By Bob Skolnik
It's war every spring at Komarek School -- a cupcake war.
Teams of seventh- and eighth-graders compete in a cupcake and cake decorating contest and then square off with faculty members in a culinary clash of titans.
First, students competed among teams at their grade level. The seventh- and eighth-grade champions then advanced to the finals, where they took on a faculty team.
Up until this year, the faculty team has won every time. But last week, the eighth-grade team made history, giving a student team its first victory in the eight-year history of the event.
"It's great to know that we beat them for once and it's the first," said eighth-grader baker Andriana Rios, referring to her teammates, Paige Beggs, Brandy Macias and Allison Nunez.
The win was especially sweet for Beggs because her mother, Amy, a paraprofessional who works in the preschool at Komarek, was on the faculty team.
"If I had to lose to somebody I'm glad it was her," Amy Beggs said. "The bragging rights are going to be tough in the house."
Paige Beggs was so committed to the contest that she skipped the conference cross-country meet to take part. Last year, she and Macias missed the finals because they were on a Fishing Club trip.
"I'm not going to miss this. It's my last year here, so I'll skip the cross-country meet. They have other kids that they can use," Paige Beggs said.
The contest was started by Komarek home economics teacher Melissa Corlett and is based on the "Cupcake Wars" television show on the Food Network. Corlett thought it would be a fun end of the year activity for members of her Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) club.
"The kids love it," Corlett said. "They look forward to it every year."
The competition starts with four teams of seventh-graders and four teams of eighth-graders competing within their grade level. Each team has four members.
This year each team started with four cupcakes and one nine-inch round cake. At the start of the finals, which took place after school on May 16 in the home ec room at Komarek, Corlett announced the theme which this year was summertime. Each team got five minutes to think and plan and then 55 minutes to decorate.
In the finals, the eighth-graders had to decorate at least two cupcakes and the round cake. Students had access to nearly 20 toppings including graham crackers, frosting, lollipops, rock candy, animal crackers, shredded wheat, Twizzlers, gum and more. They also could use toothpicks, the only non-food item, to build structures.
The top seventh- and eighth-grade teams as well as the faculty team decorated three cupcakes: a volcano, a sandcastle and a pineapple. Their round cake was decorated as a beach with water and sand with the sun setting over the water.
The creations judged by District 94 Superintendent Brian Ganan and Komarek teachers Sandra Mizia and Meghan Irle. The judges didn't know which team created which entry, and they awarded scores on a 1 to 10 scale.
The final results were close, with the eighth-graders edging out the faculty team by just two points 138-136, with the seventh-graders right behind with 135 points.
"I've judged every single one of them [except for the one year that she was on the faculty team] and this is the toughest," Mizia said.
Corlett was not surprised that the eighth-grade team won.
"They work very well together. They're a returning team and they think it through ahead of time," Corlett said.
The eighth-graders divided duties. Rios and Nunez worked on the cupcakes, Beggs did the decorating of the round cake and Macias was in charge of designs and all-around helping out.
"It was pretty fun," Nunez said. "I really like doing because it was a new experience. I never really do stuff like this anywhere else."
For the eighth-graders, winning was the icing on the cake, so to speak.
"It's very exciting and I feel proud of myself and our work," Macias said. "It was really fun making it."
Each team got to take home its creation to enjoy. A few minutes after the judges announced the results, the eighth-graders were already scooping off a little frosting with their fingers.
Rios said that she likely would not eat too much of what the team created.
"I like decorating, but not baking because I don't usually like eating a lot of cake and pastries," she said.