Teens take part in TV-inspired cupcake-decorating contest at Matthews Library
by Abbie Bennett
Books and frosting don’t normally go hand in hand, but they did on Tuesday as 19 teens scrambled to decorate cupcakes during a five-minute competition at the Matthews Library.
The “Cupcake War,” inspired by the popular Food Network TV show “Cupcake Wars,” was held for teens. The goal of the free event – which drew one guy and 18 girls – was to educate students about culinary arts and cake decorating. According to library staff, the wait list for the program was just as long as the original sign-up list, which was full.
“Those shows are really popular right now, so we see more and more interest,” said Katelyn Goetz, general manager of Polka Dot Bake Shop in Charlotte and guest baker for the event. “The shows inspire people to explore decorating and we’re happy to help.”
Goetz began the event by discussing her road to general manager at Polka Dot. She described her years at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte and told the students about her experiences in culinary school. She passed around photos of some of her work while she described a day in the life at Polka Dot Bake Shop, which has a staff of about 10 with the addition of occasional student interns.
“Every day is always different,” she said. “No order is the same. We do everything by hand. We really stress fresh daily.”
The teens were very interested in Goetz and Polka Dot’s more exciting orders, including a 500-cupcake order for Cirque du Soleil last March and a replica of a Carowinds attraction for its media opening this year.
After her talk, Goetz taught the teens how to roll and fill piping bags from pieces of parchment paper, then demonstrated how to use the piping bag to decorate a cupcake with icing.
Once the teens had the basics down, they were given five minutes to decorate their individual vanilla bean cupcakes – provided by Polka Dot Bake Shop – using as many as six different colors of icing and a multitude of sprinkles. Goetz then judged the finished products, choosing a first, second and third place winner from the group of 19.
“Do I really just have to pick one?” Goetz said as she walked around the room and surveyed the teens’ work. “They’re all so good.”
First place winner of a cake decorating set and a $30 gift certificate to SAS Cupcakes was 12-year-old Sophie Gillian, a student at Mint Hill Middle School, who won with her pink flower cupcake.
Gillian said a friend signed her up for the program.
“I’m glad she did, because it was really fun,” Gillian said. “This was the last thing I was expecting.”
Gillian said she’d like to participate in a program like this again.
“My favorite part was the competition,” she said. “I really liked it a lot. I love baking.”
Second place went to Katie Barton, 12, of Providence Day School in Charlotte. Barton also said a friend signed her up for the program.
“I came with my friend Ashton, it was her idea,” Barton said. “She invited me and I was really excited. I thought it was fun and I would love to do it again.”
Barton said she enjoyed the “Cupcake War” because it was a chance to be creative.
“I think it’s important to be creative sometimes,” she said.
Goetz said she thinks programs like the “Cupcake War” are important to foster a love for culinary arts in teens.
“Children of all ages can be interested in it,” she said. “It’s working with your hands, introducing that food element that makes it so great. It really reaches people because food is such a uniting factor.”
Goetz said her love for her job inspired her to take part in the program.
“I love decorating as much as I can, and we hold camps sometimes,” she said. “I was so honored to be asked to come. Anything working with food has my interest, but this was so much fun because the kids seemed really interested and seemed to really enjoy themselves.”