Sandra Lee »

Origins Of Sandra Lee’s Horrifying Kwanzaa Cake
Posted by Jillian Madison

The Kwanzaa cake is like Freddy Krueger. IT REFUSES TO DIE! It made headlines once again yesterday, when a chef/food stylist named Denise Vivaldo stepped out of the shadows and admitted she, in fact, was the one who wrote the recipe for Sandra Lee. I don’t know what was more shocking to me – that someone actually admitted to this idea, or that someone other than Sandra Lee came up with it.

I don’t know who the hell this Denise Vivaldo woman is, but she needs to have her “chef/food stylist” card revoked, pronto. All these years, she contentedly sat back in the shadows while Anthony Bourdain, FNH, and the rest of the food world ranked on Sandra Lee for this culinary abomination. Now, when the topic of the Kwanzaa cake has all but been dead and buried, she dredges it up from its corn-nut grave and suddenly wants credit? Why? Money? Publicity? A few new tubes of ugly fuchsia lipstick?

I, for one, am shocked and appalled – not only by the hideousness of the cake, but also by the fact that celebrity chefs pay people to create recipes for them. Take Sandra Lee, for example. She goes around talking about “HER” recipes and how “SHE” came up with them, but it’s all a crock of shit! These celebrity chefs publish cook books and have television shows, but according to good old Denise, it’s common THEY DON’T EVEN WRITE THEIR OWN RECIPES! Blasphemy!

Anyway, Denise Vivaldo confessed her sins in a now-infamous article on the Huffington Post, and took several shots at Sandra Lee along the way. Here are the 5 most interesting, most revealing, or just plain WTF quotes from her article:

She has bad food taste? Uh, Denise honey, YOU’RE THE ONE WHO WROTE THE RECIPE. Doesn’t that mean you have “incredibly bad food taste” too?

Do you want a fucking cookie?

Wow, Denise. Way to bite the hand that pays you $100-$400 (plus groceries!) for each of your gross recipes.

If Denise was so against the method behind the recipes, why did she agree to take the job to begin with? She used the excuse that she had to “pay the bills” – but did those few hundred dollars really make all that much difference? I don’t fucking think so. She bragged that she’s been writing recipes for authors and food companies for 20+ years, and “at least twenty of the fifty cookbooks” she wrote or contributed to “ended up on the New York Times Best-Seller List.” I call bullshit.

Perhaps it would behoove you to remember that the next time she calls you looking for another angel food cake. Denise.

Let’s hear it, FNH. What do you think of this news? Are you surprised Aunt Sandy wasn’t really the one who came up with this trainwreck?

Other posts on Food Network Humor:

---NY Mag Paints Sandra Lee As A Manipulative Control Freak
---Sandra Lee’s “Other” Abomination: The Hanukkah Cake
---Tis The Season: Guy Makes Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa Cake
---Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Wedding Cake
---Sandra Lee’s “Noel Cake”

    132 Responses

  1. Zoah says:

    Its probably some political BS.

  2. Cameron says:

    Abstinence? If we’re talking alcohol, sure. Otherwise, since when did Aunt Sandy become Aunt Sarah?

    In the end though, this does not make anything better. Good to know celebrity chefs use mercenaries to do their grunt work (the Neelys aside).

  3. SoBa says:

    I always figured that the TV chefs had a fleet of assistants who were writing and testing the recipes. So color me not shocked.

    And why would you own up to creating that recipe? I would have taken that secret to the grave and have made Aunt Sandy sign a contract in blood not to reveal my participation.

    • JessBee says:

      Yeah, but she has a book coming out. “So You Want to be a Food Stylists, Recipe Writer to the Stars and other made-up professions.” This was clearly a publicity grab.

    • Sally says:

      Personally I think it’s good this came out. It prooves that Lee can’t even come up with disgusting garbage like these cakes. Lee is all about money, appearances and booze. She can’t think for herself and it shows how nasty her taste really is.

  4. Lana says:

    Whatev’s. No big surprise that assistants develop recipes for the “stars.” Don’t know about the others, but a chick named Korina develops Fieri’s recipes.

    Same thing happens in the music industry. Songwriters sell their songs to big stars All. The. Time.

    But for hell’s sake, if you develop a recipe (and put your name on it OR put anyone else’s name on it), stand up for the work you’ve done and don’t bitch about about the negative reviews after the fact. Especially WAY WAY WAY after the fact. Sheesh.

    This Vivaldo broad sounds like a total Vi-loser.

