Crazy for Cupcakes!
Feeling the sugar rush of the South Shore Living Cupcake Battle
The Rasputin is the winning entry from Baked in Scituate
The combination of sweet fluffy cake and colored frosting swirls may seem innocent enough, but cupcakes are a serious business. The popularity of the sweet treats has grown immensely in recent years—transitioning from being a common treat at children’s birthday parties to the star attraction on reality television shows and the centerpiece of wedding dessert displays. In short, we’re all a little crazy about cupcakes these days.
The South Shore is home to many fabulous bakeries that specialize in gourmet cupcakes and feed the high demand by offering a wide variety of creative flavors. With so many tempting cupcakes to choose from, the editorial staff at South Shore Living decided the time had come to hold the first ever South Shore Living Cupcake Battle.
Local bakeries were invited to enter a signature cupcake flavor that would be judged by notable area pastry chefs as well as a sampling of lucky South Shore Living readers. Eleven bakers accepted the challenge.
The Cupcake Battle took place on a bright and beautiful February afternoon at the Scituate Maritime Center, overlooking scenic Scituate Harbor. As bakers arrived with boxes of identical cupcakes, the function room began to fill with a heady, sweet aroma. After spending hours preparing for the event, mixing batter and crimping fondant daisies by hand, the bakery owners enjoyed taking a few moments to shake hands and chat with their competition. Meanwhile, photographer Jack Foley set to work capturing the rich colors and creative designs of each cupcake contender.
The judges arrived later in the day, led by five acclaimed area pastry chefs with extensive experience in the field of baking: Christie Radeos, head pastry chef at Alma Nove in Hingham, Kristin Beaupre, pastry chef at Tosca in Hingham, Jean Jacques Gabanelle, the owner and pastry chef at French Memories Bakery in Cohasset, Lisa Jayne, pastry chef at Café Create A Cake in Plymouth, and Beth Veneto, owner and baker at Ginger Betty’s Bakery in Quincy. In addition to the professionals, we invited a limited number of lucky readers to take part in the delicious job of tasting and rating each cupcake on the basis of taste, texture, creativity, and presentation (of a single cupcake).
The task of biting into 11 different cupcakes at a single sitting was an exciting and somewhat formidable challenge for the judges, who scattered about the room carrying plates, forks and ballots on which to record their opinions of each cupcake. Each judge took his or her time to savor the flavor of each cupcake. While some members of the group began by nibbling the frosting, others would quickly cut the cupcakes in half to expose the sweetness found on the inside.
The cupcakes delivered a delicious range of flavors, from rich dark chocolate mousse and pumpkin spice to more fruity flavors like blueberry bread pudding, chocolate raspberry, and bananas foster. There was even an entry from an entirely nut-free bakery. Various buttercream and cream cheese frostings were in the mix and several cupcakes were topped with delicate fondant decorations, drizzled with caramel, or sprinkled with sugar or sea salt.
The judges powered through cupcake after cupcake, despite a growing sense of the impending sugar rush to come, with plenty of water and coffee to cut through the sweet. The ballots revealed that not everyone’s taste buds necessarily agreed with one another. For while some of the cupcakes impressed the pastry chefs with their creative presentations, others got high marks for their simple execution and cake flavor. The winners of the competition were ultimately determined according to the cumulative number of points received in all categories by each bakery. Competition was tight, but only a few cupcakes consistently received high marks.
Cupcake Charlie’s, a popular shop in Plymouth, received third place for its delicious Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt submission. The cupcakes were made with rich chocolate cake, filled with soft caramel, and frosted with a decadent caramel buttercream frosting. The judges particularly enjoyed the playful presentation and South Shore theme reflected by the addition of a “beach ball” cake truffle, caramel-filled chocolate starfish, and light dusting of sugar “sand” on top.
The second place prize went to White’s Pastry Shop for their Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcake. This well-loved bakery, which has locations in Hingham and Brockton, delivered a Belgian chocolate buttermilk cake infused with brewed coffee with a white chocolate mousse center. The cupcake was topped with a hardened dark chocolate shell and finished with a sprinkling of chocolate butter crumb, a swirl of cappuccino buttercream frosting, and a decorative chocolate crunch cookie and chocolate “W.”
The grand prize of the South Shore Living Cupcake Battle went to Baked in Scituate, for its decadent chocolate raspberry cupcake that was lovingly named “Rasputin.” The cupcake was made with a rich Dutch chocolate cake stuffed with bittersweet chocolate pudding and raspberry jam, and topped with cream cheese frosting, crispy dark chocolate pearls, and a fresh raspberry stuffed with dab of bittersweet chocolate pudding. The rich chocolate and fresh raspberry flavors were seamlessly married together and the presentation was artfully crafted so the cupcake appeared like a flower in bloom—a beautiful thing to behold as well as taste.
By the end of the night everyone (including the photographer and the editors) had frosting on their fingers and smiles on their faces. For while pop culture trends may change, the sweet treats we grew to love as children remain close to the heart.