Lakelands resident Anna Ross has been baking ever since she was young. Learning from her mom, Paula, she started with simple items like brownies and moved her way up to muffins, cupcakes, cookie cakes and cookies.
A fan of the television show Kids Baking Championships, the 13-year-old created her own Facebook page (Anna’s Awesome Bake Sale) several years ago in order to get extra spending money for dance camps she attends over the summer. (She is only allowed to bake when she has a break from school.)
So when her mom mentioned offhand to Anna that she was going to enter a baking contest sponsored by the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, King Arthur Flour and the City of Gaithersburg, Anna wanted to enter it, too. Paula entered her red velvet cheesecake cupcake, and Anna decided to submit her unicorn cupcake—a vanilla cupcake with multicolored frosting and gold sprinkles on top. Using fun colors and sparkles in her original recipes is a way she expresses herself in baking.
The contest required each participant—who had to be a chamber member or direct family—to use King Arthur Flour in their original cupcake recipes.
Paula sits on the Chamber Board of Directors. Participants made enough for the competition and donation to area first responders.
“Never in our wildest imagination did we think it was going to be so popular,” said Marilyn Balcombe, chamber president. “We had 25 bakers bake. We were thinking we would get five bakers.”
Anna was the only child who entered and after a blind taste test by the judges, her cupcake was named the winner. “I was really surprised,” the A. Mario Loiederman Middle School seventh grader said. “I didn’t think I would win because I did a basic vanilla cupcake in a way. I was the only kid that entered. I didn’t think I had a chance. I was really shocked.”
Paula was very excited for her daughter to win the contest whose prize was a $100 King Arthur Flour store gift card. “She was at school (during the contest) so I couldn’t let her know,” she said. “I texted her. She didn’t know for a couple of hours.” Anna is thinking about getting a new cheesecake pan or spatulas with her winnings.
Paula notes it is fun to watch Anna bake, including her signature dessert—double chocolate chunk brownies. “I remember when I was a kid baking with my grandma and I enjoy baking a lot,” she said. “(Anna) has baked with me as she was growing up. It is fun to see her try new recipes and do her own thing. I like to see her motivated to earn her spending money for camp. It’s a nice thing as a parent to see your child take initiative.”
Anna is also a dancer at the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre where Paula is executive director. “Anna is a good kid,” Paula said. “She is a pretty serious young dancer, so it is fun to see her have another interest. I think it relieves her stress sometimes and breaks the monotony of her training schedule and gives her something fun to do and me something fun to eat.”
Held the last week of February, this was the first year for the contest that helped to kick off Hunger Awareness Month in Gaithersburg. King Arthur Flour has been raising awareness of food security issues all over the country for many years through their #BakeForGood campaign so the chamber decided to partner with them for the contest.
“Hunger and poverty are around us every day,” Balcombe said. “Food insecurity is around us. … It’s important for the chamber to be part of the community and part of the whole community, which means not only business and education but also our nonprofits and our social services. We understand that food insecurity exists in our community and we want to make sure that everybody understands that, everybody knows that and can contribute in some way. That’s what I love about the King Arthur #BakeForGood (campaign). You are not asked for a dollar contribution. You are asked to physically bake something that you are going to share with somebody else. I love that concept because it really does promote the idea of sharing your resources and sharing what you have.”
With around 75 people in attendance for the event, Balcombe was happy with how the event turned out. “I feel really proud of being able to share the idea that everybody needs to participate in solving food insecurity in our community and I feel great that our members really stepped up and participated and the fact that Anna won is just—please excuse the pun—but icing on the cake,” she said.