Eleven-year-old Paulina Garcia Hernandez of Carrboro had never baked anything by herself before this week.
But the first-time baker entered her Cuckoo Coconut Cupcake into Friday’s third annual Horace Williams Memorial Cupcake Festival — and won first place and $100.
First place — cuckoo coconut cupcake
Paulina Garica Hernandez
Second place — turtle cupcake
The cupcake, made with coconut milk, shredded coconut and Cool Whip, beat out 29 other entries by professional and amateur bakers to win over the competition’s three judges.
“This woman in my building usually helps me and sometimes I cook with her. But this is the first time I’ve baked something by myself,” Paulina said.
Paulina was the youngest baker in the competition.
The festival was the brainchild of Sherril Koroluk, the assistant to the director of the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, who said she proposed to turn Horace Williams’ birthday celebration into a cupcake festival three years ago.
“Always trust your crazy ideas,” she said.
This year, her idea attracted local as well as out-of-town guests, including Dr. Nazir Ahmad, a dentist with a self-proclaimed sweet tooth who traveled to the festival from Virginia.
Ernest Dollar, executive director of the Preservation Society, said people were lining up two hours before the festival started. Moments before the doors opened, the line was wrapped around the building.
Guests ate more than 500 cupcakes in 20 minutes last year, Dollar said — a fact that prompted extra preparation for Saturday’s festival.
He said a “security force” of volunteers watched over the cupcake room to make sure people only took one cupcake at a time.
“I don’t think we had as many people as last year,” Koroluk said. “But I think everyone had a better time.”
Joe Parker, who placed second in the contest, said the judges this year were more knowledgeable about cupcakes than past judges.
Judges included Ruth Moose, last year’s second-place cupcake winner; Debbie Moose, a Raleigh-based cookbook author; and Emily Pierce, the marketing coordinator of Sugarland Bakery.
The judges’ only instructions were to pick the most luscious cupcake.
“You want something that you put one bite in your mouth and say ‘Ahhh,’” Ruth Moose said.
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