    • Lana, I agree it’s common in the music world. But I think that’s because there’s a distinction between singing and songwriting. Just because you’re a good singer, doesn’t mean you are a good songwriter, and vice versa. I just don’t see that same logic applying here! Celebrity chefs “don’t have time” to write their own recipes? Then what the eff are they doing?

      • Mark H88 says:

        This reminds me of the time my company worked behind the scenes at Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. My coworker said that they “Design Team” does absolutely NOTHING! They’re just paid actors that embody the essence of all the work that goes on by the tradesmen.

        I imagine this is similar to these FN personalities. They are just the ‘vehicle’ for getting shit out there. I really didn’t believe that they come up with everything themselves. Most of them are basically actors with a few culinary skills.

      • Lana says:

        “…distinction between singing and songwriting.”

        Sho’nuff! I guess I’m thinking there’s a distinction between being a “personality” (book signings, traveling to shoot shows, appearances, etc.) and being a “recipe developer”?

        I guess I don’t know for sure, but it seems that way to me. And certainly, some of the FN stars seem more likely to write their own recipes (Emeril, Batali, Claire?) than others (Sandy, Guy, Flay?).

        • Xploder says:

          Here’s every Bobby Flay recipe:

          Grab random crap out of the fridge
          Throw in some peppers that you don’t know how to pronounce the name of

          Viola! A NEW Bobby Flay CREATION!!!!!

          That guy and his moobs is ridiculous.

      • Azizeh says:

        They’re TV hosts now. Production takes a lot of time. Combine that with having any kind of home life and I could see how they don’t have the time to develop their own recipes.

        Good cooking alone doesn’t make a TV host, so I imagine the reverse is true, as well.

        I hope the ones with some integrity don’t put their name on anything they don’t believe in, but looking at all the junk these celeb chefs sell at Target, Kohl’s, K-Mart, or whatever… I doubt it.

        So, it’s basically just another bullshit industry full of illusion. There may be a few that spend their time doing their own legwork, but I’m guessing the majority of them pay for their ideas.

        • Azizeh says:

          And let’s not forget that much of the Sandra Lee jokes around here are about her being drunk. Kinda hard to test and write recipes if you’re full of martinis, right?

        • Mark H88 says:

          Most of TV is an illusion. Just look at reality shows. I know someone who was on one and she said it was amazing what went on when the cameras weren’t rolling or how they edited the show to make things appear a certain way.

          I can tell they do the same thing on Chopped. Everyone gives the judges crap for appearing to be like dicks, but you can tell that the show is edited that way and they’re really a lot nicer than portrayed.

      • Sam says:

        I get the impression that it is probably more they aren’t coming up with the recipe perfectly. I know that when I cook I don’t have specific times and ingredient amounts when I’m cooking or making something new up. I bet they take the ideas that they have thrown together and they hire others to bring it down to the specifics.

        • Structive says:

          I can attest to the fact that most celebrity “chefs” do NOT create/perfect their own recipes, because I dated someone who worked as a recipe tester for FN. The job was testing various recipes to make sure the finished dish is remotely close to the intended product (or at least edible) before the recipe aired on TV or was posted on the website.

          (And yet, FN let “Kwanzaa Cake” and “Late Night Bacon” slip though the cracks, so I can only assume not every recipe has been tested prior to airing.)

      • Gullwing says:

        Exactly my thoughts- and we dont’ have to EAT fucking songs! That’s got to be the dumbest analogy ever. This just proves that Lee is still a county curtains puffball maker, and not a cook, albeit a cook who would fry a filo dough wrapped turd on camera just because some lame brain wrote it for her? And I thought Leona Helmsley was dead. Apparently she is not, but has come back as her equally bitchslapping self with the fictitious name of Denise Vi-DILDO whatever.

    • Phrang says:

      Hasn’t anyone ever watched Throwdown? Bobby is the pretty boy and the women do all of the trial and error. You can’t think he’s the only one who is too busy being a star to really create recipes.

      • Jenn says:

        I think big FN stars such as Bobby and Emeril, and those with integrity don’t write most of their recipes, but they do give a general outline and test for accuracy to make sure it’s what they wanted, and up to their standard. That’s fine with me!
        Even Aunt Sandy, who has no integrity at all checks for quality in her recipes…now it’s clear her standard of quality is low…way, way low!

  5. Katie says:

    wow… i just read the article on huffington post, and it is absolutely embarrising. she doesn’t make sandra lee look bad, she makes herself look bad. i for the first time in my life feel kind of sorry for aunt sandy. this woman, “denise” is a terror and to blast someone for their tastes and their creations… that “denise” apparently came up with herself… isn’t that just her saying she is shit? just sayin…

  6. Fiona says:

    Okay…Ms. Vivaldo’s got some sass…the article is kinda funny though, if you keep aside the fuchsia!

