'Ultimate Cake Off': George Duran presides over full-alarm contest

In the Monday, April 12, episode of TLC's "Ultimate Cake Off," host George Duran and his judging panel -- sugar artist Margaret Braun and bakery co-owner Leigh Grode -- help pay tribute to heroic firefighters.

Also on hand is Eric Carpenter, a firefighter from LAFD Station 78 in Studio City, Calif., who's acting as the third judge to pick the cake that best honors two of his colleagues, who helped save another firefighter in distress.

"It probably wouldn't have ended up that good otherwise," he says, on the set that houses the competition kitchen. "That's what we're here paying tribute to."

"What we have," says Duran, "is three different teams building three very different cakes. What they do is ask the client, 'What are things that you like?' That means some of the features from the fire station, in this case.

"One of them is actually building a helicopter on top with rotating blades. Another one, there'll be smoke coming out of it. They really take their cakes seriously. They have a lot of elements that you would never think could apply to cakes, like smoke, lighting, motorization, power tools, all these bizarre elements that don't belong with cake.

"Now they do."

"As a cake designer myself," says Grode, "I have to say that one of the most important elements is the artistry, but it is also architecture. A cake artist does understand architecture. You have to know where the balance point is, where the center of gravity is and how that's going to work.

"What we get to learn here is how well people know that and how they can take the basic and take it to the extreme."

The day after the final judging, the winning cake -- which is, like all three cakes, huge and composed of multiple large elements -- is moved carefully to the firehouse, which has been relieved of duty for a few hours to celebrate the event with friends, family, music and, of course, cake (but not the winning decorated cake -- it's had a lot of hands on it).