When duty calls, you eat the cupcakes

Moorestown Parks and Recreation held its Summer Cupcake Wars last week, with nearly a dozen kids showing off what they learned from the weeklong camp.

Rising fifth grader Kaelyn Kownatsky reaches for one of her creations to begin the frosting process. Kownatsky’s Lemon Lime Supreme — coconut lime frosting with a banana cinnamon filling, lemon batter with a marble fondant on top — was a favorite of the Sun writer who served as one of three judges. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The email came through a week earlier from a co-worker with the tone of someone begging for a volunteer with little confidence anyone would bite: would anyone want to be a judge for a children’s cupcake competition?

For some people, twentysomethings newer to journalism and not wise enough to recognize a golden opportunity when it shows up in your inbox, it was ignored or quickly discarded into the trash. For others, well, it was their destiny.

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The writer of this story volunteered to not only eat cupcakes and rate them (seriously, who wouldn’t want to do this, and as a part of your job?) but to also take photos (because of course you want to use those to gloat about the cupcakes your co-workers chose not to eat). And then they asked if said volunteer would write about it and here we are.

When all of the cupcake eating and rating was over at the Moorestown Parks Recreation event, its third Cupcake Wars of 2019, two, two-person teams were declared winners: fourth-grader Paige Villanueva and partner Hailey Wolfe, a seventh-grader; and fourth-grader Nina Damian and sixth-grader Macai Kline.

Two, two-person teams tied for first-place to claim the Summer Cupcake Wars title. The four winners (from left): seventh grader Hailey Wolfe, fourth graders Paige Villanueva and Nina Damian, and sixth grader Macai Kline. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

But everyone is a winner when cupcakes are involved, right? Moorestown Parks and Rec kitchen manager Katie Sklarow honored the winners of “most creative,” “best tasting,” and “overall presentation,” in addition to other categories.

For yours truly, the first entry in the contest was a personal favorite.

Created by fifth-grader Kaelyn Kownatsky, the only cupcake maker flying solo when a kid dropped out of the weeklong camp, leaving an odd number of students, the Lemon Lime Supreme was simply delectable. A yellow cake with lemon batter, coconut lime frosting with a banana cinnamon filling and a marble fondant on top was a real treat. The combos may sound odd on paper, but Kownstsky’s creative mind paid off with a flavorful cake that hit on all the taste buds. The elementary school student-slash-baking prodigy is no stranger to the kitchen: Kownatsky placed first in Sklarow’s “Chopped” competition earlier this year.

Katie Sklarow, the Moorestown Parks and Recreation Kitchen Manager, works with Analyse Intenzo during the Summer Cupcake Wars. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

“When I came in Monday I decided I liked (the idea) of key lime pie,” Kownatsky said. “But then I thought, what about lemon, too?”

The Lemon Lime Supreme was a hit, but, honestly, there wasn’t a bad cupcake (is this a real thing?) in the bunch.

The group of 9- to 12-year-olds spent three hours a day for four straight days learning the ways of the cupcake, from the baking process to the fillings and frostings to the piping and decorating. They even learned the important life lesson of teamwork, as Sklarow paired them off into random tandems on the penultimate day of Cupcake Camp in preparation for the contest.

The kids crushed it. The cupcakes were scrumptious.

Make sure you send the next cupcake judge email directly to me when you do it again.

Ryan is a veteran journalist of 20 years. He’s worked at the Courier-Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Delaware County Daily Times, primarily as a sportswriter, and is currently a sports editor at Newspaper Media Group and an adjunct journalism instructor at Rowan University.
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