Senior ‘rises’ to challenge in cupcake competition, places fifth in state


Caroline Ragland

Senior Rebekah Higgins and her culinary arts teacher Carrie-Anne Stanglin discuss Higgins’ ballots from the Cupcake Battle competition.

The time is up. A small pumpkin with trailing vines houses cupcakes with glistening sugar and perfect swirls. The fall-themed dessert is nothing less than perfection. It is no surprise when it is named a state competitor.

Senior Rebekah Higgins competed against students from 1A to 6A schools and placed third overall at the regional Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America Cupcake Battle competition Thursday, Feb. 20. Because the state competition was cancelled due to complications from COVID-19, the state winners were calculated based on scores at the regional competition. Out of 25 state competitors, Higgins placed fifth.

We had to ice the cupcakes, decorate them and set up in a display that goes with that cupcake.

— Rebekah Higgins, 12

“In September or October, Mrs. Stanglin starts telling our class about the different competitions you can compete in,” Higgins said in an interview prior to the cancellation of the event. “About January she tells us if we’re still interested in it, we should come to talk to her so we can start practicing. My teacher had me practicing for a couple of months.”

Competitors enter the regional competition with prepared cupcakes ready to decorate and display. They have to present six cupcakes of which only one or two will be judged on appearance, flavor, texture, originality, technique, time management and sanitation. 

“We made the cupcakes right before we were about to drive up to Lubbock,” Higgins said. “We had 25 minutes to do everything else. We had to ice the cupcakes, decorate them and set up in a display that goes with that cupcake. It’s a total time crunch.”

Normally, at the state competition, students are required to bake the cupcakes as part of the competition along with decorating and presentation. No pre-baked items are allowed.

“For state, I have two hours to do everything,” Higgins said. “I have to bake them there and decorate and set up the display. It seems like two hours is a lot of time, but it goes by really fast. We’re all escorted into a room at the same time. We have a bucket that’s 20 gallons or smaller with all of our stuff in it, and we are given a 6 foot by 2 foot table. It a lot to handle.”

We tried to think of something that’s not chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.

— Rebekah Higgins, 12

Higgins said she spent a lot of time trying to come up with a good recipe for the competition. 

“At first I thought of using a chocolate cupcake,” Higgins said. “Mrs. Stanglin said we should try to do something out of the box. So, we tried to think of something that’s not chocolate, vanilla or strawberry. My family has a recipe for a pumpkin cake, and that’s what we based the cupcake on.”

Higgins competed against 17 people at the regional competition. Higgins said in order to find the right recipe to use, she had to tweak the original ingredients.

“Originally, it was like this cake cream cheese roll,” Higgins said. “That was going to be our recipe, but then we let some of our faculty taste test. They would tell us it needs more of this or less of that, and that’s how we got the final recipe.”

Higgins was planning to use the same recipe for the state competition.

“It was a lot of trial and error,” Higgins said. “We took a family recipe and just worked on it until we got it right. The cupcake I’ve been practicing and working on is a pumpkin cupcake with brown sugar cream cheese icing and candied pecans on top. We’re going to keep practicing it.”

Students also must exhibit their cupcakes on a 3 foot by 2 foot display coordinating with the design of their cupcake.

We took a family recipe and just worked on it until we got it right.

— Rebekah Higgins, 12

“For mine, I use this little metal pumpkin with these crocheted metal vines and plates that have a fall pattern on it,” Higgins said. “It’s my first year to do this. At first, it was nerve-racking. I was the only one who decided to compete this year for culinary, so I decided I should go in full force.”

Higgins said she prepared for region with one thing at a time.

“I’ve really learned how to manage my time,” Higgins said. “When someone says you have 25 minutes, yes, it’s nearly half an hour, but you’re not stopping during that time. You’re icing, decorating, placing–it can be a lot. I finished right before one of the judges called time, but the stress is worth it. It’s really exciting to qualify for state my senior year. I’m really grateful that I got to do that.”