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Valerie Phillips: Self-taught baker winner of 'Cupcake Wars'

Victory is sweet, especially when there's frosting on top. Just ask Megan Faulkner Brown, founder of Sweet Tooth Fairy bake shops, fresh from winning the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars." In a recent episode called "Rock of Ages," she and her lead baker, Hilary Cavanaugh, bested the other competing bakers to take home the $10,000 grand prize.

The episode, called "Rock of Ages," aired last week, and will air again on April 21. (Check your local listings for times.)

"It was a lot of work, but well worth it," said Brown in a telephone interview.

The American Fork-based company will have its winning cupcake creations featured at the cast party following the Los Angeles premiere of the "Rock of Ages" national tour. Here in Utah, the winning cupcake flavors will be sold at the Sweet Tooth Fairy stores through the end of May.

Brown calls herself "home schooled," because she never had any professional culinary training. She learned how to bake from her mother, Emelyn Faulkner, as well as her grandmother, Emelyn Castleton.

"I used to bake for fun in my basement kitchen in my home," she said.

In 2009, she opened her first store in Provo. Now she has 10 stores from Scottsdale, Ariz., to Layton. Another store is planned for Southlake, Texas.

"I have built a really incredible team," she said. "I've surrounded myself with people a lot smarter than I am, who have the skill sets that I don't."

Customers often suggested that she audition for "Cupcake Wars," but Brown was wary.

"It looked so intense, and I am not a competitive person," she said. "But after so many customers prodded us, we thought, 'what the heck, why not'?"

She did an initial interview and was then asked to send in an audition video. When she was called with news that she was going to be competing, she was ecstatic. The only problem was, she couldn't share the news with anyone except for Hilary Cavanaugh, who would be assisting her during the competition. And while the competition actually took place in March, they had to keep their win a secret until the episode aired.

"I don't like to keep secrets, so it was really hard not to tell anyone," Brown said.

In the initial round, contestants had to create a cupcake from a table of ingredients that rock stars might request for their dressing rooms before a show. The Sweet Tooth Fairy team came up with a Cranberry Wine and Brie Cheesecake cupcake made with dark chocolate, cranberry juice, red wine, brie and cashews.

"The table included a lot of other items like pizza, potato chips and gummy bears," she said. "I chose the wine and and cheese because I know they pair well together naturally."

She made a cheesecake with cream cheese and the brie, and a garnish of cashew and cranberry brittle.

Other cupcakes they made during the contest were Sweet Potato Pie, Cr?e Brulee and Nutella Crepe.

"The most challenging this is working against the clock," she said.

Did she have a feeling they would come out on top?

"I felt it could have gone either way in the final round, but we had done the best we could," Brown said. "Anyone can win, it's just who makes the least amount of mistakes."

She said the $10,000 prize money will be put "right back into the business. Our goal is to build a lasting brand and become a household name, and take it nationally. This takes us one step closer to let people know about our brand and who we are."

The winning Cranberry Wine and Brie Cheesecake and Sweet Potato Pie cupcakes will be featured in Sweet Tooth Fairy stores throughout April, and the Creme Brulee and Nutella Crepe treats will debuting in May. Brown will also be visiting different Sweet Tooth Fairy locations where customers can meet her. Her schedule is posted on The Sweet Tooth Fairy Facebook page.

As part of The Sweet Tooth Fairy's "Bake a Difference" initiative, 25 cents from the sale of each cupcake will be donated to the Safe to Talk Foundation, an organization dedicated to help stop bullying. The money will fund an anonymous texting tip line in schools, so that students can report dangerous behavior.

"It may sound cheesey, but I feel gratitude for the good grace and kindnesses of other people," she said. "So much of who I am today is due to other people. I have four young kids, and you hear so much about tragedies with kids taking their own lives from bullying. It's so awful and so preventable. I thought the school tip line is the most simple concept and so easy. If kids can anonymously text and say when someone is talking about suicide, they can really help their classmates."

Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at Email: