Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Iron Cupcake London Challenge VII – Christmas

I know I say it every time and am probably starting to sound like a stuck record, but – wow! We had 35 bakers entering a total of 42 varieties of cupcakes. When you consider that each entry is a minimum of 12, you’ll appreciate that the 150 attendees worked their way through over 500 cupcakes! That’s a lot of cupcakes…even by my standards!
This is only part of the room - there's no way we could fit everybody into one photograph!

Winner - Eloise’s Chocolate marshmallow coconut snowballs

It had to happen one day – Eloise is the first person to retain the title! She won last month with her delicious “Spice Girls” and won again!

This cupcake was an incredible piece of work - the chocolate sponge had an oozing fondant-style filling – just like the dessert; incredible to achieve such a distinction between the sponge and filling in a cupcake. The marshmallow topping was sticky and soft and sprinkled with coconut so that it sparkled just like sun on snow. It was heavenly.

I have to quote the comment that someone wrote on their voting slip: “it tasted like I was eating Christmas”. Nothing I can add to that!

Runner up - Caro’s “Ode to Panettone” with mulled orange curd and chestnut cream frosting

Caro’s entry was a most worthy runner up – the cupcake was not overly sweet and all the flavours burst through at different times. It was a very sophisticated tasting cake with lots of juicy fruit including cranberries and mixed peel to balance the spiced orange curd. The chestnut buttercream was lovely and subtle.

Third place - Siriket’s Orange and cranberry cupcake with orange frosting

What I most remember about Siriket’s cupcake is how the flavours remained so clean and distinct; the first hit was all orange and citrus zing then the cranberry cut through. It was extremely fruity and packed with fresh flavours. Orange works extremely well in buttercream too – it’s not something I’d tried before and was very impressed!

As it was Christmas Santa was on hand to give presents to bakers, as well as tucking into all the cupcakes (well, he has to fill out the famous red suit – he doesn’t achieve that by living on beans and pulses!). Santa had his special prize to award to his favourite cupcake of the night and he chose:

Mitsu’s “I’m dreaming of a white chocolate” Caramel and white chocolate cupcake

Mitsu has dazzled us all year with her vegan cupcakes but this one was definitely her masterpiece! The smooth white chocolate frosting dissolved in your mouth and the squidgy caramel cake was deliciously indulgent. It has to be said that Santa returned to this cupcake and polished it off, even though he still had a further 30 or so to taste – I think that says it all!

Those were the cupcakes with the most votes on the night; now let’s take a look through all the other lovely entries – be prepared to be stunned by the artistry, imagination and sheer skill on display.

Ros’s “CCCCC” i.e. Christmas chocolate chestnut cranberry cupcake

Ros’s vegan entry (she used soya milk and margarine) comprised of a positively juicy chocolate chestnut cake containing home made cranberry jelly topped off with chestnut icing. The flavours worked so well together and I can’t recommend chestnut in cupcakes highly enough – it’s a lovely flavour!

Ros’s Candy cane cupcakes

The peppermint sponge was swirled with red to echo the design of a candy cane – it looked so pretty. The cream cheese frosting was topped with crushed candy canes which provided some crunch and a great contrast to the frosting.

Kelly’s Devil food cupcake with cranberry filling and peppermint frosting

How pretty does Kelly’s cupcake look? It’s like a mini tree with glistening snowflakes. The rich chocolate sponge and gentle peppermint was a delicious combination. We all went back for a second forkful of this one!

Karen’s Gingerbread houses with brandy buttercream

Karen’s gingerbread was dark, intense and sticky – just the way I like it! I have such a weakness for gingerbread and this did not disappoint! The brandy buttercream came through after the ginger and the flavours were both warming and perfect for winter. Each cupcake was iced with the name of a famous house (in case you’re wondering, Soho House is a famous private members’ club in …you’ve guessed it… Soho!)

Robyn’s Orange, mulled wine spice and cranberry cupcakes with orange frosting

It was the little ‘pops’ of cranberry in your mouth that I loved most about Robyn’s entry. The sponge was soft and the cranberries exploded with juice and flavour when bitten into. We all agreed that the cranberry and orange combination had a sweet and sour vibe and it worked really well. The little sugared cranberry decoration is so cute and sparkled when the light hit it.

Teresa’s Coconut cupcakes with iced coconut

Teresa’s entry was certainly one for the coconut fanatics i.e. me! The lovely soft coconut sponge was topped with an indulgent coconut frosting and marzipan star. The sprinkles somehow made the frosting crispy and creamy at the same time – delightful!

