Cupcake Challenge: Cocktail Hour
Have you ever dreamed of a world filled with cupcakes? Were there cupcakes everywhere you looked, with smiling servants at the ready? Was the heavenly aroma of sugar hanging sweet in the air? Best of all were you able to taste each tantalizing treat and experience the joy of tingling taste buds as you took bite into each sweet?
The National Capital Area Cake Show made this dream a reality for hundreds of cupcake enthusiasts on Saturday as they hosted the first ever, Cupcake Cocktail Hour. Hosted at the Northern Virginia Community College, 54 cupcake bakers brought sample sizes of cocktail inspired cupcakes. By the end of the night, it was estimated that there were 154 different types of cupcakes for sampling with over 700 guests attending the event.
This was the 3rd annual National Capital Area Cake Show, with over 8,000 people in attendance throughout the two day show, March 26-27. The show ran from 9-3 each day offering classes, cake tours and even a television-style live challenge. The Cupcake Challenge grew out of an idea of combining a tasting competition with a fun theme.
“Cupcakes have kind of exploded in DC. While cake decorating appears intimidating to some, no one is afraid of a cute cupcake!” said Melissa Westervelt, who spearheaded the idea of a Cupcake Challenge. “There are people out there making really great stuff in their home kitchens and in new bakeshops. I wanted to elevate that, to draw the ‘cupcake people’ into this great community atmosphere.”
Amateurs as well as professional bakers were invited to participate in the challenge, allowing those new to the business a chance to get their name out while well-established bakeries were able to share their reputation with a wider audience. 11 professional and 43 amateur bakers took the challenge to create original cocktail cupcakes.
“People are passionate about cupcakes. I know competitors with no culinary background who worked for weeks to perfect their recipe and they can be very proud of the results! I even heard about a few baking days, tasting parties, and Facebook friendships that formed as people developed the perfect cocktail cupcake,” Westervelt said. “Area professionals need a place to shine too. If I want a cupcake right now, I am walking into one of their shops. They were totally open to creating new flavors, engaging with the other bakers and creating some amazing display pieces for the Cupcake Challenge.”
The challenge was advertised with the National Capital Area Cake show, but ticket sales soared after a promotion with LivingSocial, which offered five free tickets for cupcakes along with the price of admission. The campaign was responsible for the sale of 550 tickets to the Cupcake Challenge alone and close to 1,585 general admission tickets to the show. Proceeds from the event benefitted Icing Smiles, a non-profit organization that provides custom celebration cakes and other treats to families impacted by critical illness of a child
“Baking is more than mixing up flour, sugar, and butter. It’s the muse, the creative process, the joy of the celebration that the sweet is created for. When I stumbled into the world of cake shows and competitions, all of that was amplified,” said Westervelt. “There is this network of artists where the competitive spirit is real, but the goal is camaraderie, sharing knowledge, and demanding something tastier and more gorgeous than you have ever made before.”