Taking the cake
Local students take top honors at Chocolatefest in Hershey BY TOM KNAPP, Staff Writer
Early Sunday morning, it was a beautiful pastel scene -- a wintry mountaintop, forested and flowery, with reindeer prancing around its frosted rim.
By noon, it was a shambles of its former self -- denuded of trees, stripped of deer, with only a portion of its floral finery still clinging to the hacked and crumbling remains.
Jenna Zigrang's entry in the cake-making competition at Chocolatefest, in the Great American Hall at Hershey Lodge, had been carried off in bite-sized chunks, one of many tasty treats that would be sampled by throngs of sweet-lovers at the culinary extravaganza.
Zigrang, a student in the baking and pastry arts program at the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center in Mount Joy, at least had the satisfaction of knowing that her labors were appreciated. Her cake was judged the prettiest among dozens of entries in the student competition, and she also placed third in the "best of theme" division.
Marissa Nace, a classmate in the pastry arts program, went one better. Besides placing second in the "tastiest" category, Nace's entry also was tapped as best cake overall in the competition.
Winning has its perks. While Zigrang's cake -- along with most of the cakes in the contest -- was quickly cut up and devoured, Nace's stood largely untouched, only one small sliver nicked from the back for the judges to taste. Otherwise, it was there to be admired and drooled over -- for a while, anyway. By the end of the day, it too was sliced and eaten.
"I kind of wish I could have brought it home. I really do," the Hempfield senior, contacted by phone later in the day, said wistfully. "But I have lots of pictures."
Nace's cake was chocolate infused with peanut butter and topped with white icing. The decorations really sold the entry, however. Titled "Slippery Slopes," it featured adorable 2-inch-tall penguins made from modeling chocolate frolicking on a snowy slope and gliding down an icy-blue slide.
"The penguins took a long time to make, but they were really fun," she said.
Nace, who was unable to attend Chocolatefest and got news of her victory from her instructor, Tracie Gotshall, said the design was inspired by a penguin-themed cake in a grocery store.
"I really didn't think I had a chance of winning," Nace said. "I saw some of the cakes my classmates were making, and they were wonderful."
Gotshall was pleased by her students' showing. Eight students in her program entered the contest, and four came home winners. In addition to Nace and Zigrang, winners from the career center were Bianca Brown, first place in the "most tasty" division, and Aubree Redcay, second place in both "best of theme" and "most creative" categories.
"The kids did a really great job," Gotshall said. "Their skills have really come along during the school year."
It's particularly noteworthy, she added, that the career center students are all high school seniors, while their competitors were in postsecondary programs at various culinary arts schools in the area.
Although the event in Hershey was called Chocolatefest, more than just chocolate treats were offered -- including a few that were more savory than sweet.
There also were booths featuring everything from birch beer to service dogs, fast food to massage therapy demonstrations.
The event, which ran in two 90-minute sessions, benefited Keystone Human Services.
If, by the end, your stomach wasn't a little upset and your teeth didn't feel as if they were rotting out of your head, you probably did it wrong.