This month, we are entering a time of year that is very focused on food and togethernessÑfirst Thanksgiving, then Christmas. It is in that spirit that I am writing this column. But this gathering of food and friends wasn’t tied to any big holiday. No, it happened on a random Saturday night. The result, though, was the same.
You see, my daughter Riley is a huge fan of all types of cooking shows, but especially ones about baking. She loves to bake and so do her friends. It’s not un-usual for me to come home from work to find a fresh batch of cookies or brownies on the table. There are also times when I come home to find a group of girls in my kitchen experimenting with different recipes.
That is why my husband, Mark, and I weren’t the least bit surprised when Riley told us that she and four of her friends were going to have their own version of the popular Food Network show Cupcake Wars. On the show, four of the country’s top cupcake bakers face off in three elimination challenges until only one decorator remains. That baker wins the monetary prize and a chance to showcase his or her cupcakes at a designated event.
Within a day or so, the date was set as well as the location. Luckily, it was not at our house. The plan was that each girl would make two different cupcakes, each one based on a themeÑseasons and vacation. The parents would gather that evening to serve as the judges and determine a winner in each of the categories: taste, appearance, creativity, and overall best.
In the days leading up to the competition, Riley feverishly scoured Pinterest for unique recipes to fit the themes. I emphasize the word unique because unique recipes often require unique ingredients. Because of that, it quickly became clear that these would be some pretty expensive cupcakes and that a simple run to the grocery store was not going to cut it. What is castor sugar?
Let the Games Begin!
On the day of the competition, I helped Riley load up what seemed like most of my kitchen and delivered her and the laundry basket of baking materials to her friend Hailey’s house. Before leaving, I reviewed the plan for that evening with Hailey’s mom, assured her of my prayers, and ran for the car as fast as I could.
Throughout the afternoon, I fielded questions from Riley via text about various baking issues. The more I answered, the more I became worried about eating these cupcakes.
The Bonding of Baking
When we arrived at our friend’s house that evening, the girls were still feverishly cooking, running around as if this truly was a competition with big stakesÑand perhaps moneyÑon the line. There were ingredients and frosting bags strewn all over the tables and counters. The kitchen sink was filled with dirty mixing bowls, spatulas, and cupcake pans.
My immediate reaction was: God bless our friends for allowing these girls to make such a mess of their kitchen. My second thought was of how wonderful it was to see such joy and laughter throughout the kitchen as the girls were baking. We parents had a great excuse to get together and enjoy each other’s company as well as revel in the friendship of our daughters.
After dinner, we sampled each of the eight cupcakes and judiciously marked our scorecards. The girls went on and on about their creations and the entire processÑa blessing in itself, if you ask any parents of teenagers.
In the end, Riley and her friend won for creativity thanks to their pineapple cupcake topped with a beach scene of crushed graham crackers and a Teddy Graham inside a gummy Life Saver. But I really think we kind of all won. Cupcakes and camaraderieÑwhat’s not to love about that?