I am proud to say that I had a little taste of every entry and have never had my taste buds dazzled and delighted in such a satisfying way. The only tough part was picking which three to vote for!
Everyone attending is given a voting slip on which they can vote for their favourite three cupcakes. Voting duties are (rightly) taken seriously and the results are always close. But winners there must always be (as Yoda probably didn’t ever say) and here are our top three:
1st place – Eloise’s Eton mess cupcakes
This was a stunner and richly deserved being the winner on the night. Before we even get to the taste I want you to look at the dinky little strawberry and pretty flower on the top. Aren’t they cute? Eloise made them! The cupcake was topped with crushed crisp meringue mixed with an almost jam-like strawberry sauce – it had so many flavours and textures that it practically danced around your mouth!
Here's our winner Eloise:
2nd place – Heather’s Pumpkin pie cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting
This cupcake is as American as Heather, its creator i.e. very! The pumpkin gave the cupcake a beautifully rich and moist texture. The buttercream was a perfect match for the pumpkin; I’m not usually a fan of cream cheese frostings but I loved the way the cinnamon took the acidic edge off the cream cheese so you had a heavenly smooth texture teamed with the warmth of spice.
3rd place – Amanda’s Lemon meringue pie cupcakes
The winner of Challenge II continued her rich vein of form placing third this time. Amanda made her own lemon curd for this cupcake and it had that intensely zingy flavour that only good lemon curd has. The meringue was crisp and light and I could’ve eaten a ton of it!
I’m sure Amanda won’t mind me telling you a little story…she arrived with her cupcakes in the cupcake courier she won in Challenge II but I was concerned to see the container done up with sellotape and knotted ribbons. Hoping that her prize was ok I asked her about it and she told me why she had bound it up so. The night before, she had dreamed that she was transporting her cupcakes to ICL and accidentally kicked the fastenings and all her cupcakes had fallen out. Sensing that this may be some terrible omen she decided to ensure that no disasters would befall her creations, hence the sellotape, ribbons etc! ICL competitors all take cupcakes and their welfare VERY seriously…….
Here are our top three bakers of the night - from left to right - Heather, Eloise and Amanda:
So, those were our “podium places”, now feast your eyes on all our other gorgeous entries:
Emma’s Tiramisu cupcakes
Emma’s sponge was so light with a subtle but unmistakable tiramisu flavour. The topping was whipped and airy and I would happily fall face first into it! My comments perhaps mean more when I add that I don’t actually like coffee, but I could have eaten lots of these (it’s not just me being odd – another coffee-hating Eater on the night said exactly the same!). It’s one of the things I love so much about ICL – in order to do a proper summary I have to taste everything and that sometimes means trying flavours I would normally avoid; it’s surprising just how often these flavours delight me!
Elaine’s Profiterole cupcakes
Elaine’s entry was a cupcake with soft, light and creamy profiteroles on top…what’s not to love? The chocolate sauce was sinfully dark and rich and had that glossiness that just screams “eat me”! Beautiful presentation and executed perfectly. I would happily eat one (more like three!) of these every day for the rest of my life!
Elaine’s Banoffi cupcakes
I adore cake – I think you might have realised that – but don’t really have the skills for dainty decorations and sugarcraft. I’m always in awe of people who do – just look at the pretty little chocolate flower on the top of the cupcake; made by Elaine, of course! The banana flavour was subtle rather than overpowering and left a lovely taste in the mouth; the sort of taste that makes you think, “I need more of that”. The buttercream was light and smooth and complimented the little disc of banana on top perfectly.
Karen’s Caramel apple cupcakes with custard buttercream
Apple always makes a cupcake deliciously moist and flavoursome; when teamed up with a smooth custard buttercream, as Karen did here, it’s always going to be a hit with me! I particularly love the clean lines of the piped buttercream and that inviting custard colour. The cupcake was soft and so comforting to eat.
Alisha’s Cinnamon roll cupcakes
Now these were a revelation to me! A cupcake that tasted like a cinnamon roll. The texture was midway between cupcake and roll and the strong cinnamon flavour was heavenly. The sweet stickiness that any good bun needs was present and I can see myself making these if someone (Alisha, hint hint?) was kind enough to share the recipe.
Kayla’s Vanilla ice cream cone cupcakes
These were a huge hit on the night – the cupcake was baked into an ice cream cone then topped with light vanilla buttercream that tasted EXACTLY like ice cream. It messed with my mind because I was looking at buttercream but my mouth was tasting ice cream. Such beautiful presentation and perfect for a summertime dessert competition!
Katy’s Rhubarb crumble and custard cupcakes
Rhubarb crumble and custard – it doesn’t get any more English than that! I adore rhubarb so was delighted that we had an entry showcasing it. The crumble was delicate and gave a lovely bit of crunch to the cupcake. The rhubarb was sweet and tangy – often people serve rhubarb either too tart or too sweet but Katy judged it perfectly.
Kelly’s Caramel apple cupcakes
Kelly brought in these beautiful caramel apple cupcakes and I commented “ooh, they look just like toffee apples”, only to be told that’s exactly what they were! Seems like the old “two countries divided by a common language” situation reared it’s head. So, if you’re from North America these are caramel apple, if you’re a Brit they’re toffee apple! What I loved about these was the way that the crunched M&M topping gave the crispy sensation you get on biting into a toffee apple. The sweet, sticky caramel was quite delightful too.
