Cupcakes and Community Service

By Jodie Grier

On a scenic bank of the Delaware River, people from all over the Poconos gathered on the field outside of the historic Shawnee Inn to enjoy homemade treats.

Bakers of various skill levels spent hours preparing for the fourth annual Pocono Cupcake Challenge (PCC), held on Sept. 20.

Talana Burgard won the People’s Choice and Best Booth Display awards.

Her display was themed around “The Wizard of Oz,” and the entire display was decorated with brightly colored fondant and icing to resemble scenes from the beloved movie. The cupcakes she made sat among carefully sculpted fondant trees and a yellow brick road of icing.

“You always do your best, but never expect to win,” Burgard stated, smiling from ear to ear, “I’m very humbled.”

Junior, home baker, and professional were the three categories the contestants could enter themselves under, and one stand out of each category won a prize as well.

Joni Confalone, known in the baking community as Jonicakes, won in the professional category.

For the past three years, she has won at least one award at the Pocono Cupcake Challenge. Extensive planning and preparation are always essential to joining the challenge, but that was the most anticipated part for Confalone.

“The planning and coming up with the overall concept for the collection,” was Confalone’s favorite part of the preparation process

The Pocono Cupcake Challenge has been a worthy fundraiser for the United Way of Monroe county, established in 1942. United Way works with local non-profit organizations to raise revenue for basic needs.

Shelters, food pantries, head start programs and women’s resources have all benefited from working with United Way. Michael Albert, the President and CEO, stated that the expected goal for the PCC was about ten thousand dollars through ticket sales.

“I love the community spirit,” commented Rob Howell, General Manager of the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort. “We could not host this event or raise money without these people.”

Mackenzie Strunk, a local baking enthusiast, joined the challenge for her second time this year. With homemade French macaroons, dried pineapple, and lavender sitting atop her variety of cupcakes, her ideas appealed to her fellow cupcake fans.

“I wanted to create something different that could be decorated in a pretty way,” Strunk said when asked about her out-of-the-box ideas. “I like making food that people will enjoy.”

Strunk, as well as the other PCC contestants, also enjoys fundraising for United Way.

Dr. Marcia Welsh, President of ESU, was one of the judges for this year’s PCC.

“Seeing people’s excitement and their incredible cupcakes is always my favorite part,” stated Dr. Welsh.

The annual event, raising money for non-profit organizations, brings together the local community for a worthy cause and an afternoon of fun.


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