Churchill Road Elementary Student to Appear on Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship
Finley Sheers, a fourth-grade student at Churchill Road Elementary, was just looking for a way to stay busy, safe and out of her parents’ hair at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finley, the daughter of West Springfield Elementary Principal Kelly Sheers and second oldest of four children, was trying to fill her time in the immediate aftermath of schools going virtual in spring 2020. The kitchen, usually off limits for unsupervised fun, was a tempting option as her mother was busy on call after call as schools restructured to adjust to pandemic lockdowns. “When virtual school started, we still had a lot of free time so I dug through our kitchen and found boxed cake mixes to see what I could do to keep busy,” Finley said. “I started with plain cakes with sprinkles made from boxed mixes and then turned to baking from scratch.” Her first original creation was a “Covid cake,” Finley says. “I made a cake with pink frosting and a mask with rainbow sprinkles, and used icing tubes to make eyes.” Finley started taking local baking classes with her mom, then received permission to take a piping class, for icing techniques, typically reserved for adults. A local pastry chef taught Finley how to decorate and stack cakes and then, months later, noticed the Food Network was seeking contestants for the Kids Baking Championship series and encouraged Finley to go for it.
More than 800 children applied -- and a series of interviews later, Finley learned she was one of the 12 kids selected to compete. She flew out-of-state, with her mother, to film in studios located in Knoxville, Tenn. over several days in August. “I went there and I met all these kids who loved baking, just like me,” Finley says. “They are from all over the country, and I’m still in touch with them -- we have a group chat now and it is really fun.” Finley’s mother, Principal Sheers, says the experience is paying off in school as well. “It’s taught Finley perseverance, given her confidence, her math skills are phenomenal because she needs to double things, halve things, use a scale to portion materials, work with fractions for ingredients, “ Sheers says. “She’s now making a little extra money selling things too so she’s learning how to budget.”
Finley estimates she’s filled 20 to 30 orders so far, for customers including neighbors, friends, people she didn’t know who sampled her cakes at birthday parties and many people with FCPS ties, including a principals’ gathering, a third-grade teacher, and a PTA cupcake request. Last month she surprised Superintendent Scott Brabrand with a turkey cake, close to the Thanksgiving holiday. Finley isn’t allowed to reveal her fate on the Kids Baking Championship, but interested FCPS community members can tune into the Food Network program to find out how Finley fares, starting Dec. 27th. Follow Finley on Instagram at @finleybakes to keep tabs on her latest creations.