In case you’re new to this fabulous event, here’s a quick overview:
PYT is a crazy burger joint in Philly known for putting bacon and/or booze in basically everything. (Their rise to fame skyrocketed when they came out with the Krispy Kreme burger with chocolate-covered bacon, and gained nationwide notoriety when they started selling taco shells made completely of bacon.)
Philabundance is a nonprofit food bank that serves Philadelphia, Jersey and Delaware, and it’s the largest such organization in the region. In an effort to raise money for the food bank and “squash” hunger, Philabundance and PYT joined forces to create Cupcake Smash — a competition that challenged area bakers to create a cupcake based on one or more of PYT menu items.
On the day of the event, cupcakes invade the Piazza at Schmidt’s, served off decked out stations. Last year, I was inspired by PYT’s “Adult Cereal,” and made a Fruit Loop-flavored cupcake with a Loopy Vodka buttercream, and served the minis in individual cereal bowls with tiny spoons. It was enough for me to be voted People’s Choice among all attendees, so naturally, I had to defend my title…
Like last year, I made just about 10 test batches of different cupcakes based on assorted PYT items. Unlike last year, nearly all of these were relatively successful. (Last year, I had some pretty questionable results, including one that tasted like an ashtray.) This turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing because while all of the test batches were “good,” there wasn’t one among them that I tried and said, “THIS. This is it.” My taste testers’ feedback was all over the place, and I was fretting as the submission deadline loomed. I sent in what I intended to make with a giant, worried sigh.
Our fabulous Cupcake Coordinator, Melissa, organized a happy hour for the competitors to meet up, and I had such a wonderful time meeting everyone, hearing their baking stories and sharing our excitement for the big day. I spent most of my time talking to Jamie from Luscious Bakery, a rocket scientist (legitimately!) who left that line of work to open her own business! Totally in awe of this girl, but it looks like it was the right move because she ended up taking first place among professionals this year with her “Brass Monkey” cupcake!
In between the chatting and buffalo bleu cheese fries, I spotted a special on the PYT menu — the “Monkey Bread Milkshake,” made with bits of monkey bread, vanilla ice cream and RumChata. On the way home, I started wondering “what if…” and got some materials together to try just one more test batch.
I had no idea what RumChata was, so I did some research (both via Google and imbibing) and discovered it may very well be the best liqueur ever made. A mix of Caribbean rum, cream, cinnamon and vanilla, a shot tasted like a smooth gulp of liquid Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I got to baking, toted around some test batches and discovered I finally had the one — a cinnamon-sugar, pull-apart cupcake base with RumChata buttercream, topped with a Cinnamon Toast Crunch crumble.
Once the entry was finalized, it was time to devise a theme. I recruited my design-inclined BFF, Laura, to apply her talents and bring our ideas to life. After a monkey-centric brainstorming session, we decided that Cupcake Smash is “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” and that we wanted to nix the standard serving table and display the cupcakes on actual barrels. Only problem was you empty barrels are hard to come by, especially on a budget. On a long shot, we stopped in a garden store that didn’t sell barrels, but by the grace of God, a darling employee pointed us to a local shop that sold potting containers that looked just like barrels. Flipping one on top of another yielded the perfect faux barrel for our display. To add to our monkey theme, Laura incorporated cupcakes into the “Speak No/See No Evil/Hear No” monkeys for our T-shirts.
Detailing all the madness that went on in the 48 hours prior to the event would make this longer than it already is, but some highlights: buying 50+ pounds of ingredients at the supermarket, the senior citizens’ reactions to my 50+ pound purchase at the supermarket and carrying those 50 pounds and construction materials up six flights of stairs. Oh, and that time the liquor store clerk asked me if I was 16 or 17 after selling me two bottles of RumChata. After some monkeying around (come on, I had to go there at least one), Laura and I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. constructing and baking — didn’t quite realize at the time of conception that rolling 1,200 balls of monkey bread dough would be so time consuming. Yup. It certainly was.
But hey, it proved to be worth it because my CinnaMonkey cupcakes won People’s Choice! With the warm weather and lack of shade, my cupcakes were little cinnamony puddles about 10 minutes in, but people dug what we were serving enough for me to take home my second consecutive title. Congratulations to the other winner: Luscious Bakery, Watts for Dessert, 2204 House, Cammy Cakes and the Midnight Baker!
Thank you everyone who came out to the event and helped to raise money for Philabundace. We doubled our total from last year, raising enough to provide 20,000 meals to those in need!