Photo by Holly Stratton on Unsplash

Bakers and sugar enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels are not gonna want to miss this local competition. Round Rock’s “That Takes the Cake!” sugar arts show and cake competition will be decorating some amazing treats and classes for the general public on March 31.

The competition is led by Capital Confectioners, a Greater Austin nonprofit that connects hobbyists and professionals in a network of people interested in sugar arts.

Competitors will bring their decorated cakes and sugar arts to enter in any of the four contests: the child/junior category, the divisional competition, the sugar showpiece, and the tasting contest. Winners will be chosen by a panel of industry renowned judges, and will be awarded medals, cash prizes, and more.

Several classes and challenges will also be available for spectators to participate in during the show's three-day weekend. Attendees can learn how to decorate cartoon-themed cakes, cookies, or learn how to craft sugar flowers.

For the challenge portion of the show, visitors will test their skills in real-time as they take on themed mystery cake decoration contests. Winners of the challenges in each session will win a $50 cash prize.

“That Takes the Cake!” will kick off March 31 and run until 6 pm on April 2 at the Round Rock Sports Center. More information about the show and competition can be found on their website.

Photo courtesy of Central Market

Your best gingerbread creations could win $500 from Central Market

Sugar and Spice

Is your gingerbread house the stuff of family legend? Do coworkers clamor for your expertly decorated gingerbread cookies? Have you watched The Great British Baking Show and thought, "my piping is so much tidier"?

This is your chance to prove it, and possibly win a $500 gift card from Central Market.

From now until December 27, upload photos of your gingerbread masterpieces here.

And don't think you have to confine your creations to houses or people — let your imagine run wild and decorate to impress.

Two winners will be chosen for each Central Market location. All entrants must be 18 years or older, and winners will be contacted directly.

Read the official rules here, and good luck!

Gingerbread cookies

Photo courtesy of Central Market

Ready to win?

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas chefs and restaurants advance as James Beard Award finalists — and none are in Austin

James Beard Finalists 2023

The James Beard Foundation has selected its finalists for their annual Restaurant and Chef Awards, and none are in Austin. This is a bit of a surprise since there were 6 different Austin nominees, and considering how well-represented Austin has been in previous years. In 2022, Austin's Edgar Rico (Nixta Taqueria) won Emerging Chef and Iliana de la Vega (El Naranjo) was named the first ever Best Chef: Texas.

Nonetheless, Texas as a whole is well-represented among 2023 finalists and one Austin establishment will be recognized as an American classic. Texan restaurants and chefs in the running for national awards include:

  • Outstanding Bar: Las Ramblas, Brownsville
  • Outstanding Bakery: Kuluntu Bakery, Dallas
  • Outstanding Bakery: La Casita Bakeshop, Dallas
  • Outstanding Restaurant: Lucia, Dallas
  • Best New Restaurant: Restaurant Beatrice, Dallas
  • Best New Restaurant: Don Artemio Mexican Heritage, Fort Worth
  • Best New Restaurant: Tatemó, Houston
  • Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program: Nancy’s Hustle, Houston

    Texas is considered its own region and one person will earn Best Chef: Texas; this year's finalists include:

    • John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio
    • Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin
    • Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag, Dallas
    • Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Street to Kitchen, Houston
    • Emiliano Marentes, ELEMI, El Paso

    Notably, all of this year’s finalists for both the national categories and Best Chef: Texas are new. None of them received nominations in 2022.

    The finalists are drawn from a pool of semifinalists that included 10 nominations each for Houston and Dallas, seven for San Antonio, six for Austin, and two for Fort Worth.

    Last year, Texans did well in the awards, with Houston cocktail bar Julep winning Outstanding Bar Program, on top of the previously mentioned Austin winners. In addition, two Texans won media awards — Austin chef Jesse Griffiths (Dai Due) for his cookbook, The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Pigs and Texas Monthly taco editor Jose Ralat for his Tex-Mexplainer columns.

    The Foundation will reveal its Restaurant and Chef Award winners at an awards ceremony on Monday, June 5, 2023, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Media Award winners will be announced on June 3.

    Austin classical music station composes open house events for official "KMFA Day" proclamation

    House lights up

    Classical music events may be a little intimidating to get into, but Austin's friendly classical music radio station, KMFA, is making sure everyone gets involved in the most Austin way: an open house and market. At this event, Mayor Kirk Watson will declare April 1 "KMFA Day," with a proclamation followed by music, tours, lessons, and more.

    This is the station's second open house at its new home space, the bespoke Draylen Mason Music Studio, but the day of recognition is a new achievement. As part of the official proceedings, a work by Austin-born sculpture artist Betty Gold will be dedicated to former KMFA President and General Manager Ann Wilson. The work, Alas VIII (Wings VIII) (1992-1993), was recently moved to the KMFA entrance.

