From the Whaler Cafe - In ‘Cupcake Wars,’ everybody wins

As we continue to expand the culinary department at New London High School, I am constantly thinking of fun ways to get as many students involved in making food from scratch and having fun while they are doing it.

This month we hit this mark by having our own version of “Cupcake Wars.” The students competed in four teams per class and were challenged to make about 50 cupcakes per team. They were given the following competition categories: Fastest Selling, Staff Favorite and Most Creative.

We started out by exploring how to make a basic muffin or cupcake from scratch. We then decided what flavor base they would use from the following options: chocolate, velvet cake, vanilla, carrot cake and lemon. (See carrot cake cupcake recipe below.) Once they decided on a flavor, students made 12 cupcakes; then it was time to decorate.

I taught my students how to make a basic buttercream and how to use professional gel colors and oils to change the color and flavoring into whatever they wanted. They also learned how to add basic flavors to the buttercream recipe to make it chocolate- or peanut butter-flavored, among other flavors.

When it came time to learn how to pipe out the frosting, we worked on six basic variations. Once the cupcakes were decorated, we discussed what could be added to complete their cupcake creation to help them win the competition. As you can imagine, there were a lot of colorful and tasty ideas. After a test run, the students zeroed in on their visions for the final product, which we presented to the school on Dec. 3.


Yields 12 standard cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 cup flour

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups grated carrots

⅔ cup oil

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup raisins (optional)

1/8 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the frosting:

4 ounces cream cheese

6 tablespoons butter

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl — flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients — grated carrots, oil and the beaten eggs. Add optional ingredients if desired. Slowly add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and stir until everything is mixed in. Don’t over-mix!

Place 12 cupcake liners into cupcake pans and fill each one about two-thirds of the way up. Bake for about 14-16 minutes. The time will vary from oven to oven. The best way to see if they are done is to insert a wooden toothpick into the middle of a cupcake; when you remove it there should be nothing on it. If there is batter on it, put the cupcakes back in for a few more minutes. Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before taking them out of the cupcake pan. Allow them to cool for a few hours before frosting them.

For the frosting: Using the paddle attachment on a mixer beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar, then finish with the vanilla. We used a piping bag to put the frosting down but feel free to use a butter knife to frost the tops.

“From the Whaler Cafe” presents recipes used in the culinary arts program at New London High School, which is helmed by chef instructor Thomas Johnson. Johnson welcomes reader questions at

Cupcake Wars winners

Most Creative: Peppermint Patty cupcake; Period 5 class

Fastest Selling: First Place: Oreo cupcake; Period 5; Second Place: Peanut butter cup; Period 5; Third Place: Oreo cupcake; Period 2

Staff Favorite: Carrot cupcake; Period 7; Second Place: Peanut butter cup; Third Place: Oreo cupcake; Period 2.


Loading comments...
Hide Comments