  7. Rev Dr E Buzz says:

    I guess it’s fitting that this weirdo made a Kwanzaa cake. Kwanzaa is a fake holiday, and this whole Food Tv celebrity thing is just as big a lie.

    • Ferd Berfle says:

      Fake chefs fix a fake recipe for a fake holiday, that makes sense.

    • Stogoe says:

      You only get away with calling Kwanzaa a ‘fake’ holiday because all the other ‘fake’ holidays we celebrate this time of year have been around long enough for the people who made them up to be long dead and the patina of tradition to have set in. Winterval, Festivus, National Cookie Day, and International Talk Like a Pirate Day all have a younger provenance than Kwanzaa.

      Not that this makes the apple pie filling/corn nut/angel food cake any less of an abomination.

  8. boke1 says:

    I don’t know who Denise Vivaldo is but I think Marcia Gay Harden should play her in the movie about how Sandra Lee stalked and killed her for revealing the secret behind that turd-mound she calls a cake.

  9. Motzi Greps says:

    I think those were corn nuts, not pine nuts. Nitpicking, yes… :P

  10. Sweetpoke says:

    NOBODY DIGS ON AUNT SANDY BUT US (and a select other few).

    I feel sorry for our most hated/favorite chef. This woman obviously had no idea that her digs on everyone in the business would really be digs on herself.

    Time to get a new food stylist celebrity chefs.

  11. Amy says:

    Is this woman responsible for that Hanukah cake too?
    Giada has actually had her testers and stylists on her show, so I was not surprised that Sandra Lee has help, but who would admit to that CAKE!

  12. mcap says:

    To the comment in your post Jillian about Denise V doing this for a “few hundred bucks”:

    She wrote 151 recipes for Sandy

    She gets $100 – $400 each

    She earned between $15,100 – $60,400 for the work

    I would eat Sandy’s pickled liver for that much.

  13. Joel says:

    More than anything, I’m shocked that she was not required to sign some sort of confidentiality agreement.

  14. Kocinera says:

    I’m not going to put too much stock in this woman’s claims. After reading her HuffPost article, she lost all credibility for me. No logic or facts seem valid when all the author does is attack someone else. I say leave Aunty Sandy alone. We look to Sandy for snort-worthy tablescapes and cocktail recipes that’ll knock you to the floor, not for the recipes. Vivaldo’s just trying to get a piece of the fame. The tomato-canned, Cool-Whip coated, rum-soaked fame.

  15. Lee says:

    At first I thought, crock of bullshit, she is just saying this to get attention. But oh, she’s got a new book coming out. Lovely, way to make yourself look like an absolute idiot.

    I eagerly await a reply statement from Sandra.

  16. Tanya says:

    Ms. Vivaldo was working within some tight constraints when she created this horrible wreck of a recipe, with the motivation being a seemingly solid paycheck. I think most people would do the same and procede to laugh all the way to the bank.

    • Heidi says:

      I completely agree. Her timing of outing herself matching up with her book deal is a shame b/c I actually think this article, including its sass is pretty enlightening about what a complete pile of BS the whole food television scene is now.

      She knew it was a crappy recipe, but it paid the bills and fit within the ridiculous constraints she was given. Seems to me, she’s making fun of herself throughout anyway, so I guess I don’t get the disdain for her for admitting/writing it.

  17. Lee says:

    It just has to be a parody or something. Her writing is crude and terrible. She just looks like such an idiot

  18. FNHfan says:

    Hmmm…I think she might be jealous of all the publicity that Sandra has been getting with the recent election of her boytoy. I also wonder if Ms. Vivaldo is not suggesting that she pulled a quick one on the folks at Food Network by intentionally writing crappy recipes for them that she then gets paid for.

    BTW, Jill, are you aware of the fact that Sandra doesn’t design her own tablescapes either? I forget exactly where, but she admitted it in one of those behind-the-scene programs aired on Food Network. She had to stop because it was becoming too much for her.

  19. Sue says:

    @mcap says: She earned between $15,100 – $60,400 for the work.

    Actually, wasn’t that over a period of 10 years? If you extrapolate out her hourly rate, she’s not paid well.

    Then again, if *I* had created that abomination, I would NEVER have told the world. Yes, that one would go to my grave. But I would admit to writing recipes for chefs who then pass them off as their own.

    No wonder Food Network has gone downhill. It’s not about real chefs doing real cooking any more. It’s about (fake) celebrities pretending to create recipes that were actually created by someone else who was paid to do so. A bit disingenuous, don’t you think?

