Greenwood native and Woodbridge High graduate Ebonie Carzo quit her corporate job five and a half years ago and devoted her full attention to her custom cake business in Atlanta, Ga., a passion that was fueled by her mother, who has owned and run Paula’s Place for Cakes in Greenwood for 31 years. Now Carzo is competing for a $25,000 prize on Food Network’s Wedding Cake Championship.
“It’s been the best experience ever. I was afraid to compete on a show like this,” said Carzo. “I said I will say yes and see what happens. I regret not saying yes sooner. I want to to compete again.”
“The community is so excited. Just to watch the show on TV and to know that there was someone from our community that is on there, it brought me to tears,” Paula Hughes, Ebonie’s mother, said.
Carzo was born in Seaford, but grew up Greenwood and attended Woodbridge High School. Last week she came to town to watch the second episode of the show with her family before returning to Atlanta.
“It’s like I’m a local celebrity. Everybody is super excited,” said Carzo. “That (watching the show with family) was very important to me.”
The third of four episodes of Wedding Cake Championship, hosted by Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, aired this Monday night with the finals scheduled to run June 24. Carzo, Owner and Lead Cake Designer at Scrumptious Cakery, LLC in Atlanta, is partnered with Courtney Olivari of CEO Custom Cakes in Hapeville, Georgia on the show.
Carzo said she has a large network of cake designer friends and was looking for someone to balance her out. They started working together for the first time in preparation for the competition.
“I don’t think I fully grasped the concept of being on national TV,” said Carzo, who describes herself as a perfectionist. “I wanted to be sure I put forward the best product possible. I wanted to make sure our creations were beautiful for TV.”
Carzo grew up around baking through her mom’s business. As a child, she often washed dishes at the bakery and helped her mom out.
“I’ll be honest, it’s never been my dream,” the 2002 Woodbridge graduate said of being in the cake business. Carzo studied international affairs at Spelman College in Atlanta and went on to earn a masters degree in business before working in the corporate world. She registered her cake business in 2008 and did it as a side job before quitting her corporate job in 2013 to dedicate all of her time to being an entrepreneur.
“I wanted to follow my dreams and I fell back on the skills that my mom taught me,” said Carzo. “I’ve been around baking my entire life.”
“She knew a lot of stuff already,” Hughes said of her daughter, who would ask her how to do certain things on cakes when she first started in the business. “Now I’m the one calling her about how to do certain things with cakes. It’s like the student became the teacher.”
Hughes said she advised her daughter to invest in a good pair of work shoes because she would be on her feet creating cakes for their clients. She also told her it would be well worth the time and effort “when you get to see their faces light up when they see the cakes that you created for them.”
“She’s so fearless when it comes to making cakes. She just takes the challenge and runs with it,” said Hughes. “She makes amazing cakes and wedding cakes and I’m so proud of her.”
Hughes faced a similar situation as her daughter when she first decided to get into the business. She was working as dental assistant when one of her children was dealing with asthma and other medical conditions and she had to stay home and take care of him. Paula got bored and did some baking, and the rest is history.
“I love it, it’s my passion. I’m just as excited about it today as I was 31 years ago,” Hughes said. “It’s just such a blessing to have one of my children to take on the business that I started many years ago. With Ebonie, the sky is the limit and I can’t wait to see where cake decorating takes her next.”
“My message to people is it doesn’t matter where you’re from and what conditions you come from, if you have a dream you can put together a plan to make your dreams come true,” said Carzo.
Editor’s note- Unfortunately, Carzo and Olivari did not make it to the Cake Baking Championship finals, which air next Monday night.