    Being an open house, this day festival encourages visitors to experience the different spaces through hourly tours and cloistered performances. The schedule could easily keep visitors engaged for the length of the event (2-6 pm), with appearances by Austin Saxophone Ensemble and One Ounce Opera; ballet workshops and shows by Density512 and Red Nightfall Productions; and performances by multiple local high school bands.

    There will also be more interactive offerings, like an "instrument petting zoo" and an "arts partner marketplace." Snacks will be provided by Topo Chico, and some of the events take place outside on the Malcom Cooper Patio.

    KFMA has gone through a period of dramatic change recently. George Preston is the organization's new president after Wilson, appointed in January as its first new CEO in a decade. He brings experience from Chicago, Boston, New York City, and more. This may be one of Preston's first civically minded events with the organization, but its schedule is always packed with creative happenings including fundraising dinners and appearances at festivals in and out of Austin.

    A scroll through the stations current offerings, from radio personalities to local and national programs, shows a wide commitment not just to venerable arts organizations and their canons, but to more casual, everyday arts appreciation. KMFA works closely with local schools and on-campus resources, including the Butler School at the University of Texas at Austin.

    More information about KMFA Day is available at kmfa.org.

    Where to find the most iconic — and best — meals in all of Texas

    Hit the Road

    Texans don't need much of a reason to hit the open road. Our state is brimming with natural beauty and charming small towns, but nothing motivates us to fill up the tank like a bonanza of regional foods.

    There are renowned Texas flavors to be found throughout the entire state, from small towns like Round Top to the far west end in El Paso. And with meals ranging from Tex-Mex and barbecue to Frito Pie and kolaches, the Lone Star State is known for some of the most iconic foods in America.

    When you hit the open road to explore (and taste) it all, know that a Hilton Hotel is nearby for a good night's rest. Whether you're traveling with family, friends, or as a couple, the right room is waiting with a warm welcome.

    Hope you're hungry, because here is but a small slice of some of the best.

    Goldee's BBQ, Fort Worth
    Few barbecue joints in Texas can make a name without serving the holy trinity of brisket, sausage, and ribs. Still, the young chefs and pitmasters at this Fort Worth stop one-up the competition with unexpected sides like chicken rice and collard greens and crowd-pleasers like fish and chips.

    Chicken Fried Steak
    Babe's Chicken Dinner House, Carrollton
    All Texans take their chicken fried steak with some degree of seriousness. We dare say this eatery — which originated in Carrollton and has locations all over North Texas — takes it the most seriously of all, with plenty of family-style sides to round out the table.

    La Cocina, McAllen
    Former oil worker Evin Garcia combines tradition and innovation at this McAllen haunt. Enjoy everything from birria tacos dipped in a luscious consommé to an octopus version served with traditional al pastor fixings like onion, cilantro, and grilled pineapple.

    Elotes Fanny, Austin + North Texas
    With locations in Austin, Fort Worth, and Garland, this snack shop mini-chain knows everything about corn. Get it by the cob or in a cup, and make sure to douse it in the fiery homemade Atomic Salsa.

    Fried Chicken
    Dolli's Diner, Nacogdoches
    This diner does just about everything right, but the crowning jewel of the menu is undoubtedly the chicken fried chicken. It's served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and fresh veggies for color and is best enjoyed with funnel cake fries for dessert.

    Frito Pie
    RD's Burger, Cibolo
    This casual stop does its namesake dish with aplomb, but found pure magic in its Frito Pie. It's served with no muss or fuss and occasionally on the insanely delicious burger.

    Slovacek’s, West
    When it comes to kolaches, any bakery in West will serve the real deal. Relative newcomer Slovacek's gets the vote for its dozens of fruit flavors and creative klobasnek (the meaty cousin of kolaches) filled with boudin, pepperoni, or kraut.

    Royer's Round Top Cafe, Round Top
    No trip to Round Top's famous antique fair is complete without a stop at this darling cafe. "Pie Man" Bud Royer makes every visit sweet with pies like buttermilk, pecan, and the multi-fruit Troy's Junk Berry.

    L & J Cafe, El Paso
    This El Paso tradition is by a graveyard, sure, but don't let that deter you from enjoying its queso. The miraculous concoction made with roasted green chile, tomatoes, and onions is served with just-fried tostadas.

    Leal's Tamale Factory, Lubbock
    A Lubbock classic, this mainstay doesn't go for newfangled tamale flavors like sweet potato. Order pork, chicken, or cheese and rediscover the fundamentals.

    Viet-Cajun crawfish boils
    Crawfish & Noodles, Houston
    Who knows what James Beard-nominated chef Trong Nguyen puts in his secret sauce. What we do know is that it's one of the most intensely flavorful experiences in all of Houston.

    Texas knows no bounds when it comes to to where you can go (and eat). No matter where your next foodie adventure takes you, a Hilton hotel is waiting for you.

    With over 550 Hilton hotels spanning across the state of Texas, the possibilities to earn more while exploring the Lone Star State are endless.