Pastry chef Marla Mae Harvey with some of her creations. Contributed photo.

Pastry chef Marla Mae Harvey with some of her creations. Contributed photo.

Made by Marla Mae, the baking company formed about a year ago by Masury native Marla Mae Harvey, got a boost in visibility when Harvey and her friend, Daniel Wilson, appeared on the Food Network TV show, “Holiday Baking Championship – Gingerbread Showdown.”

“The reaction has been great,” said Harvey, who lives in the Pittsburgh suburb of East Liberty. “I sold out of my Christmas orders; that was really nice. I got invited to do a couple markets.”

Harvey, who was trained in baking, pastry and culinary management at the former Art Institute of Pittsburgh, started Made by Marla Mae after getting laid off from her last job because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had to make a decision – I already baked some cakes on the side for friends and family – if I wanted to really do this,” said the 2010 Brookfield High School graduate. “It’s still really, really small. I do a lot of custom cakes and little treats at some pop-up markets. I’m working my way up.”

Contributed photo

Contributed photo

She had worked with Wilson at a restaurant a few years prior, and he called her in April to ask her if she would appear on the baking show with him. Wilson had appeared on a Food Network cookie challenge show a year earlier.

“He got asked to come back, because he built gingerbread houses competitively and the show was based around building a gingerbread house,” she said.

Although Harvey had never built a gingerbread house before, she agreed to participate and went through the screening process. After being selected, she and Wilson had a week to prepare before heading to Knoxville, Tenn., for the shoot.

“It all happened really fast,” she said. “I was most nervous about flying by myself to Tennessee.”

Competitive gingerbread house builders can take months designing and building their creations, Harvey said. “We had to do all this in 10 hours.”

Harvey and Wilson were allowed to bake the base of their house ahead of time, and knew the theme was “holiday light show.” Ninety percent of their house had to be edible.

“We ended up doing a greenhouse with windows, and we ended up holding everything together with chocolate,” she said.

Contributed photo

Contributed photo

They won their episode against two other teams.

“I think we did a great job,” Harvey said. “Daniel and I worked together really well. We had the same mindset. We were both really organized bakers. We had a plan for everything and we followed our plan to a T, and everything turned out the way it should of, which I was really happy about.”

Harvey, who had to keep her participation in the show secret until November, said she hopes the exposure will lead her to bigger and better things – she would like to rent a baking space instead of doing all the work in her tiny apartment – but her goals are modest. 

“I just want to be well known around the Pittsburgh area, even back home, just well enough to be a stable business,” she said. “I don’t think I’m gonna be anything like, you know, a famous baker or anything like that. I just wanna be successful, and success to me means making other people happy. In my opinion, I think desserts bring a lot of people together, especially during the pandemic. That’s one thing that everybody can share. I just wanna be able to bake for more people, and that’s what success means to me.”