It is with great pride, and little humility, that I announce that I am the reigning Cupcake Wars Queen of Presentation at work! I even have a cupcake tiara as proof, although I only wore it for a quick photo op so as not to rub it in with my co-workers. I may lack humility, but I do have empathy.
Let me set the stage and give you a bit of history of Cupcake Wars at my workplace. A year ago, my co-workers and I were walking the picket line. After 18 months of negotiations, mediators, and a cooling-off period we were at an impasse. With heavy hearts and great emotion, the employees went on strike. It was a heartbreaking decision, as many important decisions are, and I was deeply saddened that the workplace I once dearly loved had reached this level of conflict with no apparent middle ground or resolution. My colleagues and I walked that picket line with signs perched on our shoulders for eight days, but the aftermath of lost trust and betrayal still lingers a year later.
Knowing there was much healing to be done, the administration made attempts at bringing us back together with team-building exercises. I know, I know, just the mention of team-building exercises makes you sigh and shutter. Me too! I’ve experienced many over the years, but one that sticks out in my mind is when everyone chooses a coin and is invited to look at the date, and tell something significant that happened in their life that year. That’s usually the point when the youngest member of the team righteously pipes up and shouts, “I wasn’t even born in 1990!” So much for team building.
And, of course, I’ll never forget trying to emulate Pike’s Place Fish Market by wearing trash bags and throwing slippery dead fish to one another. My big aha and realization from that experience is that you can’t mandate what matters. You can’t force trust and connection. It is organic. The Fish Philosophy was successful for that workplace because it was spontaneously started by employees and was a creative way to have fun together and enjoy work. It wasn’t a top-down contrived team-building exercise created by middle management in an attempt to bring people together.
Post strike, my colleagues and I decided to heal from the inside out. We started our own grassroots campaign and formed a Fun Committee. Inspired by Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, we decided to have a cupcake competition. Participants were given the theme “Summer is Coming” and entries were judged by the entire staff on taste and presentation. Not everyone made cupcakes, but everyone participated by tasting and judging.
My first entry, Limoncello Cupcakes, was a big hit! I purchased a bottle of Crema di Limon in Sorrento, Italy and it had been in my freezer waiting for just such an occasion. If you are a lemon lover you must try this yummy recipe that I found on the Brown Eyed Baker blog. You won’t be disappointed!
My second entry, and winner for presentation, was S’more Cupcakes. When thinking of presentation, I consider each element, from the appeal of the cupcake, to the props, to the baking cups. I was actually pulling out of my driveway when I was inspired to jump out of the car and grab a log and some pinecones. It’s a good thing I did, and what a great reminder to follow sudden inspiration.
For elegant, fun or whimsical baking cups, I turn to Simply Baked. They can also be used for dips, nuts, ice cream or other party snacks.
The recipe comes from Jennifer Shea of Seattle’s Trophy Cupcakes & Party. Watch Jennifer make these decadent chocolate cupcakes with Martha Stewart and you’ll be running to the store to buy the ingredients.
What great ideas do you have for creating connection in the workplace? Share them with us!