Food Network show gives Denver baker and drag queen Zac Mercer/Miss Carrie a chance at the “Halloween Baking Championship”

Denver pastry chef Zac Mercer has survived the first round of Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship,” although not without some blood loss.

The first episode of Season 8, which began airing on Monday, Sept. 12 on Food Network and streaming on Discovery+, found Mercer trying to impress judges Stephanie Boswell, Carla Hall and Zac Young with “devilishly delicious desserts (to) earn the title of Halloween Baking Champion and an all-expense trip to the 10 most haunted hotels in America.”

Mercer is also a drag performer from Colorado who works under the name Miss Carrie. He owns a small bakery (the name of which was not immediately available from a publicist) that “merges the worlds of entertaining drag shows and cooking classes,” according to Food Network.

Fortunately, Mercer squeezed through the first, “supersized” round with a delicious “blood spatter” cake that got kudos for its burnt-honey flavors — but was docked when it was “disemboweled” for judges, letting its strawberry marshmallow ooze out. It needed a bit more work on its texture, although its convincingly visceral appearance was 180 degrees from its overall deliciousness, judges said.

Mercer responded that he’s worked in haunted houses since he was 15, and that he uses his special-effects experience every day in his job. (We’d love to see a photorealistic heart cake, but we’ll take what we can get!)

The show is hosted by John Henson, the former host of “Talk Soup” and co-host of “Wipeout” (no relation to famous puppeteer Jim Henson), and appropriately takes place in a Hotel Henson set. There, competitors are holed up for the show’s eight-week duration, with new episodes scheduled for Monday, Sept. 19, Sept. 26, and beyond.

Unless, that is, their baked goods fail to woo the judges, in which they will have to “check out” and take the elevator to the 13th floor — from which they’ll never return, producers wrote. Upcoming episodes include titles such as “Croquem-boots” and “Maze Madness.”

Mercer, a Texas native who also performs and bakes at drag-inspired cooking events, has begun making a name for himself locally with his drag persona and tasty baked goods (see instagram.com/zac_misscarrie for more), but the show has thrust him into an even brighter spotlight.

The trail was blazed in some ways by The Pie Queen, Chocolatina, Queen of the Dessert, a Denverite who has appeared on NBC, Food Network, and other shows. Colorado’s spooky, boundary-pushing drag queens have also ruled TV in recent years with Denver-based champs on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” such as “Queen of Halloween” Yvie Oddly (2019) and Willow Pill (2022).

Check out the spooky treats, and stream the show for free (with ads), at foodnetwork.com/shows/halloween-baking-championship.

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