Karen’s Chocolate and vanilla cheesecake cupcakes
I think you can probably just make it out in the photo but the vanilla cheesecake is sandwiched between two layers of chocolate cupcake sponge creating a beautiful stripy look. I love it when you eat something and it almost confuses you because it’s not what you expect – the look was pure cupcake but the taste was soft, smooth, creamy cheesecake. It was the sort of cupcake that, on having your first taste, you just have to say, “mmmmm cupcake”, Homer-style!
Helen’s Lemon meringue pie with ginger crunch cupcakes
This wasn’t a flavour combination I’d tried before. I’ve seen ginger cake recipes with lemon icing but Helen’s cupcakes combined the flavours in a novel way. The flavours, while complimenting each other, managed to stay distinct. The clean zing of lemon hit first and was then replaced by a lovely gingery warmth.
Anna’s Banoffi cupcakes
The combination of rich bananas and soft creamy buttercream is always a winner and I loved the caramel drizzled over the top – as if any more luxury was needed! The presentation was beautiful; Anna took the ‘butterfly top’ style of cupcake but made it elegant and chic looking.
Abi’s Tiramisu cupcakes
Abi’s cupcakes were certainly the daintiest of the night and nestled seductively in their little paper cases! The ‘double casing’ was very effective as they gently rustled as you ate the cupcake. These tasted like coffee Revels which, I’m sure you will agree, is a wonderful achievement!
Fiona’s Croquembouche cupcakes with vanilla custard and almonds
What can you do other than gasp when you set eyes on Fiona’s stunning concoction? Each one of the tiny profiteroles was hand piped, then filled with vanilla custard, then carefully stacked to form this amazing dome of delights. The choux pastry was soft and covered with crunchy caramel which created lovely textures in your mouth. All I can say is that I would happily let these ‘croque’ in my ‘bouche’ anytime!
Fiona’s Banana split cupcakes
Banana and chocolate is such a comforting combination. Fiona's banana and chocolate chip cupcake was lovely on its own but topped with soft buttercream and foam bananas it was elevated to an even loftier height! Ahhh, foam bananas – people should put these on cakes far more often!
Amanda’s Banoffi pie cupcakes
Amanda really went to town on these and I almost ran out of space to write down everything they contain! But here goes: banoffi pie filled with pastry cream and banana, topped with cream cheese frosting, dulce de leche, white chocolate and caramel Ganache. Are you starting to sense just how delicious these might be? I hope so! The overriding texture was softness and it worked perfectly with the flavours, which complimented each other so well that it was like eating a cuddle.
Claire’s Lemon meringue pie cupcakes
Our third lemon meringue pie entrant and I loved how they all looked so different. Claire’s meringue topping was crisp and sweet, balancing perfectly with the subtly tart lemon. Your mouth felt fresh and tingly after eating these cupcakes – like you’d done something healthy! Alas, I don’t think eating cupcakes has been acknowledged – yet - as part of a good dental hygiene routine by the British Dental Association. Perhaps if we got a petition going?
Trisha’s Death by chocolate
Trisha’s gooey, soft, rich chocolate cupcakes were out of this world! They were so dark and moreish and the shard of white chocolate created a beautiful visual contrast. The first thing that everyone did on picking up one of these was to remove the shard and eat it, closely followed by the little hat of sponge sitting on top of the buttercream filling. Death by chocolate…what a nice way to go!
Amal’s Pineapple upside down cupcakes
Third challenge in and Amal remains our sole male entrant! He titled these cupcakes “The Cupcakes of Dorian Gray” but when I asked if they were Dorian or the picture in the attic I only got an enigmatic smile in response! I adore pineapple in cakes – it makes the sponge positively juicy and tastes tropical. Juicy sponge, tangy sweet pineapple and soft icing…three things that make me very happy!
Molly’s Eton mess cupcakes
These really ‘popped’ in your mouth. The combination of little chunks of fresh strawberry nestled amongst the crushed meringue was both a triumph of taste and texture. I also loved Molly’s presentation of topping each cupcake with the top of a strawberry.
Shazia’s ‘Inspired by Trifle’ cupcakes
Poor Shazia only just made it to the competition as she was held up in traffic. Everyone was delighted that she persevered, otherwise we would have had a dessert competition without any trifle! The soft jammy sponge and hundreds and thousands topping conjured up every trifle ever enjoyed at birthday parties – I thought it was a very clever interpretation of a classic!
So there you have it – all twenty three cupcakes! I’m sure you’ll agree it was an amazing selection of goodies. I have to echo my nephew's sentiments. When we all sat down at a table with one of each cupcake to try, he looked at me and said, “this is all of my dreams come true”!
It was such a busy night and there were so many cupcakes to taste….it all got a bit much for some….
As always I need to say a HUGE thank you to my helpers on the night, without whom the event simply could not happen. So thanks to Paul, Max, Dave, Nola and Soo – you are all stars!
Thanks must also go to all the bakers who spend such a lot of time producing beautiful cupcakes, and thanks to the eaters. Bakers and eaters need each other – each would be miserable without the other!
All photos are the property of the very lovely and talented Dave Shipman and are reproduced here with his kind permission.