Cookie Challenge” is hosted by Eddie Jackson and features lead judge Ree Drummond.

Shall is holding a small viewing party for her episode. Naturally, she’ll be making cookies.

“It’s going to be a cookies and milk party,” she said with a smile.