Hearts were a flutter at the Danbury Museum and Historical Society‘s Valentine’s Day Cake Creation Celebration this weekend. About 200 guests gathered to view, taste and judge cakes by 17 amateur and professional bakers. Participants of this second annual celebration competed for a $200 prize. Each contestant provided a full-size cake for sampling, as well as a smaller version that showcased exact or similar design elements. The replica cakes were sold for $25, or auctioned for best offer. All proceeds served as a donation to the museum.
The first hour of the event was dedicated to voting on structure and design, while the rest of the afternoon was focused on cutting into the creations and tasting the flavors. Bakers were given creative freedom for their submission, with the suggestion of a Valentine’s Day theme. Masterpieces varied from multi-tiered fondant cakes to handmade chocolate truffle boxes, to intricately sculpted edible shoes and purses. Recipes included dense dark chocolate, classic red velvet, marble cake with cannoli filling, vanilla bean infused sour cream cake, and white chocolate Italian merengue buttercream, to name a few. For a $10 entrance fee, guests received a voting ticket and were offered champagne, sparkling water and cold milk to wash down their sugar-high. This was one museum visit where it was okay to look and touch.
Attendees served as judges for two categories: taste and decoration. One vote was allowed for each. Hopped up on sweets and a chance to give points to your favorite? Not a bad gig.
Jason Wanzer and Jason Snopkoski of F.N. Good Dessert and Catering Company, took the cake for the taste of their organic, gluten-free, chocolate, raspberry decadence torte.
“The win today is validation that we’re on the right path. It’s a good feeling to know that people are enjoying something that you’re creating.”
The duo of the F.N. Goode Dessert and Catering Company has been in the restaurant business for decades, currently working together at Chuck’s Steakhouse in Danbury, CT. Wanzer is their chef/grill cook and Snopkoski works the front of the house and behind the bar. During the holidays they joined forces outside of Chuck’s to sell dessert platters. Now, they are ready to put their tongue and cheek title on the map. “We thought this contest would be a good way to get our names out there,” Snopkoski said.
Inspired by Snopkoski’s personal desire to find gluten-free and organic desserts, Wanzer experimented with their winning torte recipe for Snopkoski’s birthday last year. “I bought the ingredients, and he baked them. It was expensive to do it all organic, but it was my birthday so I treated myself,” Snopkoski said. “We thought doing the organic version for the competition was the best version of the cake possible. It was a good way to show what we can do, and see how people reacted to it.”
Snopkoski said he’s come to realize the fewer ingredients there are in a product, the better it is for you. They love this cake for its simplicity and deliciosness. “It was even more exciting to see the people who really identify with gluten-free and organic get excited over the fact that this was offered at a cake contest. I don’t think they were expecting there to be such a cake there.”
While organic/gluten free is the niche their company would eventually like to focus on, they are currently experimenting with a variety of options. They want to feel out the market during the early stages of their company’s development to see who is interested in their vision. “By offering some of everything we can create a brand that appeals to all groups. Hopefully we can satisfy those in the know about gluten-free and organic, and those who don’t might learn a little bit from us as they grow to love our products in general.”
A 4″ non-organic, yet still gluten-free version of their winning cake can be bought for Valentine’s Day at Gourmet To Go on Padanaram Road in Danbury, CT (next to Jim Barbarie’s).
You can contact the F.N. Goode Dessert and Catering Company at 203-448-7666 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out their Facebook page for more information, and stay tuned for their upcoming website.
Jessica Lenihan of The Icing on Top, won for designing an impressive four-foot long, 100 pound tiger cake.
The decision to stray away from a Valentine’s theme was Lenihan’s strategy to stand out from the rest. She sure did. “I figured the wow factor would be when everyone is walking around looking at pretty tiered Valentine cakes, and then there’s my 4 foot long, 100lb tiger cake!”
Lenihan spent about two days baking, carving, rolling out fondant, airbrushing and painting on stripes for her design. It was a labor of love that paid off in the amount of the $200 prize. The most impressive part? She is self-taught. “About a year ago I decided I wanted to try cakes, and I just learned my technique through trial and error on my own from there.” Her winning design was based off a photograph she found online. “I entered the contest just because making cakes is so much fun for me,” she said.
Her upbeat, go-for-it personality holds true in her business as well. “The Icing on Top is really just about taking people’s crazy ideas and turning them into awesome cakes!”
You can contact The Icing on Top at 203-910-8450/203-648-8672. E-mail them at email@example.com or visit their Facebook page for more information.
“Winning feels great! I’m so happy that everyone loved the tiger. Hopefully it means lots of business and lots of fun and exciting cakes!”
Other contestants who brought delicious and creative confections were Lincoln Culinary Institute, Group 1, Andrea Biondo, Anne Ultsch, Michelle Geier and Tara Carvalho, Dolci Katrina, Mia, Irene and Charlie Reichl, Helen Early, Fidelia Abba, Amanda Targowski, Anne Marie Friedrich, Steve DiSorbo, Sarah Zamudia, Tara Burgess, Kristy Oulette and Katrina Sharkis.
The celebration was split between Miriam Anderson Studio and Huntington Hall, Danbury Museum’s ever-changing exhibit hall. The idea for this competition was born during the summer of 2010, when a wedding dress exhibit was on display. The decorated cakes coincided perfectly with the theme of the dresses. After realizing heat wasn’t the ideal temperature for meltable frosting and fondant, “Valentine’s Day felt like the perfect time to do something sweet,” shared Brigid Guertin, Executive Director of the museum. The current feature, “locally grown,” showcases the work of local artists, which can be seen until March.
Having added six more contestents from the previous year, Guertin sees positive growth on the horizon. “When doing an annual event, the third year is usually your make or break year. I think next year is going to be even more spectacular.”
Guertin, who playfully joked she was happily shaky from her sugar overload, was pleased with the success of the day. “It was wonderful. Contestants brought amazing creations. Each one was a work of art. It was almost a shame to cut into it, but I’m sure glad we did.”
You can visit the Danbury Museum and Historical Society at 43 Main Street, Danbury, CT 06810. Tours are offered at the museum on Saturdays during the winter from 10-4, and Tuesday through Saturday during the spring and summer. Check out their Facebook page for more information.