Everybody Wins at Cupcake Wars

Grand Rapids sixth-graders went to war with weapons of frosting and yummy cake, but the winners were children in need at Christmas.

Cupcake Wars 2015 featured the fancifully decorated creations of students from C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy and Zoo School. Student and parent customers paid $2 a pop for them and judges rated them. Total sales raised $844 for Santa Claus Girls, which delivers gifts to Kent County families.

Aidan Balulis demonstrates the fate of the half-melted snowmen his team createdThe air was filled with generosity and sweet aroma as the buying got under way at C.A. Frost, where teams of students hawked their cupcakes with posters and sales pitches. They had visited Davenport College days before to pick up pointers and learn about business careers.

“Is it good?” Adrianna Magnan asked Tahjir Gillespie as he chomped into a “cupcake slider” shaped like a hamburger. “Mm-hmm!” the boy mumbled through a mouthful. “It didn’t taste like a burger. It just looked like one, but with frosting,” he said approvingly.

Adrianna explained how she and three classmates made the sugary burgers: brownies for the meat, coconut flakes for lettuce, yellow and red icing for cheese and ketchup inside yellow-cake buns, “and good-old toothpicks to hold it together, like how restaurants do it.”

Their creation was judged “best use of ingredients,” which was a bonus to the charitable cause.

“It feels good because we’re helping out other families who can’t afford presents and clothes,” she added.

Philanthropic Gourmands In-the-Making

Sarah Jespersen’s family recently returned from Guatemala with lots of native chocolate, which became the magic ingredient dusted atop her team’s 66 cupcakes.

“We were trying to figure out ways to get rid of it,” Sarah explained. “So we had these chocolate cupcakes and we figured, ‘Hey! Chocolate and chocolate!’”

♥“It tastes much better than store-bought chocolate,” Ruby Taylor said (This reporter heartily affirms her opinion, having sampled one.).

Aidan Balulis’ team produced an array of designs including half-melted snowmen and Santa feet sticking out of snow. Aidan judged them “really cool,” while classmate Javion Jones put his sales skills to work.

“Look at this – who doesn’t want Santa!” Javion implored students, offering “a free imaginary one” with each cupcake sold. “I’ve got imaginary money,” a student customer cracked, extending an empty hand.

No actual money changed hands. A parent took cash at the door in exchange for tokens. Three school staffers later judged the winners, including Javion’s team for best taste. Others went to “The Christmas Boys” (best theme), C.A. Frost (total sales) and Zoo School (highest percentage of sales).

Tahjir Gillespie prepares to bite into his sugary burger, while Quitin Thompson takes his timeC.A. Frost teachers Bobbijo Zoerhof and Samantha Zerbel organized the second annual Cupcake War, which raised $700 in its inaugural year. Zerbel called it an exercise in “working together to give back to the community,” as well as a way for students to learn business skillsand express their inner baker.

“It is another creative outlet for them,” Zerbel said. “They need an opportunity to let that part of them shine, and they do a really good job coming up with their ideas.”

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C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy

Zoo School

Santa Claus Girls

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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