Valentine’s Day Bake-Off!

Hello friends!  This Tuesday at work, we had our annual Valentine’s Day Bake-Off.  (It was supposed to be on Valentine’s Day, but the giant snow storm delayed it.)  There were four categories: Pies, Cakes, Cupcakes/Cookies, and Other.  Now, while I am not sure I agree with the breakdown of the categories (Cupcakes with cookies!?!?!  What is up with that!?!?), the competition was great and all the participants had a great time.  Some really went all out with crazy things such as multi-tier displays and mood lighting!

Strawberry/Chocolate Cake Balls

These Strawberry/Chocolate Cake Balls had a two-tier pink cardboard display. Genius! I didn’t even know disposal displays like that existed!

Cheesecake

This Broken-Hearted Blues New York Cheesecake was the most intense display – It had blue mood lighting underneath the tray and a mini Empire State Building with King Kong coming out of the middle! It won the Pies category. (According to Food Network, cheesecakes are pies because they have a crust.) It didn’t need all that though, because it was a darn good cheesecake anyway!

The display for these Oreo Bars was less intense, but the pretty dish was still a huge step up from my cupcake carrier and square cake pan that I used as the vessels to distribute my treats!

The display for these Oreo Bars was less intense, but the pretty dish was still a huge step up from my cupcake carrier and square cake pan that I used as the vessels to distribute my treats!

This Italian Love Cake was the winner for the Cakes category.  It was so chocolaty and delicious!  I LOVED it!  It lacked the fancy display, like mine, but its chocolaty goodness was too much to resist.  Congratulations Diana!

This Italian Love Cake was the winner for the Cakes category. It was so chocolaty and delicious! I LOVED it! It lacked the fancy display, like mine, but its chocolaty goodness was too much to resist. Congratulations Diana!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes...A formidable competitor that also did not focus on the display aspect.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes…A formidable competitor that also did not focus on the display aspect, but was nice and pink for V-Day.

I’m not exactly sure what all the judging criteria was, but I know it consisted of taste, flavor (apparently there is a difference!), appearance, impression, presentation, creativity, and relevance to the theme.  I got a look at the score cards and they were intense – a full page for each submission with all the different criteria.  Each judge had a whole folder worth of material to fill out.  No wonder it took them almost an hour to get through the judging!

All the submissions...ready to be devoured!

All the submissions…ready to be devoured!

I decided to go big this year and enter two categories:  Other and Cupcakes/Cookies.  I made Red Velvet White Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Fudge and S’mores Cupcakes.  And…drumroll please…I won both categories!  Now, while I missed the memo that the way you display your treats affects your score, I guess my flavors were good enough to win anyways.  Plus, I did decorate my cupcakes Valentine’s Day themed, and the fudge was red and white swirls.

My winning submissions!

My winning submissions!

When they announced the winners, I had actually already left the Bake-Off to go our weekly R&D meeting.  My coworker Kale (who ditched the meeting entirely!) comes into the room about 10 minutes after it started and says, “Stephanie, you won for the Cupcakes AND the Fudge!”  I was like, “Really?!?!  No, really!?!?”  I continued this same ‘discussion’ several times as I followed him out of the room and back down the hall to the Bake-Off.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would win ONE, let alone BOTH categories!  Plus, Kale loves messing with me, so I wasn’t convinced I had really won.  I scolded him and was like, “If you are psyching me out, that is really mean and I am going to be so mad at you!”  He assured me he wasn’t, and, upon reentering the Bake-Off, I was handed not one, but TWO prize envelopes!  It made my day, of course!

Let the judging begin!

Let the judging begin!

I try not to brag too much – 1, because it is annoying, and, 2, because I am so not over-confident in my baking skills, or life skills for that matter! – but I have to share this very exciting news because I am really proud of myself.  Last Valentine’s Day, my pink macarons fell short of expectations and did not win anything in the Valentine’s Day Bake-Off, to my slight disappointment (they are very hard to make!).  I understood though, because I took one bite of the lime cupcakes that beat me and I knew I was defeated.  Last spring, this blog was born and I promised myself to bake regularly to practice and improve my baking skills.  The goal of improving my skills was not to win the Bake-Off this year, but to improve on my new love for baking and get better at something that really makes me happy.  I may have peaked years ago in my super-soccer skills – which is something else I love – but baking is something with which I am pretty sure I have yet to reach my prime.  Winning both categories I entered for the Bake-Off this year is really just the icing on top of the cupcake for me (hehe), and more of a validation and confirmation of my year of baking and practicing and improving.  The prize was $75 per catergory, so that is $150 more in my pocket!  My year of baking has paid off – literally!

The proud winners!

The proud winners!

Down to the baking:

Now, I am going to write a post this weekend with the fudge recipe, so be on the lookout for that one!  I’ve been wanting to make fudge for awhile now though, and it turned out splendidly!  The red and white swirl effect gave it that Valentine’s Day theme I was hoping for and the judges agreed!

The S’mores Cupcakes were the same recipe I made last fall that my whole family cheated on their diets for.  I changed up the colors, making the marshmallow cream cheese filling pink, and the graham cracker buttercream red.  I even went on a hunt for pink heart marshmallows and was ecstatic when I actually found them!  They were a nice little touch, I thought.  And it even kept with the s’mores theme, too!  And then, for fun, I added some V-Day sprinkles of various kinds.  All in all, it made a delicious Valentine’s treat, also suitable for a campfire, or a random Tuesday night.  🙂  Let’s finish up with a picture or two, so I can get to writing the fudge post!

fudge

smores cupcake

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day everyone!  Much love!  ❤ ❤ ❤

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