HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas (KWTX) Lilian Halabi says she's finally living the American Dream after winning "Cake Wars" on Food Network Monday night, 21 years after coming to the United States from Venezuela with high hopes.
Lilian Halabi with her prize-winning cake. (Courtesy photo)
"I came in search for the American dream. We came here because there is opportunity here."
Halabi was a stay-at-home mom when she took up baking as a hobby.
"I decided to do cake decorating classes at Hobby Lobby in Killeen. My instructor saw that I pushed myself and wanted to do more. So one time, she was making a wedding cake and she needed flowers for the cake and so she asked me to make the flowers for the wedding cake,” she said.
And her hobby quickly turned into business.
The Harker Heights woman now owns Lily's Cakes in Harker Heights, the Inn at Salado Bed and Breakfast and the La Rio Mansion Wedding Venue in Belton.
But on Monday, her skills were showcased nationwide when she won the popular "Cake Wars" reality show on Food Network.
"It's every baker and cake decorators dream to win a competition like that,” she said.
Halabi says she never dreamed of showcasing her talent in front of a national audience, but her husband did.
"My husband believes in the hard work we do and behind my back he told my friend to send my information into the show," she said.
"So before I knew it, I got a call to make a video to show my personality."
She says weeks passed with no response from her video and she figured she'd been passed over.
"Every day I was checking my phone and every day checking my email, but six weeks later I get an email from the producer of the show and he's like 'we would love to have you compete in an episode on season four."
Halabi’s episode was filmed over the summer, but only her family knew she'd won until Monday night when friends and family gathered in Salado for a watch party.
"My 10-year-old daughter was telling everyone to watch her mom on TV," she said.
"It was a tough secret to keep."
Halabi’s winning cake ended up being a 4-foot tall, five-tiered masterpiece, fitting with the "Monopoly theme" of the show.
She took home the $10,000 prize, but said the experience was worth more far more than the money.
"Just to be the "Cake Wars" winner is worth more than the $10,000 because they were tough competitors," she said.
“You come to this country looking for the American dream…now, I'm living it to the fullest."