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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baking for Fun, Baking to Win

Sometimes it's just pure fun to enter a contest. This past week, it was suggested to me that I prepare a baked good for the Saturday Farmers Market annual berry contest, this year titled Red, White, and Blue Berry Bake-Off. The two categories were pie and cupcake - I knew that pie was not an option since I've never made more than an easy pecan pie. Cupcake it was!

While I enjoy the craft of at-home baking and its edible rewards, family and friends are not often critical of final appearances or small errors in execution. We’ve all seen these small disasters on television and in our own kitchens – collapsed sugar sculptures at the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, Julia Child’s under-cooked chocolate torte cakes, accidentally substituting salt for sugar, burnt toppings, and more. For this contest, I had to secure the perfect recipe, worry about things like crumb, creaming, and cupcake-to-frosting ratio, and then make several late-night batches once the heat of the day had disappeared.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the sophistication of savory and non-traditional desserts. I needed a cupcake to showcase fresh, seasonal berries, and chose to make an Italianesque Blueberry and Raspberry Ricotta Almond Cupcake. It seemed to me like the perfect Chico Cake – moist and sweet with a slightly coarser texture, the subtle almond flavor balancing the tartness of the berries while the ricotta added to the overall heartiness of the treat. Late Friday night, piping bag in hand, I topped the cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting and raspberry-slivered almond garnish before sliding the tray of competition-ready cupcakes into the fridge to preserve their shape and texture overnight.

I am proud to announce that I came home with two ribbons (and cash prizes) from the Red, White, and Blue Berry Bake-Off! My cupcakes were awarded Best Presentation, for which I received a lovely blue ribbon. They also took 2nd Place in the Cupcake Category for taste. Those judges really took their work seriously.

You can read my article about the entire experience in today's Chico Enterprise-Record online.

Eric Lovelin Photography


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