Staffers and interns gathered in the Rayburn building on Thursday evening for the inaugural “Congressional Cupcake War,” a food competition organized by Washington bakery Sprinkles Cupcakes.
The event, based on a Food Network show of a similar name that stars Sprinkles founder Candace Nelson, pitted seven teams against each other in scored rounds that rewarded knowledge of congressional trivia, frosting ability, and decorative flair. Joining Nelson as judges were Politico reporter Patrick Gavin and food writer Amanda McClements, who edits the D.C.-based food and culture blog Metrocurean.
(PICTURES: Cupcake Wars Come to the Capitol)
Before the decorating competition began, Sprinkles cofounder Charles Nelson announced that the bakery was donating $10,000 to the Fisher House, a non-profit organization that provides housing for the families of injured veterans while they recover at military medical centers.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., stopped by to applaud the donation and meet Chaz Allen, a veteran who lost both his legs last January in Afghanistan.
“It looks like these cupcake wars are heating up as much as the budget wars," Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, joked.
Once the competition started, each team’s unique strategy emerged. One pair of interns from the office of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., used whole oranges in their recipe.
“We were choosing between orange cupcakes and blueberry ones, since our representative is the only Democrat in Orange County,” Danielle Butterfield said.
Another team of interns from the office of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., aimed for patriotic flair. The self-named “Team Debt-Busting Cupcake” arrived with a cheering section and a cupcake diorama titled “Washington Frosting The Delaware.” They even claimed to buy all their ingredients with cash to guarantee “debt-free cupcakes for future generations.”
“Washington crossing the Delaware was a courageous action in a dangerous time,” James McKitrick, a 20-year-old intern, said. “It’s just like what needs to be done now with the debt crisis.”
But in the end, two staffers from the office of Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Ill., took home the baked-goods bragging rights and a modest-sized trophy. Anna Vetter, a legislative assistant in Johnson's office, suggested that her baking partner, staff assistant Alicia McAfee, deserved the credit for their win.
“She’s the baker, I eat. That’s usually how it works,” she said.
And as for all those calories?
“Our office won the walking challenge this year and Tim Johnson is known for walking,” Vetter said. “We use that to justify all the baking.”