By Rochelle Maruch Miller
Nary a cloud could be seen in the sky on a glorious, sun-drenched February morning. Permeating the environs of Breezy’s and wafting along Central Avenue was an irresistible aroma, bidding passersby to enter. Well in advance of the SweetUp First Annual Kosher Cupcake Bakeoff, the excitement had already been palpable, gaining in momentum every day as the event fast approached. Working in tandem with meticulous attention to every detail, each person behind the event shared the same goal–to creatively blend fun and fundraising in an effort to raise money for the Achiezer Hurricane Sandy Fund. In a show of achdus for our friends and neighbors who have been impacted by the storm, the inaugural event drew an enthusiastic audience of approximately 100 people.
SweetUP was founded by Esti Berkowitz (founder of primetimeparenting.com) and Abbey Wolin (founder of not2shabbey.com) in June 2012. As editors of their own respective websites, they both felt the need to serve as platforms for brands to reach the Jewish network of bloggers, which is both diverse and cultural. Together, this dynamic duo formed SweetUP, a community of bloggers and brands, a place where everyone can share, network, and learn from each other.
Just a few hours after arrival by an all-night flight from Israel, Jamie Geller was at Breezy’s, a beautiful gift and bakeware accessory store. Jamie would be the MC of the very first annual kosher cupcake bake-off event. “I remember when I was here three months ago for Kosherfest and (co-organizers) Esti Berkowitz and Abbey Wolin announced that they would be hosting this event. I was like, ‘I’m in,’” said Jamie. Even though Jamie now lives in Israel with her family, she takes frequent trips to the United States for speaking engagements and special events.
Once Jamie was on board, the search for a location to host the event was solved when Breezy and Abbey met. As a store located in Cedarhurst, in an area hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, it was the perfect location.
Jamie joined the impressive panel of judges, including Bobbie Lloyd, president and operations partner of Magnolia Bakery, Alessandra Rovati, an Italian food writer and lecturer and founder of dinnerinvenice.com, and Tamar Genger, MA, RD, director of digital media for Kosher Media Network and executive editor for JoyofKosher.com.
There was no shortage of sweet treats at the event. Each contestant also prepared two additional dessert items for the attendees (audience) to taste. Additionally, a lovely arrangement of fresh fruit was supplied by Fruit Platters and More. The “best of baking” tunes and stellar sound system was sponsored by DJ Ben Black. With the stage set, the contestants eagerly awaited their time to shine. Each incredibly talented at her trade, they were introduced to the judges. The contestants were Melissa Kaye of lilmisscakes.com, Fagie Goldner of cupofcakenj.com, Michelle Goodman Frohlich of Cakeabite.com, and Shira Pearlman of DelightfullySweet.com.
Part of the fun was the element of surprise. The contestants were sent a box of surprise ingredients to use in their cupcake recipes earlier in the week, These ingredients included cherry Heering liqueur, coffee liqueur, King Arthur flour, fig jam, and balsamic vinegar. They could either use all of them in one cupcake, or use them in three different cupcakes.
The icing on the cake (event!) was watching the contestants scramble to create frosting selecting three of the following surprise ingredients: pomegranate seeds (supplied by Fruit Platters and More), lavender, cumin, cinnamon maple butter, apricot kernel oil, and wild sweet orange Tazo Tea. Adding still more to the challenge, just prior to the beginning of the 45-minute preparation period, the contestants were informed that cupcakes had to be decorated using the Purim theme.
As the clock started, the audience sat mesmerized as the contestants took their places at the preparation tables and began creating their cupcake artistry. Breezy graciously provided all the tools and fondant a cupcake designer could desire as well as bowls and burners. When their time was up, the contestants presented their cupcakes, every one a work of art, to the panel of judges.
After viewing and tasting each of the three cupcakes created by each contestant, the judges took some time prior to making their unanimous decision–the winner of the cupcake bake-off was Fagie Goldner of Cup of Cake NJ. Fagie created fig cupcakes with pomegranate cream cheese frosting. Cup of Cake NJ is certified by Rabbi Gissinger’s hashgachah and is yashan/pareve.
A fabulous time was had by all, but the sweetest part of the event was the opportunity to help our beloved community heal with dignity and honor. v