March Madness Bake-Off

So a few people at work decided it might be fun to have a March Madness-style Bake-Off. There are a number of people (myself included) who regularly bring in baked treats for the office: my office-mate and I alternate bringing in monthly treats and send out a Happy Birthday email, naming the employees who have a birthday that month; my direct supervisor bakes THE BEST chocolate chip cookies for her son’s school every few weeks and brings in half the batch; another coworker makes the most beautifully decorated cupcakes and tries out new recipes on us — basically, we’re an office that loves our baked goods.

So the rules were simple:

1. Everything must be made from scratch (within reason – obviously chocolate chips and sprinkles, etc. were allowed, but adding store-bought candy was not)

2. Week 1/round 1 had to be a cookie, week 2/round 2 had to be cake/cupcakes, and week 3/round 3 was “anything goes”.

3. Competitors were given random numbers and the office wouldn’t know who baked what or when each person was going.

4. Voting would be done anonymously via surveymonkey.com polls.

There were 9 of us for week 1: 3 people each brought in cookies on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The top 2 from each day progressed to week 2, where 2 people each brought their choice of cake/cupcakes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. One winner from each day was chosen and progressed to week 3, where it was a winner-take-all competition on April 2.

Week 1 – cookies

Monday 3/17 we had a snow day (!) so we had our first round on Tuesday 3/18: Two competitors brought in chocolate chip cookies (which were both very different), and a third competitor brought in a molasses-gingerbread type cookie. The two who made chocolate chip moved on.

Wednesday 3/19: We had a peanut butter bacon cookie (this recipe), vegan Alfajores (not sure of the exact recipe used but a version is here), and chocolate caramel thumbprints (this recipe). The peanut butter bacon cookies and chocolate caramel thumbprint cookies moved on.

Friday 3/21: I went on Friday 🙂 I provided soft baked chocolate peanut butter swirl cookies (this recipe by Sally’s Baking Addiction), and there were another variation of chocolate chip cookies and salted chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies (this recipe).

I followed Sally’s recipe almost exactly – the only thing I changed was using pb chips in the chocolate dough and chocolate chips in the pb dough – and they did NOT let me down. They were probably the BEST cookie I have ever made. I made the dough Monday night, rolled and baked them Wednesday night and they stayed soft in a sealed container until Saturday, just as Sally promised! (I had a few leftover and saved them for breakfast with
a glass of milk – yumm!)

Soft Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies by TheActuarialChef

My peanut butter chocolate swirl cookies. So proud 🙂

Week 2 – cake/cupcakes

Monday 3/24: The baker who made the pb bacon cookies made a plum-topped breakfast cake, similar to this one. The baker who made chocolate chip cookies on Friday (my competitor!) made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The red velvet cupcakes won.

Wednesday 3/26: I went on Wednesday! I made a triple chocolate layer cake (this recipe, also by Sally’s Baking Addiction) and it was DIVINE. The baker who moved on with the chocolate caramel thumbprints made a Texas sheet cake (similar to this one, but with larger pieces of nuts so that non-nut-lovers in the office could pick them out if they wanted). This cake was really good too, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the nuts. Guess what? I WON! (Thank you Sally for your excellent recipe, yet again!)

Again, I followed Sally’s recipe almost exactly. I used vineger + skim milk for the buttermilk and (oops) hot-hot-hot coffee in the cake and used 380g of powdered sugar, 115g of cocoa powder, and 5 Tbsp half-and-half in the frosting. I even decorated it the same! The presentation got rave reviews and was decidedly the best looking dessert we had throughout the whole competition (not my words, I swear!!)

Triple Chocolate Layer Cake

Friday 3/28: The bakers who won on 3/18 with the chocolate chip cookies faced off again on 3/28, this time head-to-head. One brought a blueberry coffee cake and the other brought black bottoms. If you’ve never heard of black bottoms (like most of my office, apparently) you’ve been missing out! Growing up, my grandma made black bottoms for just about every occasion. I’ll be sure to post her recipe in the next few weeks!

Week 3 – Anything Goes!

Wednesday 4/2: The final showdown! I brought Mint Brownies (these). — Unfortunately I totally forgot to take a picture, so you’ll just have to trust me that they looked VERY much like the source recipe, see picture below. — and we also had fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls and a banana cake with peanut butter frosting. The winner was the baker of the cinnamon rolls (she made chocolate chip cookies and red velvet cupcakes during the weeks prior). Yes, I’m bitter that I didn’t win, but really, I think the whole office “won” – we all got to enjoy 16 desserts and it was so fun! In case you’re curious, the winner received this glorious trophy:

Bolton Bake-Off Trophy

As I said, I forgot to take a picture of my mint brownies – which were gone in a flash! – but here’s the photo from the source recipe. Don’t they just look fantastic?! I added an extra 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract to the mint layer because the minty taste just wasn’t strong enough for me. I was going for something in between an Andes mint and a York peppermint patty; the original recipe was more like an Andes mint – good in its own right, but not quite what I was looking for.

SavvyGirlCompany-Foods Mint Brownies

Have you ever participated in a baking contest? Did you win?

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