San Diego County Fair: Cupcake Contest

My Del Mar Fair San Diego County Fair post will be two parts – one about my foray into the food contest world and one about the delicious things I ate. Today’s post will be about contests!

I have never entered a food contest before. I thought briefly about entering something for the San Diego Cake Club’s show but I don’t think my skills are quite up to par for that (looking at past entries is intimidating!). While looking at the website for the County Fair this year, I started looking at the Home & Hobby Contests. If you enter one of the One Day Contests, you get free admission to the fair, and you could win a prize! They had a “Cupcakes & Muffins” contest that sounded like something I wanted to enter with.

My entry? Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream. I found this recipe at Patent & the Pantry and reworked it a little to my liking. I did a test run the week before to try my hand at piping techniques:

Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes - Stars


Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes - Swirls


Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes - Innards

[Innards of the cupcake – see the specks of tea?]

I ended up going with the “Stars” piping technique and using a combination of two colors, orange and yellow, for the top. The end result:

Earl Grey Tea Cupcake - Final

I thought they turned out rather pretty, myself. I convinced my friend, Julia, to also enter. She made “Sean’s Cherry Chocolate Surprise” cupcakes – chocolate cupcakes with bits of maraschino cherries and chocolate inside. They looked totally cute, but sorry, I don’t have a photo of them!

San Diego County Fair - Cupcakes & Muffins Contest

We just made it in time to get through the gate at 12:30P to enter our cupcakes. We were also the last ones to get there, but luckily we got there in time to submit our entries.

Chocolate Cupcakes

[Chocolate Cupcakes]

There were 4 classes to compete in: Dessert Cupcakes, Chocolate Cupcakes, Savory Muffins and Sweet Muffins. Sweet Muffins seemed to be the largest class and the Savory Muffins were the smallest. All in all, there were 65 entries. They awarded ribbons through 5th place for each category.

Dessert Cupcakes

[Dessert Cupcakes – mine are the ones in the pink box]

Neither of us won a ribbon. The winner of my category (dessert cupcakes) was also the winner overall of the “Best in Show” – it’s the one above with the pineapple and coconuts on a tray with little umbrellas in each cupcake. I honestly didn’t even think too much about presentation – and it wasn’t much of a surprise that the most elaborate looking cupcakes won overall. But it was a learning experience to see all of the entries and it was totally fun to enter!

Here’s my recipe for my cupcakes:

Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes (makes 12 cupcakes)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 teabags Earl Grey tea (I used Stash brand tea) – about 1 tablespoon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter until soft. Add sugar to butter until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, making sure it’s thoroughly combined before adding the next egg. Sift together the dry ingredients in another bowl, including the tea. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a measuring cup. Beat in half of the dry mixture with the wet, then add the buttermilk/vanilla and the rest of the dry mixture, stirring it all until just combined. Line the cupcake pan with 12 cups and fill them about two-thirds full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool thoroughly before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream

  • 1/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups powdered sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

Place butters and shortening together in a large mixing bowl and beat until combined. Add one cup of sugar at a time, mixing well after each cup. I like it when it’s at 3 1/2 cups of sugar – but if you want it a bit sweeter, add 4 cups (or one 1lb. box of powdered sugar). Add lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Mix. Add until it’s the right consistency for you – I like it at about 2 1/2 tablespoons. This makes more than enough to frost 12 cupcakes – you will have leftovers. It’s probably enough to frost 24 if you double the recipe above. Store at room temperature.

4 thoughts on “San Diego County Fair: Cupcake Contest

  1. So glad you entered a food contest. That is a primary reason why we have County Fairs in the first place. Home and Hobby is the “Heart of the Fair”. The booklet listing contests and entry requirements is out in March at your local library. I suppose information is on the website then also.

  2. I also live in San Diego and I was going to enter the chocolate contest sponsored by Ghiradelli. Thanks for submitting photos and telling us about your experience with the cupcake contest, I will forward to particilating in the future and he presentation of your cupcake itself is beautiful. 🙂

  3. I live in Costa Mesa. I am looking for inspiration something that is my passion. I have always liked baking and always wanted to be apart of a craft fair or contest of sorts. I have always managed to talk myself out of it thinking my baking wasn’t good enough. Came across what you wrote and I do believe I’m ready to take the leap.

  4. That’s great to hear, Kathy! I was really reluctant for a long time but I was really glad I entered. Even though I didn’t win it was fun to try it out, make the cupcakes, and enter the contest. I highly recommend it, even if it’s just for the experience and trying it out. You never know, you might just win, too! Good luck!

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