Earlier this year, the Northside Library hosted Chopped, a teen program based on a culinary TV show. According to branch librarian Angela Ocana, the dessert round stole the show. To continue the momentum of youth library programs inspired by food television, Ocana organized Cupcake Wars on July 15. Fifty-two youth with a sweet tooth participated in the event, sponsored by KeyPoint Credit Union and the Library Foundation.
“Our Cupcake Wars is just a fun summer program to get teens thinking creatively about food; it shares some similarities with the TV show, but it’s also a little different,” says Ocana, who loves chocolate and banana cupcakes. “All of our cupcakes are prebaked. Safeway can make cupcakes without icing so we’re just getting the cupcakes. It’s up to the teams to modify the cupcakes. They might put peanut butter in the center of their cupcakes or maybe they’d fill it with jellybeans. The teens are working in teams.”
During the three rounds, contestants were judged on taste and presentation. Judges were Northside Library branch manager Cheryl Lee, library assistant Nicole Jarvis, and summer library student volunteers Christian Alvarado, Parth Atre, and Anand Das. For the first round, pieces of fruit were the mystery ingredients teams must use. For the second round, savory ingredients, such as chips, pretzels, popcorn, and goldfish crackers, were highlighted. Red velvet cupcakes were the signature ingredient of the final round.
Ocana fondly referred to a cupcake that Team 4 prepared as “Chipzilla.” Members of Team 4 shared that they used Cocoa Puffs to create the sandy texture accompanying one of their cupcakes.
“For that one, we’re just doing a chocolate coating with sprinkles around it,” Team 4 member Ibe shares. “For this one, there are goldfish crackers, chips with sour cream, and Cheetos.”
Members of Team 5 won the first place prizes of AMC gift cards while Team 7 won the second place prizes of Safeway gift cards.
Â “One cupcake I introduced to judges was a cinnamon peach chocolate strawberry butterscotch cupcake; the other one had vanilla, red velvet icing, a fudge filling with a blueberry in the middle, a star-shaped kiwi on top and chocolate chips around the kiwi,” says Team 5 member Rebekah, 12. “What made us win was that we were taking risks and working together as a team. There were six of us. We didn’t know each other before this and we became friends quickly.”
“Each team made two kinds of cupcakes per round,” says Team 5 member Medha, 12. “In the first round, the fruits we chose were blueberries and strawberries. We lined our chocolate cupcakes with blueberries and put an upside down strawberry in the middle. We lined our vanilla cupcakes with blueberries and we put a right side up strawberry in the middle. They were similar ideas, but we put spin on it. I did pretty good in the challenge except for the second round because chips and cupcakes do not go well together… I actually thought the team that won second place was pretty good. One round, they made summer and winter cupcakes. That was an amazing idea.”