Marissa Murdock takes the cake at Dessert Wars

By Megan Raab

On March 6, three Rider students competed for the title of Best Baker in Daly Dining Hall at the annual Dessert Wars. The dining hall was bouncing with music and sweets as three contestants presented an original sweet treat to the student body. For the sake of journalism, all dishes were sampled.

First was senior leadership and management Brandon Sanfilippo’s Death by Chocolate Cake. The three-tiered cake was served in a square slice on each plate. It was a very thick chocolate cake, closer to the consistency of a brownie. It had a creamy layer of chocolate buttercream frosting in the middle, with a smooth ganache on top. This cake was a chocolate lover’s dream. 

Sanfilippo’s recipe is special to him because it is his mother’s favorite type of cake.

“This recipe is the one that my sisters and I always make for my mom’s birthday every year. She loves chocolate,” Sanfilippo said. It is fitting that Sanfilippo would make a recipe for his mother in the contest, as she is the person who inspired his baking.

“I’ve probably been baking since about fifth grade. My mom taught me how to bake and I’ve always enjoy doing it,” he said.

The next recipe sampled was junior marketing major David Brooks’ Promiscuous Cheesecake Bars. This dessert featured a cookie dough base, with a smooth Oreo cheesecake and a salted caramel drizzle. The flavors combined perfectly in this sweet treat, making it a personal favorite.

Last was junior marine science major Marissa Murdock’s dessert, Grandma Copp’s Cream Puffs. This featured an outer pastry shell encasing a filling of vanilla pudding, covered in melted chocolate. The appearance was very nice, encouraging you to cut into the shell. The flavor combination felt like a new take on a traditional recipe.

Murdock’s take on cream puffs has a family history held in it.

“The recipe has been in my family for about four generations now. My great-grandma taught it to my grandma. My grandma then taught my mom, and then my mom taught me,” Murdock said.

The name itself carries a sense of family pride. 

“My mom and my aunts have always wanted to start up a bakery called ‘The Copp Shoppe’ and make more of our family recipes. While that dream hasn’t come true, my younger sister still said that The Copp Shoppe has its first award,” Murdock shared.

Further, Murdock’s reasons for entering the baking contest in the first place was inspired by a favorite family past-time. 

“To be honest, I submitted my family’s recipe because I go to the Philadelphia Flower Show every year with my parents and wanted free tickets. I never expected my dessert to be picked because it is a simple pastry,” she shared.

The “simple pastry” ended up being the perfect choice, as it won her first place in the bake off. Winning this competition meant much more to Murdock and her family than any of the many prizes she was awarded.

Junior marine science major Marissa Murdock poses with her dessert, Grandma Copp’s Cream Puffs, a recipe that made her the winner of this year’s competition.

“Winning meant a lot for not just me, but my family as well. The weekend before the competition my family lost my cousin Bobby. They had his funeral services the same day as Dessert Wars, so I was going to originally back out. However, my family told me that Bobby would have wanted me to make one of his favorite desserts and win. So I made up shirts for my cousin and I, calling ourselves ‘Bobby’s Bakers’ and just baked with him in mind. When I won, I felt like Bobby was smiling down on me,” Murdock shared. 

Not only was her cousin there with her, Murdock says that she felt her grandma’s presence in the kitchen with her as well. She said that making this recipe is her family’s way of keeping the legacy alive. Murdock’s family and the rest of the Rider community should be very proud of the baker’s accomplishments in this year’s Dessert Wars.

Published in the 3/11/2020 issue of The Rider News.

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