Creativity takes the cake

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With graham crackers, honey and apples, plus generous amounts of creativity, teamwork and kitchen skills, 13 girls whipped up three beautiful cakes, suitable for the most elegant Rosh Hashanah table, at the Dwares JCC on Sept. 17.

The occasion was “Cake Wars,” an event for tweens and teens sponsored by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, the Dwares JCC, BBYO New England Region and BBYO Connect.

As the girls gathered, many plunked down cans of Kosher food to be donated to The Louis & Goldie Chester Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry, in Providence. After a short presentation on hunger in Rhode Island by Wendy Joering, director of member and concierge services at the Alliance, the girls got to work.

Each of the three teams was given two unfrosted cakes and a “mystery basket” that turned out to hold mandatory ingredients – apples, frosting and graham crackers – plus many optional items, including Oreos and chocolate chips. Many other decorating items were available, from food coloring to jimmies, and the girls looked them over as they planned their holiday cakes. And then, with spoons, safety scissors and plastic gloves in hand, they began to construct their culinary creations.

As Julia Keizler crushed Oreos, Alena Wiebe expertly cut an apple into wedges.  Abby Swartz cast a critical eye on the team’s creation and grabbed a tube of frosting to make adjustments. Nearby, Kiley Bramson mixed up a s’mores filling.

When it was all done, and all hands were washed clean of blue and yellow and pink frosting, the cakes were presented to the judges: Cake decorator Megan Beauregard and Michael Stern, owner of the Three Sisters ice cream shop and restaurant in Providence.

Team JEAA’s two-layer vanilla cake featured a filling of crushed Oreos and chocolate chips, honey frosting, an apple shaped like a flower on top, and a border of chocolate wafers and  shofars painted on graham crackers.

Team 2’s two-layer cake was covered in blue frosting, crushed Oreos and graham crackers, and decorated with a large Star of David.

Team Small but Mighty’s layer cake featured “A Rosh Hashanah-inspired apple pie and honey filling.”

The judges looked, then tasted. Then they asked about the creative process.

While many of the girls didn’t know each other when they entered the room, “we all worked together,” Abby Swartz said. Even though some girls began planning before they arrived, they listened to teammates’ input and adjusted, others said. And when things went horribly wrong, they said they improvised.

How come they didn’t go for the obvious decorating choice of jimmies? “They’re for babies,” the girls explained.

And what do they need to do better next time?

“We should have done better keeping Abby’s hair out of the frosting,” Elliana Chambers offered.

The winners, who received a Three Sisters T-shirt and gift certificate, were Julia Keizler, Elliana Chambers, Alena Wiebe and Abby Swartz of Team JEAA.

CYNTHIA BENJAMIN is a writer, editor and chef. She is a member of Congregation B’nai Israel, in Woonsocket.