    • mcap says:

      That’s only if you assume she did not write recipes for anyone else, and that those 151 recipes took 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year for 10 years to come up with.

      More than likely she is writing these recipes in maybe an hour (a bill rate between $100-$400 per hour is pretty standard in professional services).

      So she (possibly) spent 151 hours (roughly a month) to make $15,000 – $60,000.

      Not bad.

  20. Chucks says:

    Everybody is so butthurt these days. This lady reminds me of Allison DuBois on last night’s Real Housewives of BH. Holy cow, crazy!

  21. Kathy says:

    I’m not going to feel sorry for or let Aunt Sandy off the hook on this, simply because as the boss, she could have rejected this woman’s recipes and made her go back and start over with something better. Instead she accepted these abominations and went with them.

  22. Dru says:

    I just did a search on to see what I could find for Denise Vivaldo. It appears that she’s done more tablescape/decorating books than cookbooks. Makes you wonder if she’s behind Aunt Sandy’s mahhhvelous tablescapes as well.

  23. Hookerbot says:

    The title “food stylist” sends me into apoplectic rage. Fuck you, take a picture of what the food actually looks like when it’s cooked properly, stop with all this undercooking/artificial coloring/otherwise meddling with the food! I wanna see what I’m going to be eating, not the fisher price model food. A huge reason a lot of people don’t cook is “oh I could never make something that looks like that” so they never try, and it gives aunt sandy and her ilk more fuel for their pre-packaged fire.


  24. tray117 says:

    Just more REAL-life bs. The ONLY thing in America that matters is getting on the TV. This will get you fame, money and more happiness than the average Joe deserves. And it doesn’t matter how you get there. The great American media machine will spin you a tale of poverty, humility and just a touch pathos so these phony-boloneys can hawk their wares and get everything they don’t deserve. Thanks to TV decency gets the back seat.

  25. tray117 says:

    . . . .and yet I can’t look away. :-(

  26. Hippy_Longstocking says:

    Honestly, I think it shows Sandra Lee has class by not bringing this up before-hand. She has been lambasted by people over this for years, and never once did she throw up her hands and say, “Dude, it wasn’t me!”

    Although, it’s possible that she was contractually obligated to not say anything. /shrugs

    • I think the *LAST* thing these celebrity chefs want is for word to get out that they’re not the ones writing their recipes.

      That sounds like a PR nightmare to me.

      • Lana says:

        I agree. Or at the very least, the celebrities should own up to it in a matter-of-fact way and stand up for the recipes they’ve bought. I mean, if you’re going to put your name on a product, you’ve got to be able to take the consequences for it.

      • old71 says:

        Just watch this network and you can see these ppl do not write their own recipes or menus. Example, Paula Deen making chinese food.

  27. Mark says:

    Jillian – You do shock me on this one… like you are sticking up for Sandra in a way. Well I would like to see the contract really. But Sandra’s recipes really are crap, made em’! And the woman sounds totally embarrassed by what she did NOW. Would I come up with crap recipes for Sandra for $100 and take credit years later, why not does it matter if it is $50? Especially if I knew it was crap and Sandra bought it. What does the woman have to gain? Not much if you look at the big picture. She shot down herself for much after this.

  28. Plumpy says:

    That nasty thing is a reason to have the ER on speed dial.

  29. Olive Martini says:

    Every time I go on this site, Sandra Lee is being slammed. NOW you are her champion? Are you that fickle or that cool? I think you are cool – fair is fair and you did the right thing. BTW I think her quickie recipes are great for someone with minimal time and $.

    • Mark says:

      Have you tried them? I tried 3 and that was it. Really, they were bad. And I don;’t mean to down her… but they were nasty.

      • Jenn says:

        I tried one recipe of Sandy’s because it actually seemed like it would work, and to my surprise my friends loved it, and requested again a few weeks later. Now, about 95% of the recipes she makes I wouldn’t dare try! because right of the bat, they are ridiculous and nasty, like those cakes where she buys three sheet cakes, cupcakes and cookies, and puts them all together with store bought icing to make one nasty nightmare! Oh my! In one episode she said she did just that for a good friend. She said they went to eat at Mario Batali’s restaurant and she put that abomination together and took it out to her friend. Well, the difference was probably that she didn’t go to her local supermarket, but rather a delicious gourmet bakery that gave her all she needed including their own homemade frosting. So, the poor woman is under the impression these cakes are delicious, lol

  30. PaminBB says:

    I’m not shocked by this news, but this could come as quite a shock to Aunt Sandy’s Fandras. What’s next, she really doesn’t have a kitchen full of seasoning packets?

