Alumna sees bake-off battle as chemistry at work

Katherine (Kleinwort) Hickman (‘10 food science), pictured on the left, recently joined Ames Cupcake Emporium’s Tawnya Zehr to compete in The Food Network’s bake-off show, Cupcake Wars.

Hickman, a native of St. Ansgar, Iowa, came to Iowa State University in 2007 after receiving her pastry and baking degree from Le Cordon Bleu College in Minneapolis, Minn.  An avid baker since childhood, Hickman enjoyed the challenge of baking.  “It’s chemistry at work,” Hickman says, “if even one thing is slightly off the entire outcome is affected.”

Hickman and Zehr were eliminated in the first round of Cupcake Wars, which aired June 30.  However, both competitors agreed the experience was worth the effort.

While a student at ISU in 2010, Hickman visited the Ames Cupcake Emporium, met Zehr, and the two entered in to an agreement which stands today—when she’s needed, Hickman helps out at the busy shop in the Main Street Cultural District of Ames. “She’s great,” says Zehr, “she knows her way around a kitchen, and can make decisions and problem solve without a lot of direction.”

According to Zehr, Hickman’s aptitude in the kitchen made her the obvious choice to help as the assistant baker on Cupcake Wars. Hickman noted the skills she learned at ISU proved helpful during the competition.  “Ingredient interaction and quality control are just a few things that helped me with Cupcake Wars,” says Hickman.

Since graduating from ISU in 2010, Hickman has worked in quality assurance. She is a quality assurance specialist for Advanced Analytical Technologies in Ames, a company that produces tools measuring the viability of DNA and RNA samples for sequencing and genotyping, checking RNA quality and quantity, and working with microsatellites.

Advanced Analytical Technologies customers include entities such as research facilities, hospitals, museums and agricultural companies. Hickman again credits the education she received at ISU for helping her advance to her current position.

“Biology, chemistry, food science and quality are all things I learned in college,” says Hickman.

Hickman’s episode of Cupcake Wars, “Taylor Dayne’s 80s Party,” is available to view for $1.99 on YouTube.