Adventures in Baking

Back in mid-April, I decided to enter the IWI Basel Bake-Off. Although I baked a ton back in the US, I’d never entered a baking competition. I hate being judged or being competitive with people (except when it comes to Mario Kart), so I really don’t know what I was thinking.

Regardless, I entered and I asked my friends, family, and readers to vote on what kind of cupcake I should make. It was close, but black bottom cupcakes were the winner.

And so, on April 30th, I put G to bed and then started baking.


Gathering the ingredients (and Andy’s beers in the background).




…And after.

Then on May 1st, I collected my cupcakes and set off in the rain for the competition. Judging didn’t start until 10:30 AM, but I needed to be there by 9:30. And since the event was on a Sunday, buses and trams were on a reduced schedule.

I stopped by Starbucks for breakfast and then steeled myself to enter the ring (so to speak).


There are my little cupcakes in the upper-left of the table.

I wished I still had my cupcake tree. Even though we don’t really have room for it at the apartment and it totally made sense to leave it in Peoria, it would have jazzed up my display. Alternately, I wished I had brought my cupcake plate, but I didn’t even think about it. Andy and G weren’t going to arrive until around 11, so it didn’t make sense to ask them to bring it. I’ll know for next time.


The rest of the sweet entries.


And the savory entries.

I put myself in a bit of a weird place as far as competition went. There were two categories for adults: Sweet and Savory. There was also a Cupcake category for people under the age of 18. I prefer cupcakes to cake (especially since I don’t have most of my cake pans anymore), but that meant I was actually competing against cakes decorated with fondant.

I was nervous, in order words.

Markthalle had been practically empty when I arrived, but slowly the flea market got set up and busy, which really livened the place up.


Empty no more!

Then the judges arrived and started their work at 10:30. They judged the savory entries first and then the sweets. For each entry, they cut a piece in half. One of the halves was cut into thirds, one piece for each judge.


Finally it was my turn!

After the judges finished their taste-testing, the entries went on sale to the public. Andy and G came out to support me (meaning, buy my cupcakes and eat them), and some of our other friends did, too! Thanks, Donald, Ræchel, Chris, and Hannah!


G will always be my biggest supporter, as long as it means she gets to eat cupcakes before she has lunch.

Finally, at noon, they announced the winners for all three categories. Unfortunately, I didn’t place. Top prize in my category went to cinnamon rolls; second and third places went to the fancy cakes. Maybe if I had baked the Sarah, things would have gone differently.

So, no prize for me. But all was not lost! The IWI was able to donate over CHF 1,230 to the Frauenhaus, so that’s huge! I’m sure they will be able to put that money to very good use.

There’s going to be another bake-off at the end of the summer. Depending on when exactly it is, I may enter again. I jokingly said I was going to enter in G’s name so that I have a better chance of winning (“Wow! A four-year-old baked this?!”), but I don’t think I’ll actually do that. (Or will I?)

Black Bottom Cupcake Recipe
Yields roughly 24

This recipe will work best in the US, as all the ingredients are readily available and the proportions are set to the US sizes.

  • One 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature (regular or reduced fat work best; fat-free is not good for this application… or in general)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • One 6 oz package of chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. With a mixer, beat together softened cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside. (For the competition, I divided the mixture and added food coloring, just for fun.)
  2. In a larger bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.
  3. Add in the water, vegetable oil, vinegar, and vanilla and beat with a mixer for 2 minutes.
  4. Fill prepared muffin tins 1/3 full with chocolate mixture. Top with a heaping spoonful of the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with additional sugar if desired. (I don’t usually do this, but sometimes I have sprinkled on just a little colored sugar.)
  5. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes (until done).



8 thoughts on “Adventures in Baking

  1. Wow, I am sure it was super tough for the judges to decide on the top three, look at all the yummy stuff! Did they tell you what criteria they were rating?
    I think it’s great that you were part of this! Yay for the fundraising!

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