Frost things first at Jeane Graves Cupcake Challenge

Things got frosty in Vero Beach last Sunday afternoon despite temperatures in the 80s as the sugary sweet scent of cupcake frosting wafted down 14th Avenue. The aroma emanated from the Vero Beach Heritage Center, the result of contestant submissions in the eighth annual Jeane Graves Cupcake Challenge to support the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

More than 250 cupcake connoisseurs tasted their way through creative cupcake concoctions made with love by 10 bakers. The sweet confectioners offered up atypical cupcake flavors such as strawberry milkshake, chocolate-orange alligator and peach cobbler. Others included chocolate, vanilla bean, peach, peanut butter and even “grey stuff” inspired by Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

This year’s judges – Samantha Irvin, Katherina Paliwoda and Rita Goodling – had their work cut out for them,  seeking a moist cupcake with just the right amount of frosting to complement the flavor of the cake.

Hot Cocoa Loco, the Best Overall Cupcake winner, featured chocolate cake with marshmallow cream frosting, topped off with chocolate ganache and cocoa sprinkles, and a marshmallow bar offered extra sweet toppings.

The contest provides contestants – junior, home and professional bakers – with a venue to show off their skills while supporting a good cause.

Lizette King, Home Bakers Best Decoration winner for her intricately designed Caffeine Jolt, Apple Caramelicious and Autumn Harvest cupcakes, said the labor of love was multi-faceted. She enjoys baking, hopes to open her own shop someday and her father suffers from Lewy body dementia; part of his diagnosis is Parkinson’s.

The Graves sisters – Janie Graves Hoover, Julia Graves and Jeane Graves Bartlett – started the fundraiser in memory of their mother, Jeane Graves, who passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s in 2010. Five years later they lost their father, Hubert Graves, to the disease as well.

“This is why the Michael J. Fox Foundation is so near and dear to our hearts,” said Jeane Graves Bartlett. “We call it our Team Fox Family. It’s not a family that you actively want to join, but it’s a family that once you find it, you know that you’re loved, and you’re enveloped with open arms. Our parents taught us to be good, kind people and give back to the community. We felt that this is the best way that we can honor their memory.”

Junior Baker Winners (8-14):

  • Best Taste: Jazmyn Morris
  • Best Decoration: Isabella Barsano
  • Voter’s Choice:  Isabella Barsano

Home Baker Winners:

  • Best Taste: Jessica Schmitt and Sheri Anderson
  • Best Decoration: Lizette King
  • Voter’s Choice: Jessica Schmitt and Sheri Anderson

Professional Baker Winner:

  • Best Taste: Pat Mayo
  • Voter’s Choice: Pat Mayo
  • Best Overall Cupcake of 2017: Jessica Schmitt and Sheri Anderson

Photos by: Denise Ritchie

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