    Kwanza Kake is Klassik.

  31. Deaner says:

    Am I the only who thinks Ms. Vivaldi looks a bit, well…Vulcan?

    • Brown Sugar says:

      I think she’s a Romulan. I thought that about the lady on Next Food Network Star a few years ago too, with the 3 finalists…can’t remember her name, but she had to be Romulan.

      • Deaner says:

        You know, Brown Sugar…the pattern on that blouse of hers *does* kinda remind me of the Romulan uniforms they wore on ST:TNG…

    • Deaner says:

      BTW, I’ve probably posted this before but…I’ve always been much more annoyed by Aunt Sandy’s take on “King’s Cake” than the Kwaanza recipe, even as godawful as it is.

      There’s just something about telling people to use canned breadsticks as a semi-homemade replacement for the brioche-y goodness of the real thing that just seems cosmically wrong!

  32. cloverleaf says:

    My favorite comment to this “outing” on HuffPo: “SL makes me ‘upchuckle ‘” LOL!

  33. Mellin says:

    I don’t know, sounds like a publicity grab by this woman. I don’t know what is to be gained by admitting you made a series of shitty recipes for Sandra Lee…that doesn’t make me want to buy your book/cookbook.

    I’m by no means a Sandra fan, but I do feel a tad sorry for her. She’s not exactly stuck up for herself or her recipes, but she didn’t throw this woman under the bus either. We do rag on Sandra a little harder than others, but all in good fun I say. She can’t wake up and think that her tablescapes are all awesome, same way I can’t imagine actors ALWAYS think the movie they are making is a quality movie. They want a paycheck.

    After the entire world was enamored with Martha back in the early 2000s, I had figured out that TV chefs and crafters were all full of it. I knew they didn’t make up all of their recipes, deep down I don’t think any of us are surprised. However, the gall of this woman to imply that Sandra/food network is bad for using the recipe while implying she is innocent in all this, is something to behold.

  34. drew says:

    i never understood why sandra lee would make a kwanza cake anyway. nobody fucking celebrates kwanza. half the time i forget it exists. what am i supposed to be celebrating anyway

  35. Nico says:

    As a black person, I have to say I was pretty offended by this recipe. Black people don’t eat corn nuts!!!

  36. SnarKatestic says:

    I read that before I came here, and I thought it was some kind of parody worthy of FNH, actually.

    It’s REAL? Woah. Sorry, no, if you weren’t too proud to do it in the first place and take money for it, you don’t get to pass the buck for it later. She knew what she was getting into, and, for the money or no, she went ahead and did it.

    If I took Drunk Aunt Sandy’s money to fill a cookbook with crap, I wouldn’t complain that she gave me the money to do it. Either I’d grow a set of ethics, or I’d take the money and STFU.

  37. Becca says:

    This lady is a crackpot; she’s an absolute joke! For one, why would you admit to creating those cakes? Second, she made the entire article sound like a big fat joke. As if she’s really moving to Thailand (maybe she is, maybe she isn’t who knows) but then all those jokes. I think the more I read the madder I got at the woman. I know Sandra is a… “special” kind of cook, but still… Also why need to throw in abstinence in there randomly? Oh yeah Ms. Lee doesn’t make her own food and she likes things tacky, oh yeah did I mention she doesn’t practice abstinence? Like that has anything to do about anything….

    Rant over. :P

  38. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    “She’s not a good role model for abstinence.” WTF? Did Mrs. Vivaldo get Sandra confused with Bristol Palin?

  39. Catherine says:

    Whether Aunt Sandy was the mastermind behind the Kwanzaa Cake or not, she is still the woman who demonstrates these things on TV and raves about how “sssuuuper sssimple an’ wunnerfull” they are. I would think that a TV chef would be able to veto recipes if they just felt too damn stupid taking ownership of them. Yes, they all have gimmicks to stick to, but there is usually such a thing as going too far. For example, if someone is helping Ina write recipes, I don’t think she’d be willing to cook a hydrangea-garnished rainbow pie on her show, even if she is too busy to come up with something better herself.

    BUT, Sandra Lee does not seem to have that uncrossable line. She has decorated a Christmas tree with cocktail glasses. She has spray-painted a chair gold and used it as a centerpiece. She has “made a cake” by arranging store-bought cupcakes on a platter. Considering all this, it hardly matters who wrote the Kwanzaa Cake recipe — Sandra is still the one who prances around on television dressed like a fairy queen, mixing liquors based on color coordination. Anyone with half a brain would have taken one look at the Kwanzaa Cake idea and said “over my dead, liquor-soaked, seasoning-packet-loving body.”

