Food mixed with fun at Kirkland Library’s Teen Cupcake Wars

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CLINTON — Working with sugary frosting, assorted candies, sprinkles and cereal didn’t quite turn into a sticky situation for several young artists who participated in Kirkland Town Library’s Teen Cupcake Wars on July 31.

Youth Librarian Ruth Gilbert hosted the event with at least a dozen local youths participating. Activities were based on the Food Network television show, Cupcake Wars, where contestants have to bake and decorate cupcakes based on themed challenges, and only get a certain amount of time to complete their task.

Library contestants didn’t have to bake their cupcakes, and were given the choice of vanilla or chocolate — or one of each — to make their creations.

“Who’s decorated cupcakes before?,” Gilbert asked, with at least six experienced contestants raising their hands. There was silence in the room as children were directed to come select their frosting and toppings before the contest would begin.

“You can come up twice to get toppings,” Gilbert directed. “You’ll be judged on appearance, not taste, so you can mix any toppings and frosting you want. It will be up to you if you want to eat it in the end.”

Contestants had their choice of basic chocolate and white buttercream frosting that they placed into plastic cups before bringing it to their work stations. There were also some colored and glittery frostings like pink, green, yellow and silver.

As per topping choices, there were chocolate chips, colored marshmallows, M&M candies, gum drops, pretzel sticks and lattices, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruit Loops, Gummy Bears and even eyeballs among the selection.

Gilbert then directed the children to decorate one cupcake with a book theme, whether it be a specific character or “linked to a book in some way.” The other could be freestyle — or any design they chose.

A timer was set to 30 minutes and the contest was a go.

Any conversation was nothing above a whisper as contestants deeply concentrated on their mini pieces of art. There may have been the occasional, “Please don’t fall,” as children tried their hand at making marshmallow and pretzel stick towers that would represent book shelves.

While some worked to create tiny sculptures on top of their cupcakes, others mixed colored frosting to make their desired hues, like the gray frosting used to sculpt the face of Babar the Elephant. Many quietly slabbed on their frosting and some piped it in swirls. There were Sesame Street characters, famous characters from literature that included the Velveteen Rabbit and Penelope Pig, and to officially celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday, one artist used frosting and candies to sculpt the face of famous witch Hermione.

When the buzzer sounded it was time to present their cupcakes to a panel of judges that included library staff members: Assistant Library Director Laura Stoll, Adult Services Librarian Chelsea Roy and Avery Cook. They used a numbered system from 1-5, based on cupcake appearance. With so many masterpieces among the lot, the judges would declare a tie in each category.

Winning a pair of decorative socks or a certificate for a free ice cream would be the creators of: Hermione and Penelope Pig for the book-themed category; Book Shelf and Cookie Monster for the freestyle theme; and overall winner was the artist who made Hedwig the owl from Harry Potter and the Sunflower.

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