Waterford cake wars

 The great Cake War of 2015! 

We played games. We ate sandwiches. We drank alcoholic beverages.

And by God, we had cake.

Game Night 04-22-15: Have your layer cake and eat it too.

  • Competition was for the best cake.
  • We also enjoyed a lovely sandwich spread and a tossed salad.
  • We divided into three groups for games (it was a larger crowd than usual), which were Tsuro, For Sale, and Biblios.

The contenders:

  • Reigning Champion Tara Nudi with Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
  • Challenger Brian Senesac with German Chocolate Cake

The judges:

  • Andrew Hodges
  • Peggy Hodges
  • Sarah Hodges
  • Kristi LaMonica
  • Alan Nudi
  • Erin Nudi (me)
  • Too Cool Tony

Judged on:

  • Presentation: 20%
  • Cake to Frosting/Topping Ratio: 10%
  • Moistness Factor: 10%
  • Mouthfeel: 10%
  • Overall Flavor: 50%

Tara’s cake:

Photo credit: Ryan Nudi 

Brian’s cake:

Photo credit: Ryan Nudi 

Final score out of 350 points:

  • Tara’s cake: 314
  • Brian’s cake: 287

(Note: Usually the score is out of 200 points, but we had more judges this time.)

The recipes used:

Tara’s cake was a combination of these three: Killer Peanut Butter Cake (for the peanut butter part of the cake, and the peanut butter frosting), Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Frosting (for the chocolate frosting), and One Bowl Chocolate Cake III (for the main part of the cake).

She made two 8-inch layers of the chocolate cake, and one of the peanut butter (with some extra batter leftover). She stacked them with the peanut butter cake in the middle, and the peanut butter frosting in between the layers; the chocolate frosting is on the outside.


Brian’s cake – he did not give me a website recipe or instructions, but I do have every single ingredient – like Tara’s, there was a lot. And this is why baking intimidates me.

Ingredients for Brian’s cake:

  • 2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 16 tbsp (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for Brian’s cake’s rum syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark rum

Ingredients for Brian’s cake’s filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups sweetened or unsweetened coconut, toasted

Ingredients for Brian’s cake’s icing:

  • 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Holy crap.

Comments from the judges:  
  • Tara’s cake looked so perfect it literally did not look real. It looked like a fake decoration, of which people say, “That looks good enough to eat!” Except, you could.
  • Brian’s cake, while severely lacking in presentation, was right up there with flavor. It reminded the judges of a cake your grandmother might bake for you – it had a homey feel that Tara’s cake, in all its apparent perfection, maybe didn’t capture quite as well.

Personally, I found both the cake to frosting/topping ratio and the moistness factor to be equally awesome for both cakes.

Things to take into consideration:

Brian has been working 60+ hour weeks. He made this cake at 10PM the night before, and the frosting the next day. He admitted he rushed, had an issue with the coconut topping not staying in place, and he over-whipped the frosting.

Tara is a stay-at-home mom. She has a two-year-old and a four-year-old crawling all over her while she is baking. On this particular occasion, the cake competition fell in line with her daughter’s fourth birthday, and she had to bake cupcakes – in addition to the cake for us – for her daughter to bring into daycare to share with the whole class.

The cupcakes Tara *also* made. Original photo credit: Tara Nudi; further editing by me.

Was this difficult and time consuming? Undoubtedly.

However, she was home all day with the ability to manage her time much better than Brian was probably able to do.

Finally, had presentation not been factored in, Brian would have lost by only one point.

One. Point.

Unfortunately for him, presentation counted for 20% in this contest (sometimes it’s 10).

Indisputable perfection. Photo credit: Tara Nudi.

Tara has declared that it’s “too exhausting” for her to both host game night – providing the food for the crowd, keeping the kids under control – and compete in the food battles, and thus, she is stepping back from her crown for the time being.

Read: Tara knows my earlier prediction is true. Game Night Food Competitions would have turned into The Tara Show, because no one will ever beat her, ever. So she has graciously stepped aside to allow others into the limelight, under the subtle misdirection of being “exhausted.”

Up next Game Night: Peggy Hodges goes up against Kristi LaMonica for the best coleslaw.