  40. Xploder says:

    Side thought…

    Why does Aunt Sandy even NEED someone to write recipes for her? I’ve never seen her make one damn thing that really needed one. Open this can, that box, this package, mix/fry/bake/slow cook and bring on the booze!

    Seems to me that all she’s ever done is maybe see something in a magazine and decides to make it out of the cheapest (?) crap she can get at the store.

    I made my wife watch the repeat that was on today just so i could show her that what I just said was right. Her only response was that if she drank ANY of those three cocktails, she’d be either on her ass or doing something equally embarrassing.

    • Daria says:

      It just makes it all the more sad doesn’t it? I think she doesn’t write the recipes because she spends too much of her time coordinating her outfits to the set.

  41. Cory says:

    I just read the article, and I thought she was hilarious. The timing is weird and obvious with a new book coming out. Although, it did sound like she was supremely ashamed of these bastard child recipes. And you know, shame on Sandra Lee for being excited to slap her name on those recipes. I do feel bad for her though, getting thrown under the bus… I wonder what happened behind the scenes that made her say all of this. I don’t really believe that it was solely for publicity.

  42. mel says:

    I’m not surprised. Celebrity chefs don’t do much but demonstrate. Everyone behind the scene is doing all the hard work. Does anyone think Sandra or Rachel Ray can cook? No. So, again not surprised. They are the face shown to the public. FN had chefs that I believed worked hard, loved food and wrote their own recipes (like Sarah Moulton), but not anymore.

    I also don’t think it reflects on Denise (much). Denise knew she could throw out disgusting crap and Sandy would gobble it up. The fact that Sandra never once realized what a hot mess it was says a lot. If I were to write recipes for Sandra Lee I would make the most disgusting thing possible just to see if she would use it.

    It just goes to show you that there is no way Sandra Lee or anyone on the show actually tastes that food.

  43. C.K. says:

    I wonder if she was also responsible for that broccoli pie mess. The “pie” where the mayo was piped into the weave pattern on top of a mound of broccoli.

  44. AbacoPeach says:

    The comments on the article are funnier than the actual article!

  45. James Hawk III says:

    After reading her article, I like Ms. Vivaldi better than I like Sandra Lee. Just for perspective, I have to point out that I like Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong Il better than I like Sandra Lee–and I don’t like them at all.

  46. Robert says:

    The way I read it goes like this. Denise takes the job for money. She quickly regrets it as Sandra Lee wants nothing to do with cooking and only cares that specific brand names for store bought products in her no cook recipes are included. Sandy then tags an extra ten recipes onto the order for a magazine article that Denise fights with her over. This is after Denise tried to sever contact with Aunt Sandy over creative differences after the cookbook was finished. At least three of these cakes went on to live in infamy because of how horrible they are. Denise comes clean as a promotional tool for her book to also show a lesson that a new food stylist/recipe creator shouldn’t turn down work they can’t afford to turn down.

    Considering my own run-ins with Aunt Sandy, I believe most of this story. She’s a drunk loon with a mean-streak.

  47. Kyle says:

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m alone on this but I don’t mind Sandra Lee. She doesn’t seem like a total bitch. I guess I don’t care how awful your food or your “tablescapes” are as long as it’s not perfectly clear you’re a raging asshole at the same time.

  48. bummy69 says:

    Oh, wow…..

  49. thegolli says:

    Considering that Sandra Lee is now advertising for Sam’s Club and their “fantastic $5 rotisserie chicken” and whatever that pecan stuffing is supposed to be, I don’t think she would feel too bad about foisting this Kwanzaa cake on her fans.

    I don’t think she would even worry about being “outed” because I think we have all learned through various sports figures scandals, etc. that fans will always forgive and only opponents really care about things such as this.

  50. Jenner says:

    Maybe this is why Ina writes down all of her recipes and photographs them as she goes along. She wouldn’t want to be put in a position where Denise tells the world she writes all of Ina’s recipes as well as Aunt Sandy’s- and that Ina’s instructions to her are that all ingredients must be “GOOD”.

  51. THE Holly says:

    Anthony Bourdain is still fired up about the Kwanzaa Caketastrophy. I saw him in Atlanta a month ago and he considers that video to “put 2 girls and a cup to shame”. I think he’s just about right.

  52. Teague says:

    Ultimately Sandra-Lee is responsible for this abomination. She filmed it and put her name on it. She even hired this half with to come up with recipes.

  53. Jason Reichert says:

    fwiw, Jillian is not really defending Aunt Sandy here, but she’s lambasting this out of nowhere publicity hound who apparently will sell herself out for $$$$ with no standards, just like most of the FN Personalities.

