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Cupcake Winners Share Recipe For Success With Students

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
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TARRANT COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) – Bakery owners and sisters Sonjii Jones and Anyatta Nicole Ward have a few things in common on their resumes. They both graduated from Trimble Tech High School in Fort Worth, they both own and work at Sinsational Cakes in North Richland Hills and they just won the nationally televised “Cupcake Wars” on Food Network, a show pitting top bakers against one another in a timed battle with very strict judging.

Monday morning, the two were again in a kitchen outside of their bakery. But, they weren’t competing. They returned to Trimble Tech to share their recipe for success with the school’s culinary arts program. “Set goals,” Ward told the class. “Make sure you accomplish them.” Her sister finished the thought saying, “It’ll take a lot of work. It’s not easy at all.”

But this is not a classroom with students at desks and teachers with chalk covered hands.

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This culinary arts class has state of the art ovens, stoves and grills. Their are stainless steel working surfaces throughout the room and pots and pans are suspended from large racks around the room, ready for use.

The teachers, in this case Ward and Jones, cook as they speak, occasionally interrupting a thought with an update on they’re doing. “This is a savory cupcake so we’ll use cream cheese,” one of the sisters said.

The students stand at attention in kitchen uniforms and chef’s hats, eyes glued to the professional movements of the guest speakers. The kids occasionally jot down notes for the cupcake recipe. But, when they’re not writing the pens are down, hands folded and eyes glued on the cooking.

The sisters didn’t have a program like this to help them break into the business when they graduated in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Ward told the class she’d been working at other jobs when she applied for a job as a cake decorator at a grocery store. Her mother knew how to decorate cakes, but Ward did not.

“And so I rang home and I told my mom, ‘Mom! You’ve got to teach me how to decorate cakes because I got this job and they think I know how to decorate cakes,’” Ward told the class. “But, she never did. She didn’t have time because she was a school teacher.”

At the time, the sisters followed the job path laid out for them by the courses available at the school. “I was either going to be a teacher or a cosmetologist,” Ward said. “Because that is what was here in trade school.” As for Jones she said, “I was in customer service for 15 years. There was no way I thought I was going to be a cook. Especially winning Cupcake Wars and coming back to my Alma Mater!”

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As the two bake, the students are peppered with the ingredients for success.

“You really have to have a passion for it,” one sister said. “Make sure you get compensated for what you’re worth,” the other chimed in.

“It makes me so happy, because I know I have an opportunity to do that too!” exclaimed senior Mayra Jimenez, who dreams of one day being the owner of a bakery or restaurant. “Hopefully, I can be that one day.”

Junior Cameron Sanders said he learned, “That anything is possible. And if you have a dream and a goal pursue it because you can do anything.”

The students are rewarded at the end with a freshly baked example of their award-winning cupcakes and an appreciation of opening their minds to creative uses of unique ingredients (the cupcakes use butter, baking soda, chives and chopped cherries while the cream cheese icing has honey and hot sauce blended into it and is topped with candied ham).

But more importantly, they learn their class is a leg up in life and one they should not take for granted.

“I hope we were able to make a big, big influence in their life,” Ward said optimistically. “Like we told them, ‘never give up.’”

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