Sasha’s Christmas cake with orange and brandy icing

Sasha’s vegan friendly cupcake had a lovely nutty texture to it and the orange flavouring was delicate and fragrant. The little piped rosette of brandy icing looked so cute and provided just the right kick of booze.

Shannon’s Peppermint mocha cupcakes

Shannon’s sponge provided a strong hit of coffee and wasn’t too sweet – this greatly pleased my co-eater Jasmin who often finds coffee cakes overly sweet. The mint came through later and freshened your mouth. The crushed candy cane topping provided some lovely crunch and the whole cupcake worked beautifully in both flavour and textures.

Shannon’s Mulled wine and white chocolate cupcakes

The creamy smooth frosting on these was delightful – I could have eaten a dessert bowl full of it! It’s funny because I don’t like the drink mulled wine, but the spices, when used in baking, are great! This was a beautiful cupcake – very tasty and the little sprinkling of nuts on the top was a perfect accompaniment.

Anastasia’s Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Anastasia’s red velvet provided just the right hit of cocoa and the cream cheese frosting was lovely and smooth and not overly sweet, so the cheese retained some acidity. The Christmas tree piping on top was simple and effective. I love that so many people chose trees for their decoration yet each was so different.

Chloe’s “Snowconut” tropical cupcakes

Chloe’s coconut sponge contained macadamia nuts and dried tropical fruit mix; this meant that little nuggets of tropical flavours burst in your mouth with each bite. The coconut crusted over the buttercream gave some extra texture and the little silver balls gave some crunch.

Chloe’s Pear and cranberry cupcakes with brandy buttercream

Pear and cranberry is not a combination I’ve had before but I loved it – the pear provides the sweetness which is offset by the tarter cranberry. The brandy buttercream was rich and creamy. The whole look was topped off by a cute little sugar paste snowman – I particularly like the jaunty angle of his carrot nose!

Jenny’s Clementine and chocolate cupcakes

The chocolate and Clementine sponge was topped off with what Jenny called a “plain buttercream”. However, this simply doesn’t do justice to how whipped and fluffy it tasted! Topped off with a slice of chocolate orange I think you’ll agree that this is a rather elegant cupcake.

Amanda’s Stollen cupcake with brandy butter

Amanda’s Stollen cupcakes were rich with raisins and had a lovely satisfying texture. The creamy buttercream was light and whipped and so indulgent! As someone not that gifted with cake decorating I had to comment on the snowflake Amanda has crafted from royal icing and edible glitter – it’s so perfect!

Lizzie’s Stollen cupcakes with royal icing

Lizzie’s rich stollen cupcake was packed with spices and balanced beautifully with the sweet royal icing. The sprinkling of gold stars was most effective as they caught the light and shimmered like the real thing (but better, because most of us don’t go around eating real gold!)

Amanda’s “Surprise under the tree” chocolate and cherry cupcakes

There is so much to say about Amanda’s second entry. The chocolate and cherry cake was moist and flavoursome and the homemade marshmallow topping, covered in thick green chocolate was a veritable carnival of tastes and textures. The thick chocolate cracked satisfyingly to reveal the sticky marshmallow. And that “surprise under the tree”? A home made cherry brandy liqueur that oozed lush booze on being cut! Wonderful!

Mara’s Peppermint bark cupcakes

Mara had to explain to me what peppermint bark was – I’ve never encountered it before. Apparently it is a chocolate and peppermint candy. The chocolate sponge was so soft and rich; the peppermint came through later and left your mouth feeling fresh and tingly.

Hannah’s Walnut and Bailey’s cupcakes

Walnut is amongst my favourite nuts for baking and Hannah’s sponge was nutty and rich. The walnut worked so well with the warming Baileys buttercream. Hannah tinted the buttercream to make it look more Christmassy and I think it looks very pretty set against the dinky red star.

Fiona’s Spiced eggnog cupcakes with bourbon buttercream

Fiona made her own eggnog for these cupcakes and boy was it worth it! The eggnog gave the cupcake a grown-up custard taste and the bourbon buttercream accented the warming hit of alcohol. The simple yet elegant decoration was not only attractive but also gave little pockets of crunch to the cupcake.

Nikki’s Cupcake mince pies with whipping cream buttercream

This appealed to my greedy side – a cupcake in pastry! The crumbly pastry revealed a mincemeat flavoured cupcake, all topped off with the lightest, most whipped buttercream you’ve ever tasted.

