by: Jessica Fera Updated:
PITTSBURGH - WPXI viewers submitted nearly 3,000 votes and on Friday, WPXI.com's Jessica Fera surprised the winners of the Pittsburgh's Best Cupcake contest.
Finishing in 3rd place after the public vote was Creative Cakes in Robinson Township.
Husband and wife Gwen and Ron Homitz love what they do so much, they built a private bakery onto their home. From the second you step inside one thing is clear; this team is creative.
"We do sketch a lot," Gwen said. "I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas. It's just always in my head. We both went to art school and we're just really creative and like to do really different stuff," she said.
Creative Cakes cupcakes don't just look good. Our judges ranked them in 2nd place during the taste test portion of our contest.
Gwen showed us how she fills her chocolate devil's food cake cupcake with chocolate fudge and peanut butter. She says the cake is the best part.
Finishing in 2nd place after the public vote was Priory Fine Pastries on the North Side.
So what makes the Priory special?
"There's a lot of quality control that goes on," said part-owner John Graf. "So we really try to make sure that what people are getting is absolutely the way it should be every single time."
Specialty cupcakes at the Priory include burnt almond torte, German chocolate and carrot cake.
"It's our favorite cupcake. It's my favorite cupcake and it's our best-seller," said bakery manager Jim Lazeration.
The carrot cake cupcake is topped with cream cheese icing. The cake is made with a cinnamon batter with walnuts and freshly grated carrots.
Taking home our contest's coveted 1st-place honor was Vanilla Pastry Studio in East Liberty.
Vanilla just celebrated five years in business and is committed to using high-quality ingredients.
"We use Turner Dairy products, we use Madagascar vanilla, we use vanilla beans in our cake batter," said owner April Gruver. "We bake fresh every morning all of our cupcakes, and several times throughout the day because Pittsburgh buys a lot of cupcakes!"
Customer favorites at Vanilla include cookies and cream, red velvet and the 1st place winner of the taste test portion of the contest, strawberry shortcake.
"This is our vanilla bean butter cake. It's made with the Madagascar vanilla extract. It has a strawberry syrup on top which is just strawberry puree with a little bit of simple syrup. What's going on top is our signature vanilla buttercream. We make an all butter vanilla buttercream, which has a little secret ingredient added at the end. And for this we mix it with strawberry puree, so there's a lot of fresh strawberry puree in there," April said.
Some of the strawberry shortcake cupcakes are topped with a custom sprinkle blend (April doesn't believe in using jimmies) and some are topped with what she calls chocolate noodles (homemade of course).
A big "thank you" to all of the great Pittsburgh bakeries that participated in the Pittsburgh's Best Cupcake contest!
The 10 bakeries with the most nominations after the public nomination period were named as our finalists.
The Top 10 participated in a taste test at the WPXI studios. Our panel of celebrity judges included local singing sensation Jackie Evancho with her brothers and sister, Miss Teen Pennsylvania 2010 Elena LaQuatra and Mikey & Bob from 96.1 KISS with their daughters. Each bakery submitted both a classic vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, and a second cupcake of their choice for the blind test.
Finishing in 1st place in the taste test was Vanilla Pastry Studio in East Liberty. In 2nd place was Creative Cakes in Robinson. Creative Cakes submitted a peanut butter and chocolate fudge cupcake. In third place, our judges chose Mimi's Bake Shoppe in Cranberry. Mimi's submitted a buckeye cupcake for its specialty selection.
The competition was very close with the Priory Fine Pastries and Oakmont Bakery also receiving high scores from the judges.
A public vote was the final step to naming Pittsburgh's Best Cupcake.
CreativeCakes, Robinson Township 2nd place taste test, 3rd place public vote
Mimi's Bake Shoppe, Cranberry 3rd place taste test
Priory Fine Pastries, North Side 2nd place public vote
Vanilla Pastry Studio, East Liberty 1st place taste test, 1st place public vote
SPECIAL SECTION: Pittsburgh's Best
1. The Top 10 Cupcakes will first be determined by the number of valid nominations received and second, by the willingness of the bakery to participate.
2. The nomination process opened Monday, May 2 and closed Monday, May 16, 2011 at 1 p.m. Our finalists were determined at that time.
3. A taste test took place at the Channel 11 studios during the week of May 23. Each finalist delivered a sample of their cupcakes for the test. If a bakery does not show up for the taste test they will be disqualified.
4. Voting opened to the public Friday, May 27 at 2 p.m. on WPXI.com and closed Monday, June 6 at 2 p.m.
5. The winners will be revealed June 10. Award plaques will be given to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners as determined by the public vote. Award certificates will be given to the remaining finalists.
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