  54. Poet says:

    I think I’m going to side with Denise Vivaldo after reading her article in full.

    It sure sounds like she got hired for a job to create a cookbook with nothing made from scratch… all out of a can. Of course she does that kind of book for a living, so why would she refuse it, no matter how ridiculous the concept is? Especially when the agents working for Lee called her “the next Martha Stewart, only bigger.”

    To Denise, this made dollar signs appear in her eyes…. but what can you do with a recipe that calls for everything store-bought?

    What happened next is Sandra Lee comes to her asking “I want a ____”. I want a kwanzaa cake! Well crap… how do you make a kwanzaa cake, and furthermore, how do you do it with only store-bought ingredients? A bit limiting.

    If you gave Picasso crayons and a soggy piece of cardboard to draw on, only so much could be done. I’m guessing Denise was in the same predicament here only being given so much to work with.

    She was basically stuck MacGyvering a cake. I still blame Sandra Lee entirely.

  55. Poet says:

    As a side note, I also found this quote in Denise Vivaldo’s article amusing:

    “I will tell you truly, the candles were her idea. ” – Denise Vivaldo

  56. kelly says:

    Sandy needs to stick to pink lemonade and hot cheetos, that where here roots are.

  57. Diane says:

    I actually am kind of surprised. That monstrosity looks just like something Sandy would dream up after a bender.

    This woman sounds like she’s burning some serious bridges. It would be mildly interesting to know the story behind it…

  58. Starla says:

    This Denise chick is a bitch. And she’ll probably have her own reality show in the next 6 months… Oh joy.

  59. Jess says:

    turns out even sandra lee is semi-homemade herself…what a surprise!

  60. Daria says:

    This HP article is freaking hilarious! I honestly don’t know how to react to this, is this all a big joke or is this Denise woman for real? I mean look at this one quote: “I assumed it was the ten years of smoking dope in my formative years that was making me stupid.” Who would really print that about themselves?

    I don’t know, but it seems like Sandra Lee fired her, or she is retiring from writing recipes for FN “stars” so she is finally able to spill the beans and wants to go out with a bang. But it is not exactly a newsflash that some of the talent on FN do not actually cook or write their own recipes, hell the community here figured that one out long ago.

  61. KristenS says:

    I thought the article was really funny (the one on HuffPo, I mean)…..good for her!

  62. Suz says:

    I am…speechless.
    That freaking cake was the epitomy of what disgusts me about her, and now someone else is owning up to it?!?

  63. OnlineSpice says:

    OK, first off Kwanzaa is not a real holiday. So I’m sure the network got complaints about that abomination of a cake. They probably got that person to “fess up” to the recipe to separate herself from that atrocity. Still not sure which is worse- celebrating a “holiday” that’s not real or owning up to that cake…………. Happy Holidays!

  64. Marion in Savannah says:

    Oh, rats… I wanted to read the article at HuffPo, but it’s been pulled because it “violated the terms of service.” Crap.

  65. Allen says:

    i have a confession too. i was was the one who started wearing sunglasses on the back of my head. i just wanted to keep them out of the way for a while.

    i had no idea some idiot would copy me and take it to the douchebag level.

    i apologize to everyone

  66. jw says:

    This is no different than star comedians. Leno, Letterman, Conan, Chris Rock all have writers who write jokes for them now. When you get big enough, you have people do most of the work for you.

    • It is different. It’s very different. Those people aren’t on stage bragging about how they came up with those jokes.

      Sandra Lee is constantly spewing how “SHE” came up with the idea, and how great “HER” recipes taste.

      It’s a sham.

  67. Me says:

    I can’t believe you guys didn’t understand the sarcastic humor behind her article. I thought the people who visited this site was smarter than that. I thought her article was hilarious. Jillian, calm down. The whole article was a joke.

    Seriously guys, am I REALLY the only one who got that?

  68. Sally says:

    I can’t believe you are bashing Denise Vivaldo. She clearly stated she had A CONTRACT with Sandra Lee meaning SHE COULD NOT GET OUT OF IT. She also stated that the nastier the recipes got the more Lee loved them! She wrote that crap to go home faster. You SHOULD be bashing the talentless, can’t think for her pathetic self, money grubbing, drunk ass Sandra Lee. She is pushing this woman (who obviously took the contract thinking she was going to write GOOD homecooked recipes with fresh ingredients) to write recipes out of nothing but trash! Canned crap, packets of putrid, salt ridden seasonings, frozen vegetables and tons of nasty, heart clogging cheese, meat and dairy. Yeah, blame Denise! That makes sense! Blame the bitch that forced her into a contract and made her write disgusting recipes.

