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Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011

Milwaukee’s Largest Cupcake Battle Yet

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When Milwaukee cupcake enthusiast Sandy Ploy began competing against local chef Jeff Reinke to see who could bake the tastier, more daring cupcake from exotic ingredients, she never expected the friendly showdown to grow into an organized sport. As other bakers learned of the battles through Ploy’s cupcake blog and requested in, though, these informal bake-offs grew into Milwaukee’s popular monthly Iron Cupcake competition, which has inspired similar cupcake face-offs in more than a dozen cities.

Milwaukee’s last Iron Cupcake drew nearly 500 people, and Iron Cupcake’s upcoming event at MSOE’s Kern Center on Sunday, Feb. 13, will be by far its largest. The venue holds about 2,000, and at the rate that advance tickets are moving, Ploy says it may sell out. Driving the demand is celebrity judge Duff Goldman, the star of the Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes,” who will also be signing copies of his book.

“We wanted to try to do something massive like we hadn’t done before,” Ploy says. “That’s why we’re calling this one the Cupcake Clash instead of the regular Iron Cupcake. This time we’ll have 10 pros and 20 amateurs competing, and for the first time we’ll have professional bakers competing against amateurs.”

Those amateurs are making a big commitment—they’re required to bake 500 cupcakes each, up from the usual 12 dozen of past Iron Cupcake challenges—but Ploy thinks they’ll give the professionals a run for their money. “There are a lot of eager bakers out there,” she says. “A lot of our regular competitors would open up their own bakeries if they could.”

Past Iron Cupcake challenges have been themed around eccentric ingredients like beer (“Lots of men participated in that one,” Ploy says), bacon (“Somebody made one with strawberry, bacon and balsamic, and it was spectacular”) and wasabi (“Those were disgusting”). For this month’s Valentine’s-friendly theme, “perfect pairs,” competitors will bake two different cupcakes that complement one another (for instance, a peanut butter and a jelly cupcake). Admission to Feb. 13’s Cupcake Clash is $6. Each cupcake will sell for $1. Beer, coffee and tea will be on sale as well, and proceeds from the event benefit WMSE.
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