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Flaherty Hall hosts interhall cake decorating competition

| Monday, April 19, 2021

Friday evening, Flaherty Hall’s signature Flaherty Food Fights event turned the LaFortune Ballroom into the set of Notre Dame’s very own Food Network-style cake decorating competition. 

For the event, teams of two from each dorm were tasked with decorating a two-layer vanilla sheet cake in 30 minutes using two random colors of icing along with cake decorating tools provided by Campus Dining.

Members of the Notre Dame community can vote for the winning cake online until the end of the day Saturday by donating at a link sent out by their dorm president. Each $1 donation counts as one vote for the voter’s favorite cake, and all of the proceeds will be donated to Beacon Children’s Hospital in South Bend. 

The dorm whose cake receives the greatest number of votes will be named the Flaherty Food Fights Campus Grand Champion.

Although Flaherty Food Fights is in its third year, this is the first time the women of Flaherty have hosted a cake decorating competition. Junior Dani Harold, one of Flaherty’s co-vice presidents, said that Flaherty Food Fights began in 2019 as a cooking competition modeled after the popular Food Network show “Chopped.” 

Last year, Harold explained, contestants took on the challenge of creating a dinner entree using ingredients found in either North or South Dining Hall — the venues where the event usually takes place — plus a secret ingredient: miso paste. The entrees were sampled and judged by Campus Dining staff members, and members of the campus community were encouraged to attend and cheer on their dorm’s contestants.

But this year, COVID-19 safety restrictions required Flaherty’s event organizers to significantly adapt the event.

“We kept the food theme, but otherwise this year’s event was pretty much completely different,” Harold said. “We went from a dinner meal to decorating cakes. It seemed to be much more doable with COVID restrictions … We thought cake decorating would be great because it’s still food-related, but no one would have to eat inside.”

Although very different from the previous years’ events, Harold said that the cake decorating competition was a great success.

“Participation was at least the same if not better this year,” Harold said. “People really enjoyed the theme, so maybe it’s something we’d even want to keep doing in the future.”

Senior Steven Cascio and sophomore Michael Murakami represented Dunne Hall in the competition. This was the duo’s second consecutive Flaherty Food Fights appearance. 

“Last year, we made a risotto … but sadly lost to a team that made an acai bowl,” Murakami said. “We were very unhappy with losing, so this year we both were excited to try to finally win it.” 

Murakami and Cascio were given purple and yellow icing to decorate their pre-baked cake. As self-described “huge basketball fans,” they decided to go with a Los Angeles Lakers theme, adorning their cake with a Kobe Bryant jersey. Cascio said he hoped the cake’s theme would appeal to male voters and mirror their approach to the competition.

“We felt like we were robbed not winning last year, so we wanted to have a storyline of having the ‘Mamba Mentality’ this year and putting our all into this cake,” Cascio explained, referencing Bryant’s famous mantra.

Courtesy of Flaherty Hall
The Dunne cake, created by first-time cake decorators, had a Kobe Bryant theme.

Although Murakami and Cascio did not win the title of “Campus Dining Favorite” which was awarded directly following the competition to the judges’ favorite cake in each of the two divisions — one made up of participants from North Quad who competed at 5 p.m. and one made up of participants from South Quad who competed at 5:45 p.m. — Murakami said it was a lot of fun participating as neither he nor Cascio had decorated a cake before.

In contrast, sophomore Amanda Abner — one half of the team representing Johnson Family Hall — said she signed up for the competition precisely because of her passion for cake decorating.

“I always bake elaborate cakes for my sister’s and my mom’s birthdays,” Abner said. “So I thought this would be super fun!”

Using blue and purple icing, Abner and her teammate created a floral cake complete with decorative piping which Abner said was the most difficult element of their creation. 

While Abner’s team did not win Campus Dining Favorite either, she said that the award winners — Cavanaugh Hall in the North Quad division and Ryan Hall in the South Quad division — were more than deserving.

Courtesy of Flaherty Hall
Cavanaugh Hall’s cake, which won the Campus Dining Favorite award for the North Quad division, was created by a resident who has her own cake decorating business at home, according to incoming Cavanaugh Hall vice president Nicole Campbell.

“I’ve gotta hand it to the first place winner,” Abner said, referring to the team from Cavanaugh. “They had a full flower bouquet on their cake. It was gorgeous!”

The Grand Champion cake is still being determined as the online voting and donation period continues through the end of this week. Those interested in updates on the competition should follow the Flaherty Hall Instagram page @flaherty_hall.

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