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Tradition tops trends: Cupcake contest winner is chock full of chocolate and berries

April 23, 2013|By CHRIS COPLEY | chrisc@herald-mail.com
  • Danielle Hill of Clear Spring won the third annual Herald-Mail Cupcake Contest with Double Chocolate Summer Berry Cupcakes.
Kevin G. Gilbert /


For a 15-year-old, Danielle Hill is already a very experienced cook. She prepares meals for her family. She enters baked goods in the annual Washington County Ag Expo and Fair.

And now, she has added another accolade to her cooking resume: Danielle's entry was declared the winner of the third annual Herald-Mail Cupcake Contest.

Twenty-three entries were submitted to this year's cupcake contest. Flavor trends this year included banana, root beer and apple pie. But Danielle's winning entry was more traditional: chocolate and berries.

"I entered these in the Ag Expo last summer and got really good marks. So I decided, hey, why not enter them in here?" she said.

Danielle is a sophomore at Clear Spring High School. She loves cooking, but said she plans to pursue a career in engineering.

"I wanted to be a chef for a really long time, but I couldn't see it as being a steady job," she said. "So I'm going to pursue engineering. I'm actually planning to go to (Washington County) Technical High School next year. I've just always liked designing, building, all that."

Danielle said her mother and father sometimes work late, so she gets supper on the table for her parents and sister Madison. Danielle cooks from scratch.

"My grandmother taught me to cook. My dad's mom, Nancy Hill," she said. "When I was little, she lived right down the road. So over the summer, ... I would go down there. She was always baking things, because she was always big on doing banquets and stuff for our church. She's really encouraged me to do a lot of cooking."

Danielle has a favorite cookbook, "Baking Illustrated," by the editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. But her winning cupcake recipe — Double Chocolate Summer Berry Cupcakes — came from Annie's Eats, a website that encourages cooks to make food from scratch.

"I'm a big chocolate lover. I love chocolate. It's my go-to food," she said by phone the day after the contest. "This recipe seemed simple and something that everybody would really like, but not too out there."

The recipe calls for chocolate cake and chocolate icing with a berry filling. Danielle adapted it to her tastes.

"I added blackberries, because I loved the flavor of blackberries," she said. "I usually add lemon juice. I do that when I make jellies and jams over the summer. It brings out the flavors of berries. And I usually put nutmeg in a good bit. It brings out the comfort food (aspect) in everything."

As usual, she said, her cupcake entry was a family affair. When Danielle wanted to get help on the flavor profile, she asked the family to taste.

"The family absolutely loves them. I made two dozen preparing for this (contest), and they're all gone already," she said.

And what will she do with her $50 prize for winning the contest?

"I'm not sure. I'm looking into getting a car in the next year or two. Might go towards that," she said.





And now, a word to our contest judges

The third annual Herald-Mail Cupcake Contest wouldn't have happened without the dedicated work of a dozen judges.

Judges — including home cooks and three young cooks — were grouped into three teams to assess the 23 entries in this year's contest. They evaluated cupcakes on a 1 to 5 scale in each of four categories: taste, appearance, originality and quality.

The top three entries from each team advanced to the final round of judging. All judges tasted all nine finalists and picked a winner and five runners-up.

Yvonne and Kevin Ford, owners of Red Heifer Winery in Smithsburg, were two of the judges. Yvonne praised the winning Double Chocolate Summer Berry Cupcake by Danielle Hill of Clear Spring.

"Very enjoyable blend of chocolate and berries," Yvonne wrote on her form. "The (berry) filling brought a pop of flavor to an intense chocolate cake."

Thanks also to:

  •  Kathy Lant of Boonsboro, home cook
  •  Sandy Shank of Hagerstown, home cook
  •  Susan Stepnick of Hagerstown, home cook
  •  Audra Martenot of Hagerstown, home cook, and her daughter, Annette Martenot, 10, and niece, Skyla Heise, 14
  •  Christina Elgin of Hagerstown, HMTV6 show host, and her daughter, Alexandra Elgin, 9
  •  Burnest Griffin III of Hagerstown, dessert lover
  •  Steven Wriston of Hagerstown, dessert lover

— Chris Copley, Lifestyle assistant editor

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