  69. Dee says:

    Usually I refrain from commenting, but I just feel that Sally is out of line.

    Denise should have done her homework on Sandra Lee prior to accepting the contract. If someone came to me and said they had this idea to do 70% store bought and 30% homemade, and then clarified that store bought meant canned, pre-made, etc, and homemade meant assembling the pieces into a whole, I’d certainly be pretty clear that this wasn’t really a recipe-developing contract so much as a dressing up nasty food to be maybe less nasty contract (which obviously Denise failed to do)

    Now I’m more inclined to think, given how Sandra’s recipes went from semi-tolerable to dumpster diva , that Denise was hoping that losing all sense of taste in the recipes would get her contract canceled.

    She didn’t count on Sandra (and Sandra’s followers) loving ease of assembly over taste. (Look at Sandra – she doesn’t eat much anyway, what’s she to know? Crap tastes good when you’re drunk enough) and, once again, she failed to do her initial homework on the assignment. So I don’t feel bad for Denise.

    • RR's pompoms says:

      I have to side with Team Sally on this one. Auntie Sandie says heh, let’s not forget the African Americans here. We have all Chanukah, Christmas, what about Kwanzaa? I know, let’s do a cake. After all, what other foods would be festive for Kwanzaa? Chitlins and greens maybe?

      So poor Denise probably thinks WTF? and creates the most hideous thing thinking Auntie would see that she knows nothing about Kwanzaa or it’s roots or ethnic cooking for that matter. Unfortunately, the liquor did the talking and Auntie said hot damn, this is gonna work! So in her Semi-Homemade finery, she proceeds to put this concoction together. I mean really, pumpkin seeds and corn nuts? Who eats this combo? And apple pie filling with a that crazy mishmash of icing? I wonder if Denise didn’t put this together after doing the cocktail segment.

      Just found you guys and I’m laughing so hard I’m crying. Thanks.

  70. AJ (the other one) says:

    I wonder if this bat crazy women came up with that hideous tiered Christmas cake. I’m sure most of you have seen it: tooth paste green frosting, bright red piping, yellow swirls and lit candles. It looked something from a Who-Ville bakery. Apparently, she she wants to be hated by all the major religions.

  71. [...] Sandra Lee got ripped off and humiliated by this woman.  (And I’m quite disappointed that is one of them) I don’t.  Sandra Lee hired this woman.  When Ms. Vivaldo submitted recipes [...]

  72. Just Curious says:

    I’m wondering why a white lady is making a Kwanzaa cake in the first place. Kwanzaa is exclusively a celebration for “black unity.” Black folk sure aren’t glued to the TV watching cute, blond little Sandy reveal the secrets of cake baking – and I’m sure most of her audience is white, so who is she making this for?

    • Tim says:

      She’s making it for use at one of any number of “multicultural celebrations” that are thought to be culturally-sensitive and politically-correct in their intention but end up being entirely essentialist, stereotypical, and devoid of depth in their execution. You know, celebrating “Latino culture” with salsa music and nachos or “Asian culture” with fortune cookies and tai chi. They’re a big hit at public schools, liberal arts colleges, and corporate office buildings, and they come from the same masterminds as those trite “diversity training” seminars that claim a person’s racial identity can predict their work behavior.

      As for the exclusivity of Kwanzaa, though, I know white people who celebrate it, just as there are many atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Shintos who celebrate Christmas. I went to school with a white kid whose black stepmother taught him all of the principles.

  73. Ta says:

    Apparently the article violated the terms of service of the Huffington Post, so it’s been removed. After all the comments, I was really hoping to read it. Oh well.

  74. Russ says:

    I do not have cable TV, have never seen an entire episode of Sandra Lee’s programs, and only learned the name from FNH. Since then, I’ve watched a few clips on YouTube, including the Kwanzaa cake. Did I hear her correctly, did she really refer to corn-nuts as “acorns”?

  75. [...] Food Network Humor » Origins Of Sandra Lee’s Horrifying Kwanzaa …Dec 17, 2010 … The Kwanzaa cake is like Freddy Krueger. IT REFUSES TO DIE! It made headlines once again yesterday, when a chef/food stylist named … [...]

  76. [...] Unfortunately, FNH has gone on an indefinite hiatus after creator Jillian Madison became burned out on all the craptastic new shows Food Network began shoveling out. I can’t blame her. However, she kindly has kept all the posts up so old readers and newbies alike can enjoy her sardonic humor when discussing things like how Guy Fieri mispronounces his last name or Sandra Lee’s horrendous Kwanzaa cake. [...]

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