Sometime during my maternity leave, my mother forwarded an email on to me. Safe Harbors of the Hudson– a group that provides housing, support, and job training to the homeless, veterans, people with mental health problems and others- was hosting a fundraiser. They wanted professional and amateur bakers, young and old, to put there best cupcakes to the test to determine who has the best cupcakes in Hudson Valley. I entered, of course. Make cupcakes AND help out another worthy cause? It doesn’t get any better than that.
Saturday, April 30th was the day. 23 Bakers showed up with 5-6 dozen of up to 3 of their best cupcake varieties. That’s a LOT of cupcakes. And there were a LOT of people there to eat them. Over 300 people paid $5 for all-you-can-taste cupcakes (no insulin shots included.)
I couldn’t decide which cupcakes to make so I ended up making 3 flavors that have gone over really well in the past: the peanut butter and jelly cupcakes that I made for Cupcakes for a Cause, a Girl Scout-approved s’more cupcake, and Chef Hubby’s constant request- the Irish Car Bomb. My mother volunteered to come over to watch X while I baked my brains away (seriously- I have had the most whacked out, buttercream-induced nightmares the last few nights since doing this.)
I started off making all of the cakes. Not having a baking assistant or multiple stand mixers, it took me much longer than those people on Cupcake Wars. I think it took me about 4 and a half hours to get them all done.
Mom left and Chef Hubby came home. I prepped more ganache than ever in my life and whipped up 3 different frostings. I wanted to ice the cupcakes but I don’t have a big enough refrigerator to store all these trays in. Buttercream sitting overnight in a humid house? Not so yummy. So I coated the s’mores and the carbombs with their respective chocolate deliciousness and left the frostings in the fridge until morning. I did do a test run with the marshmallow frosting though. I wanted to make sure that it would brown nicely when I set a torch on it. It didn’t. All it did was melt. Sadness. Why it didn’t toast when it had done so in the past I’ll never know. But thanks be to the cupcake gods that I did the test because I was able to come up with something else to use in lieu of the frosting- straight up Marshmallow Fluff. I would have made my own marshmallow but I just didn’t have the time and my patience was just not going to let me do it.
7 o’ Clock in the morning on the day of the competition, I was in my PJs trying to frost cupcakes. I was not a happy camper. My Irish Cream buttercream was solid as a rock and my Grape Jelly frosting looked funky. The Fluff was being a royal pain in the ass. Fluff may be tasty but it makes a horrible mess that can only be cleaned by professional crime scene cleaners. The Irish Cream could come to room temperature and soften while I dealt with the other 2.
I did the s’mores first. I piped away not noticing that shortly after I piped the perfect little ring of sticky sweet yumminess onto the cupcake, the marshmallow was melting into a puddle of goo under my dining room lights! Not having the option to start over, I let it go. S’mores are supposed to be messy, right? I was a Girl Scout for at least ten years and never did I make a s’more and not end up with marshmallow and chocolate everywhere. I grabbed my torch and browned the messy deliciousness.
The grape jelly frosting was my next job. It looked, er, wrong. It had kind of separated so that it looked lumpy and wouldn’t really pipe nicely. It tasted so bloody good though, and when combined with the peanut butter cake it was downright orgasmic. The texture, although not the smooth buttercream that it should have been, gave the whole cupcake the mouthfeel of real peanut butter and jelly sandwich that spent the day in your lunchbox while waiting for lunch period at school. Happy accident? I moved on and finished the rest of the cupcakes.
Chef Hubby carefully loaded the car and drove me and my 15 dozen cupcakes through the rough streets of Newburgh to the competition. And by ‘rough’ I am not talking about the gang violence. They had torn up most of Route 9W and haven’t quite gotten around to putting it back together. It was all gravel and potholes and raised manholes. Driving around on the moon in a golf cart with 2 square wheels would have been a smoother ride. But the cupcakes survived by some miracle. I placed them on my homemade displays and finished the decorating in situ. Nutter Butters for the PB&J and graham crackers and Hershey bars finished the s’mores.
After all was said and done, a few hundred people had tasted my cupcakes. The car bombs were a huge hit. Other bakers were sending people to my table! The PB&J were awesome, too. The owner of Yummee Cupcake Cafe (a place in Newburgh that I’ve gone to and loved) told me they looked awesome and asked me how I got my Jelly frosting to taste so good! I was happier than a beagle in a compost pile (if you know a beagle, you’ll know how happy this is.) The s’mores weren’t exactly a favorite, but I did get a lot of people asking how I got the marshmallow to look so realistically melted. Umm.. maybe cuz it melted?
But nobody needed to know that the jelly and the marshmallow were accidents. I did it all intentionally. Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Of course, I did hand out business cards with this blog on it, so they might now know my secrets. Oops.
I didn’t win Best Amateur Baker or Crowd Favorite, but I don’t care. My cupcakes made people smile. The event raised a bunch of money for a great cause that will help local people and maybe, through that, revitalize Newburgh.