Cupcake Confidence

For the first time in WFISD history, a Culinary Arts student competes at State bakeoff battle; while senior Jessica Bivona didn’t win, she did learn. Her lessons leave a lasting impact on the culinary program and the students who will follow.


Anh Tran, Kelise Cunningham, Kirsten Morath, Cy Coomer, and Ni’Osha Brown rushed to set up the table and get the gear ready for Jessica Bivona. After they finished, they stood by to encourage and silently cheer her on. Everything necessary for a kitchen except for an oven was made ready for use.

Jessica poured the cupcake batter and prepared the oven.

As the cupcakes baked, Jessica set up the decorations for the cupcakes: a picture frame, several candlesticks, rose petals, and several coaster-like items inset with rhinestones.

Three hours later, Jessica  was ready to present her entry of almond cupcakes covered in salted caramel buttercream.

Jessica earned the chance to compete in the State Cupcake Battle after placing second at Regionals. Five students and her instructor Deliese Nusser accompanied her to Porter, Texas for the competition, the first attended by a WFISD student. Jessica’s road to state began before she arrived at Rider.

“I’ve been baking since I was little,” Jessica said. “I started by helping my dad bake cookies.”

Jessica began baking when she was 9. She has made cakes and other treats for her youth group, her church, engagement parties, preschool bake sales, and various other parties and events. Culinary arts has developed Jessica from a once shy girl to an outgoing and confident leader, Nusser said.

“[Baking] kind of helps to clear my head or calm me down,” Jessica said.

Jessica enjoys baking because it gives her time to just be herself, she said. She can dance and sing while she cooks and there is nobody there to tell her she can’t. While she is creating delicious delicacies, she has the freedom to do whatever she wants and with few boundaries.

“Some people play sports,” Jessica said. “I cook.”

For competitions leading to state, the bakers make the cupcakes before the competition. Those same cupcake recipes were made for state as well.

Competitors bring decorations for their presentation and their own table. They can walk around examining other competitor’s creations while waiting for the results of the contest.

For state, the cupcakes are baked at the competition’s location.

That changed things for Jessica and led to a cupcake collapse.

The school hosting the competition had convection ovens which Jessica had little practice with, and they did not turn on the air conditioning, which caused everyone’s icing to melt.

Jessica was disappointed in her performance at state because it made her feel inexperienced. She knew she could make the cupcakes, and make them well, but she was unable to do so.

Still, Jessica should be proud, Nusser said.

“She was our first culinary arts student, first Rider student, first WFISD student, to go to state,” Nusser said.

And while Jessica didn’t win at state, she does have some sweet advice for the future culinary arts students who will hopefully follow in her footsteps.

“You can think you have as much practice or experience as you need, but you have to roll with the punches sometimes,” Jessica said.