It's a competition of will, creativity, flavor and just the right amount of frosting all packed into one small cupcake wrapper -- leave your bake-sale cupcakes at home.
On Sunday, 13 local bakers -- ranging in experience from "I've never baked a cupcake in my life" to a former pastry chef -- will bring their sweet, savory A-game and more than 50 cupcakes to Dottie's Coffee Lounge for the first Baker's Dozen Cupcake Showdown.
"We have these events to try to bring people to the space who have never been here before," said Jessica Lamb, owner of Dottie's on North Street. "But we also want to have fun and do something different that we don't normally do."
At 3 p.m., cupcake lovers are invited to stop by the coffee lounge and for $10 can taste and vote on their favorite small treat, while enjoying complimentary coffee and tea, or beer and wine for purchase, said Lamb. Each of the 13 bakers will bring at least 50 of one type of cupcake to the competition. Lamb suggests stopping by early to ensure a spot as one of the
The rules are simple, no one will know which baker is responsible for each cupcake and voters will be given five tickets to pick their top five favorites. The top baker will receive a $50 gift certificate to Dottie's, and more importantly, title of the first winner of the cupcake showdown.
"It's a tremendous honor," joked Lamb, who calls the competition "stinking cute, light-hearted fun.
But for Pittsfield baker Michael Taylor, the competition is beginning to take on more than just light-hearted fun -- he's in it to win it.
"I'm not normally a competitive person," said Taylor. "But actually because of this competition, I'm stressed out about what I'm baking. I'm starting to see a competitive edge come out. It's pretty cool."
Taylor, a city hall employee by day and baker by night, started up "Mikey T's" in 2012 -- a home-grown business specializing in gourmet cupcakes, small cakes and cheesecakes. For Taylor, baking came naturally.
"My Italian grandmother started me young making Christmas cookies," he said.
The competition is a fun way for Taylor to market himself in the community and show what he can do with some sugar, flour and a pastry bag. While he couldn't give away hints about what he would be baking -- that would be cheating since all bakers' creations will be anonymous -- Taylor said he prides his work on quality creations made with good products.
Not knowing who baked what, or even what kind of cupcakes will be at the event, is all part of the fun, said Lamb, who on purpose put no limitations or rules on the bakers' product.
"We intentionally did not come up with a guide," she said. "But I'd like to think that anyone who wants to bake loves decorating the cupcakes as much as I do."
The freedom to combine flavors in a cupcake creation is what Lamb said she loves the most about the miniature treat. Right now, she's exploring a lot with creating texture. Recently, she put crushed pistachios in frosting for a fun crunch.
"Normally, when I make cupcakes, I open up my fridge door and say, ‘What's gotta go?' and go from there," she said.
Taylor -- who likes to bake anything that involves lemon -- is quick to remind home bakers that a tasty cupcake often takes time.
"When baking, you have to have patience," he said. "Make sure you plan ahead time to do it so it's not a rushed project."
But if you don't feel like tackling the baking this weekend, but still want to eat the rewards, Taylor said he hopes to see the community support the event -- for Dottie's and the bakers putting their sweet treats on the line.
"Come and have a good time," he said. "And it's Sunday, they have to indulge, right?"
Mikey T's Lemon Zinger Cupcakes
Yields about 12 cupcakes
Recipe submitted by Michael Taylor of Mikey T's
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk or buttermilk
zest and juice of two lemons
2 teaspoons of Limoncello or pure lemon extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.
Beat butter and sugar together on medium speed in a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer, until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 minutes.
In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly, add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in three batches, stirring by hand after each addition. Batter will be thick. Add the milk, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until just combined, careful not to over-mix.
Pour batter evenly into 12 cupcake liners. Bake for about 20 minutes. Try not to open the over door until at least 18 minutes has passed. Insert toothpick in the middle of a cupcake -- it will come out clean when done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Lemon Buttercream Frosting:
2 sticks of salted butter (room temperature)
6-7 cups of confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup of heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1-2 tablespoons of Limoncello, or juice from one lemon.
Place butter and sugar into stand mixer, or if using a hand mixer, a large bowl, and beat on low speed, gradually increasing speed to medium-fast. Slowly add cream, extract and liquor/lemon juice. You may need to add more or less liquid(s) to achieve desired consistency/taste.
Place frosting in pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe high on your cupcake, or use an off-set spatula to frost your cakes.