Election-themed treats replace ballots at local bakery

By: Cortney Casey | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 30, 2012

 Jessica Worobec, co-owner of Mannino’s Bakery, displays the Sterling Heights-based shop’s election-themed cookies. The bakery keeps a running tally of the number of cookies and cupcakes sold supporting each candidate, with the results posted regularly on a sign above the counter.

Jessica Worobec, co-owner of Mannino’s Bakery, displays the Sterling Heights-based shop’s election-themed cookies. The bakery keeps a running tally of the number of cookies and cupcakes sold supporting each candidate, with the results posted regularly on a sign above the counter.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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As the workers at Mannino’s Bakery have learned, a mouthful of cupcake isn’t enough to stifle a political debate.

In fact, this time of year, it’s more likely to encourage one.

For the third time, the Sterling Heights-based shop is whipping up thousands of election-themed cookies and cupcakes to whet the appetite of the politically savvy sweet-tooth.

Nancy Mannino — who co-owns the bakery with husband John, daughter Jessica Worobec and Jessica’s husband, Jonathan, the head baker — said she prepped staff members who’ve come on board since the last election on what to expect.

“We’re going to warn you now: People actually get into debates in the bakery. Stay out of it, don’t give your opinion,” she laughed.

Bordered in red, white and blue sprinkles, the chocolate chip cookies come with either red or blue chocolate frosting and the corresponding candidate’s name written in script.

The white butter cream-frosted cupcakes, available in yellow or chocolate batter, are adorned with blue or red sprinkles and elephant or donkey edible fondant decals.

They’re displayed beneath a sign bearing the images of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, along with a running total of the “votes,” based on the number of each cookie/cupcake type sold. As of Oct. 18, Romney was ahead, 174 to 117.

The promotion makes for an especially animated crowd in Mannino’s lobby, as patrons share their political preferences between bites.

“We had one little squabble — these two older gentlemen got into it,” laughed Worobec. “The one guy wouldn’t leave until the other guy finished buying his cupcakes because he wanted to make sure he bought one more than the other guy. It’s funny. We get some good stories to talk about at night, that’s for sure.”

Especially on presidential debate days, she said, “some people will totally get into it, and we’re not allowed to talk politics behind the counter, so of course we can’t answer back, but yeah, they’ll go on and on.”

Worobec said she’s also seen “quite a few” employees from the nearby Ford Motor Co. plant purchase treats specifically to play practical jokes on co-workers.

“So, like, if they’re die-hard Obama, they’ll get like six Romney to put on their desk, just to rile them up,” she said.

This is the third election cycle in which Mannino’s has produced the election-themed sweets. The first year, Worobec noted, they had ones available for the third-party candidate, too, but the response was too lackluster to justify production in subsequent years.

Mannino’s largest orders this year have come from a pair of local elementary schools, where teachers intend to incorporate the sweet treats into pre-election lessons.

Darrin Millar, the reading consultant at Schwarzkoff Elementary, plans to bring in around 650 cupcakes for Nov. 2 festivities, inspiring his former colleague, fifth-grade teacher Leslie Kramer, to do the same a few miles away at Havel Elementary.

Millar said he used the cupcakes to generate electoral enthusiasm at Magahay Elementary in 2004 and 2008, with much success.

Kids purchase a red or blue cupcake based on the party they support, generating the popular vote. Each classroom is assigned to a U.S. state, and its tabulations are used to determine the outcome of the electoral votes.

A student then ceremoniously files the votes for his or her classroom’s “state,” with the festivities broadcast over in-classroom TV. The progress is tracked via an interactive map that turns red and blue as the “states” register their votes.

“It’s really neat because they hear their parents talking about this at home,” said Millar, who’s particularly fascinated by the election process as a native Canadian who became a U.S. citizen five years ago. “Any time you can have a social studies lesson with frosting, it’s a win-win.”

Mannino’s Bakery is located at 4062 17 Mile, near Ryan, in Sterling Heights. For more information, call (586) 978-8166 or visit www.manninosbakery.com.

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