LIVINGSTON — Cupcake Wars, the library system’s latest initiative in its ongoing efforts to bring entertaining programming for its patrons, drew seven imaginative contestants who did their best to create clever, colorful and tasty cupcakes.
Sarah Colombo, director of the Main Branch of the Livingston Parish Library System said Cupcake Wars came about because of the increasing interest in cupcakes.
“Last year, we did Cupcake Wars for teenagers and they had so much fun, we decided to do a version for adults," she said. "We are always trying something new and fun for our library patrons, and Cupcake Wars seemed like a great idea for an evening of fellowship and friendly competition.”
The Cupcake Wars program held Feb. 8 at the Main Branch took the place of the Cookbook Challenge held on the second Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. Participants in the Cookbook Challenge study a cookbook of their choice at one meeting, and then bring a dish from that cookbook to the next month’s meeting to share with the other participants.
Cupcake Wars was divided into three rounds. The first round required participants to select a book and then create a cupcake that reflected that book’s theme. The second challenge was to create a cupcake that tasted good. The final round allowed contestants the opportunity to create a cupcake of any design.
To decorate the cupcakes, which were prebaked, the decorators were given containers of vanilla icing to use as a base. Additionally, the decorators could choose from shredded coconut, pretzels, Chex Mix, chocolate chips, Gummy Bears, M&Ms, Red Hots, Sno-Caps and Fruit Roll-Ups.
The “wars” started when Colombo gave the contestants five minutes to run into the library, select a book and return to the meeting room where the contest was being conducted. Decorators were then given 20 minutes to match their cupcake to the chosen book.
The creativity of the decorators quickly became evident. For her book, Pamela Jones chose the Dr. Seuss book “Hank: The Case of the Missing Cat.” She created the whimsical face of a smiling dog atop her cupcake.
Waleah Bergeron picked up a Louisiana cookbook. To match the book, she decorated a cupcake with a Mardi Gras theme, appropriate for the season and the chosen book.
Kaitlyn Summers chose the book “Bad Moon Rising,” and her cupcake featured a fearsome moon, with the Red Hots being prominent in her creation. Deanne Lopez said she chose the book “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” because she could easily match the book’s theme with colors on her cupcake.
Allison Cowart earned words of praise for her inventiveness when she fashioned an icing piping bag out of the wrappings of a Fruit Roll-Up. Using the improvised piping bag, she was able to have writing on her cupcake based on Dr. Seuss' “The Cat in the Hat.”
After Colombo completed the judging, Cowart was deemed the winner of that round.
Cupcake warriors were then given 10 minutes to design tasty treats. Several contestants hollowed out or halved their cupcakes and inserted generous dollops of icing in the center, then covered the tops with the many tasty candies and other treats. Contestants had to use at least four ingredients in their creations. A microwave oven was in the room, and some of the contestants used the microwave to melt chocolate and other candy treats to add to their cupcakes.
Steven Bell, assistant director of adult programming for the library, joined Colombo in judging this phase of the competition. Bell, who confessed that he didn’t like coconut, had his first taste of a cupcake laden with coconut dyed blue. Mary King won round two.
While decorating their cupcakes, the contestants spent considerable time conversing and laughing about the fun they were having and their relationship with the Livingston Parish Library System.
Jones visits the library often.
"If I don’t come in for a few days, the staff calls me and asks me where I have been,” she said. “I didn’t read a lot before I moved here about six years ago, where I live close to the library. Now, I read a lot, and the library has become an important part of my life.”
“The library has added a new dimension to my life," Bergeron said. "I especially like the programming. This gives me the chance to meet new people and make new friends. The library means so much to our community.”
For the final challenge, Colombo announced that the cupcakes would be judged by the contestants themselves. A time limit of 10 minutes was given for creation of the cakes in this phase. About five minutes into the time slot, Colombo brought in a plate full of a "secret ingredient” that had to be incorporated into all the cupcakes. That ingredient was potato chips.
Cowart won this competition with her entry getting the overwhelming number of votes from her fellow competitors. For her efforts, she was declared the overall winner and was given a prize by Colombo.
Colombo announced that Cupcake Wars would also be held at two other library branches later this month. On Sunday, Feb. 18, Cupcake Wars will be repeated at the Denham Springs-Walker Branch at 3 p.m., and it will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the Albany-Springfield Branch at 6 p.m.
"We welcome new programs that bring residents of our parish to our library branches," Colombo said. "That’s what we are here for, to engage the public in the many activities and educational programs offered by our library system. We will keep finding ways to engage our patrons with their libraries, and we hope they have fun in the process.”