Mini cupcake bake-off offers sweet treats and a chance to connect

  • Citizen judges David Langlois, 76, of White River Junction, right, and Deedee Samuels, 72, of Orford, sample a chocolate and orange cupcake made by Rae Richards, of Quechee, during the Great Bugbee Bakeoff fundraiser at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction, Vt., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. After sampling the cupcakes for the cost of a $10 ticket, they were eligible to vote for best taste, creativity and appearance. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • A taster takes a blueberry lemon cupcake made by Jefferson Atkins, of Woodstock, one of 14 entrants in the Great Bugbee Bakeoff fundraiser at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction, Vt., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Joan Wanner, of White River Junction, left, and her son Bill Wanner, of Canaan, right, watch the room of cupcake tasters over Joan's table of carrot cake cupcakes at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction, Vt., during the Great Bugbee Bakeoff fundraiser at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction, Vt., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/25/2021 9:38:35 PM
Modified: 9/25/2021 9:38:36 PM

Creamsicle, pineapple, butter pecan, banana, chocolate orange, mocha, coconut, maple with maple creme and lemon blueberry.

These were among the flavors of 1,500 mini-cupcakes made by 15 bakers for The Great Bugbee Bake Off on Saturday at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction. For a $10 entry fee, attendees could take their pick of sweet samples and act as judge, dropping slips of paper into mason jars in front of each baker’s station. About 50 attendees showed up for the sugar rush, and a number of them made off with delectable leftovers when the competition was over.

But the 10 a.m. event was more than an excuse to have dessert for breakfast. The proceeds from the event will go toward the center’s Meals on Wheels program, which has seen an increase in recipients since the COVID-19 pandemic started. And it was also a chance for people to reunite after the center had largely been closed or at limited capacity during the pandemic.

“This community just needs it,” said Jessica Degrechie, division director at Bayada Hospice in Norwich, who volunteered at the event. “People have been isolated for so long.”

That held true for White River Junction residents and friends Melinda Brooks-Major, Kathy Phipps and April Lucas-Boyle, along with Lucas-Boyle’s daughter, Meredith Boyle. It was a chance for them to get together.

“It’s just nice for everyone to come out now,” Brooks-Major said, giving a thumbs-up after trying a banana cupcake.

Plates piled with cupcakes, the group gathered at neutral ground, the table with water pitchers and disposable cups.

“These guys are the bakers,” Brooks-Major said, pointing to her friends. “I’m the eater.”

Boyle gently chided her mother for her ability to add nutritional value to her baked goods.

“I have a lot of sneaky tricks,” Lucas-Boyle laughed. Among them are doubling the amount of vegetables in recipes and adding zucchini to her banana bread.

It would be hard to choose a favorite, they all agreed.

“They’re all so good,” Boyle said. “I can’t make any decisions.”

That was a sentiment that everyone — bakers and participants — seemed to share.

After sampling five cupcakes, Bonnie Rothfuss, of North Pomfret, paused at the hydration table for a minor sugar crash.

“I’ve got to rest for a minute,” said Rothfuss, who was volunteering at the event. While she was partial so far to the butter pecan, she said it would be hard for her to pick a favorite. “We’re all going to gain about 20 pounds,” she added with a laugh.

One of the bakers was Bugbee board member Shelia Bean, of White River Junction, who made chocolate spice cupcakes topped with a butter cream cheese frosting. Making 100 mini-cupcakes wasn’t daunting.

“I do this all the time,” Bean said from behind the table with her cupcakes spread out before her. She often makes cupcakes for her co-workers at PetSmart in West Lebanon: “They disappear.”

Rae Richards tried out different recipes with her neighbors in Quechee before settling on mocha and chocolate orange flavors. Her sister suggested she enter the contest, even through it was her first time making miniature cupcakes.

“I’m a competitor,” Richards said. “I like a challenge.”

At the end of the two-hour event, volunteers tallied up the results. Lauren Tillotson won for overall taste and overall appearance. Bobbi-Jo Vail won for most creative for her witch-shaped cupcakes, complete with hats made of folded cupcake liners.

Receiving an honorable mention was Kaelyn Courtemanche, at 15 the competition’s youngest competitor. It was her first time baking mini-cupcakes, and all were dairy-free. She was inspired to create dairy-free desserts after her father developed an allergy.

“I’ve been experimenting for a while on a bunch of dairy-free options for him,” Courtemanche said. “He loves chocolate frosting and everything like that. I got into baking and said, ‘Let’s see what I can do.’ ”

Among the flavors she created were chocolate and maple using, naturally, real Vermont maple syrup. It was a challenge to make 100, as her mini-cupcake pan only had room for 24. It took her around four hours to make them and an additional six hours to decorate, as she wanted the icing to look perfect.

Courtemanche’s efforts were rewarded: Her honorable mention earned her a 48-count mini-cupcake pan, which should make it go a bit faster the next time she wants to hit the century mark on sweets.

Among those impressed with Courtemanche’s cupcakes was DeeDee Samuels, of Orford, who attended the bake-off with David Langlois, of White River Junction. Samuels complimented Courtemanche on her creativity — and the creativity of every other baker who contributed.

“If you like cupcakes, it’s a great place to be,” Samuels said.

The duo guessed that they sampled at least 10 of the 15 different kinds available.

“Enough so I’m cupcaked out,” Langlois said.

“I’m sugared out,” Samuels added.

“But they are all excellent,” Langlois continued.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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