Cupcake Wars Party at Home

During this challenging time when so many of us are staying home to be socially responsible, I feel like many of us could use an activity to keep our crew busy for an afternoon. This plan for Cupcake Wars was a party with friends, but it can be easily scaled down for family fun. Or skip the flavor judging and just go for themed presentation and compete with friends and family through video if you can’t go visit right now!

Cupcake Wars is essentially friendly competition with a sugary twist. Win or lose, eating the creations by the contestants is my kind of fun!

My daughter chose to have a Cupcake Wars Party at home this year for her birthday, and I was a little hesitant at first. How would I accomplish this set up and would the results be edible? I wanted the kids to have the framewor and autonomy to succeed to with their creative ideas. After some thoughtful planning, and borrowing a friend’s Kitchen Aid Mixer, I had a good plan.

Team and Battle Setup

We designed our Cupcake Wars battle to be three teams of two kids. My daughter wanted the kids to do everything, so we paired kids who had used a mixer before with a less experienced partner. Each team had a workstation equipped with a stand mixer. (Yes, I own two stand mixers. Technically, one belongs to my daughter now. )

We wanted to have two rounds of baking and making, so we planned the party for 3 hours, allowing 75 minutes for each round. For older kids or experienced bakers, you could shave off 10-15 minutes there if you want a more challenging time crunch. The contestants would make 6 cupcakes to present in each round. The first round was the flavor round. Presentation was considered in the first round, but not worth as many points as flavor. The second round was all about presentation, but it did also have to be edible.

My daughter even created judging sheets! Thank goodness, she knew I wouldn’t be a good judge. I can’t choose one child’s creation over another’s. I just would end up giving them all a tie. Instead we asked 1 friend, 1 grandma, and 1 brother to serve as our judging panel. Contestants presented their cupcakes for tasting after each round and described their creations and answered questions from the judges. It was so cool to watch!

Theme and Ingredients Planning

It is helpful when purchasing ingredients and pantry raiding to be able to narrow in on something. My daughter decided to go with a tropical theme, so I made sure to have lots of citrus, coconut, fruits, and fruit juices on the ingredients table.

The kids had very basic recipes at their workstations to give them something to work with. (Links to the recipes are below in the list of work station set up.) They could use the ingredients table to modify those recipes to meet their cupcake plans. Some teams made the basic, then added a filling after baking or flavors to the buttercream. Other teams went all in, adding mashed fruit, powdered fruit, citrus zest and extracts. If you check out the pictures below, one team even dyed their batter to make rainbow cupcakes!

There are many other themes to build around. It would be fun after Halloween/Easter to have all the extra ingredients be from the candy baskets! You could go with a color theme, flavors theme, or something like animals or decades!

Don’t forget sprinkles, food coloring, pastry bags, and decorating tips!

Work Station Set-up

Each team had the following at their station:

  • stand mixer
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • silicone spatula
  • cupcake tin and liners
  • lunch sacks of flour, sugar, and powdered sugar, jars of milk, eggs, and room temperature butter
  • 2 kitchen towels
  • recipes for 6: vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, and American buttercream
  • cake plate for presentation

Oven Management

I only have one oven, so I managed the baking of the cupcakes once each team got them ready to go. I asked each team to help me keep track of the time for their cupcakes, but I would watch and test them and be the only one opening and removing things from the oven.

Dish Management

Full disclosure: I didn’t ace this one. I did tell the kids that they would have to do their dishes between batter and frosting as well as between rounds. The children were really good about the dishes between batter and frosting, but parents jumped in between rounds to help get the stations reorganized. The children were too excited to understand that they needed to tidy up their spaces and make sure they had everything before the next battle began.

The kitchen definitely had seen better days by the time this party was over….but it was absolutely worth it! I couldn’t believe the daring, and delicious combinations they came up with. I loved their creativity with plating, and it was just lots of fun all around.

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