The sugar rush at attendees’ fingertips was nothing compared to the high of winning for two teams in Tuesday night’s Cupcake Wars hosted by the Hinesville Area Arts Council.
Eight volunteer teams showcased their pastry skills on behalf of the council in its new space downtown, inviting guests to taste such creations as cherry moscato cheesecake and white chocolate peppermint snowmen. Donations were welcomed to help the council raise money for continuing renovations to its new space.
Judges and guests alike named their top picks, with the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce team taking the Judges’ Choice prize. Chamber staff members Kirsten Pratt, Beth Stevens and Carrie McDowell celebrated with Leah Poole, who also serves as the arts council chairwoman, for winning the judges over with a sweet bar variety of cupcakes inspired — and accompanied — by their favorite beers.
Team Hinesville, a collaboration between the city and the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, brought a nostalgic feel to the competition with chocolate cherry Coke cupcakes and a Christmas in the South theme.
Christy DeLoach and Kim Ryon hosted the table of treats, which they said took nine hours to bake and decorate.
“This is an old-fashioned cupcake inspired by the Coca-Cola building in town,” HDDA program assistant Katrina Sage said. “We wanted to bring back the past of Hinesville food.”
At the end of the evening, guests voted the team from Donut Connection the favorite for its sampling of Georgia-inspired flavors, red velvet and strawberry among them.
“We baked all day (the day before) and we gathered all the table decorations locally,” Shannon Maggart said.
Maggart’s husband and partner, Johnny, hand-crafted their wood cupcake display in the shape of Georgia.
It was a diva Christmas at contestant April Prowell’s table, where she offered a girls’ night out with decadent chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes and cupcakes with a unique moscato-wine glaze.
A balloon decorator by day, Prowell said it took her three weeks of planning and baking to prepare for the night.
“My husband is the one who suggested I make it a diva Christmas,” she said.
Bakers on the scene also used the opportunity to share their baking talents with the public in hopes of getting the word out about their businesses. Friends and Army wives Heather Phinney, Aleah McGuigan and Stormy Grissom created a Christmas in July theme for their snowmen mini-cupcakes, painstakingly crafted with marshmallow vanilla icing and spot-on details.
“It takes about seven minutes to decorate each cupcake,” Grissom explained.
McGuigan said their effort is merely a precursor to the launch of a new party-planning business, an entrepreneurial streak that is shared by contestant Brandy Simon. Simon’s rockabilly diner-themed table featured rootbeer float cupcakes and a helping hand from friend and children’s clothing designer Marie Ellen Sohn.
The two women, also Army wives, said their theme and flavor were inspired by some of Sohn’s photographs, which she said have a rockabilly flavor of their own.
No stranger to the military life, contestant Bethany Strickland focused on an Americana theme for her entry, baking 200 cupcakes in all-American flavors like chocolate with peanut butter frosting, New England maple walnut and chocolate chip cookie dough.
Strickland, who has been an Army spouse for seven years but a Hinesville resident for just a couple months, said participating in and attending events like Cupcake Wars is an ideal opportunity to get out and meet new people.
“It’s good to get involved in even the smallest events,” she said.
Cupcake Wars was by no means small, though. Arts council Vice Chairwoman Jennifer Beuhler said she expected around 100 people to attend the free event, but the crowd seemed to grow beyond that as the evening went on.
“We are very excited,” Buehler said. “We’ve had several just wander in off the street because of the noise. That’s very exciting.”
Beuhler said events like the Cupcake Wars are important for increasing awareness about the arts council.
“We even had a few students come in who didn’t know there was an arts council in town, and we do a lot of work with the schools,” she said. “I think an event like this is great to help get the word out.”
Poole also was pleased with the turnout. Interest in the event was immediate, she said, and the crowd has helped shine a light on what the arts council can offer the community.