Betty’s Cranberry and cinnamon cupcakes with vanilla and cinnamon buttercream

This challenge educated me in the world of cranberries. Previously I’ve only ever had cranberries either in a Cosmopolitan or as cranberry sauce with turkey. I’d never had them in cakes or desserts. The cranberry and cinnamon pairing in Betty’s cupcake was divine. Paired with such rich, smooth buttercream it was really rather lovely!

Betty’s Chocolate mud cupcake with cranberry sauce and Viennese truffle

The rich chocolate hit first then the tarter cranberry, finally the truffle. I’m not sure whether there was alcohol in the truffle but I certainly got a taste of something! The pretty little white chocolate snowflake looks beautiful against the chocolate buttercream…chocolate on chocolate is alright with me!

Rose’s Gingerbread cupcakes with chocolate frosting

The warming ginger held its own against the chocolate buttercream giving a lovely comforting taste. The top of the cupcake was round and glittery just like a Christmas bauble and that little loop poking out the top? Why it’s the loop to hang the bauble on the tree…not that it would make it that far in my house – I’d eat it as soon as I unpacked it!

Mellissa’s “Oh Christmint tree” chocolate and mint cupcakes

Mellissa’s vegan friendly mint frosting made a very cute Christmas tree particularly with the red tinsel icing and coloured baubles. The minty tree sat atop a rich chocolate cupcake. Chocolate and mint is one of those heaven-sent combinations – it’s never anything less than lovely.

Tom’s Pear, cranberry and allspice cupcakes with Christmas penguin

Sweet pear works so well in cakes as the juices ooze into the surrounding sponge giving a beautiful fragrance as well as texture and taste. The hit of spice was beautifully balanced. I have to point out Tom’s ingenuity regarding the penguin – it’s a chocolate brazil nut! How clever is that? I’d like to say that he was so cute we couldn’t eat him….I’d like to say that….but…..

Davina’s Chocolate cupcakes

It was chocolate all the way for Davina’s Rudolph in cupcake form – chocolate sponge, chocolate buttercream, chocolate antlers! The sponge was soft and crumbly and had a lovely strong hit of cocoa. Teamed with the rich, smooth buttercream it was a hit! And who knew that Rudolph’s nose was red because it was a glace cherry?

Heather’s Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Heather produced a perfect red velvet – rich, moist with a lovely cocoa flavour. The cream cheese frosting was silky and indulgent. I particularly loved Heather’s decoration, it’s so bling and Christmassy – the berry is a cherry smothered in edible glitter, and the holly leaves are rice paper.

Prema’s Oat, golden syrup and chestnut cupcakes with Satsuma jam and brandy buttercream

I have to start with the buttercream – is there a more Christmassy colour? It was also smooth and whipped with a lovely hint of brandy. The cupcake was extremely moist and the chestnuts and water chestnuts added an extra layer of flavour. The Satsuma jam was also a distinct flavour and I’m always impressed when there are so many flavours to a cupcake yet you can clearly taste each one – Prema judged this recipe perfectly.

Gill’s Vanilla snowmen with coconut snow

Sometimes you just look at a cupcake and go “Awwwwww”; I think this is such a cupcake. How cute is that snowman? His body is a marshmallow and his head a chocolate. I love the way that Gill sprinkled coconut over the light and airy frosting – it adds a lovely complexity to the texture. I noticed that several baker’s did that and it really works.

Gill’s “Bring us some figgy pudding” fig cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream and candied hazelnuts

I’ve never had fig cupcakes before and wonder why as they are terrific! Everyone at my table made the same comment – they loved the crunch that the fig gave the sponge; I think it must’ve been the tiny seeds. The cinnamon buttercream added some lovely subtle spice to the overall flavour and kudos to anyone who candies their own hazelnuts!

Andy’s Royal mincemeat cupcakes with brandy butter frosting

The sponge contained mincemeat and the raisins were so juicy they popped in your mouth, exploding with sweetness. I think Andy was generous with the brandy (good man!) as the warmth grew in your mouth and throat in a very pleasant way. The marzipan holly had a lustre to it that caught the light and I love that he chose gold berries instead of red – it works with his colour scheme!

Lynda’s Mini Christmas cakes with royal icing

All the elements of Christmas cake but packed into a cupcake – it was all there – juicy fruit, brandy, dark rich sponge. The royal icing disc on top was sweet and thick and added an extra dimension to the textures of the cake. I think Lynda wins the “dinkiest holly leaves” award – they’re so sweet!

Sambal’s Vanilla and mincemeat cupcakes with brandy butter cream cheese frosting

Sam made his own mincemeat for these cupcakes and it was well worth the effort as it produced a succulent sponge. The cream cheese frosting was extremely soft and smooth and felt just lovely to eat – like eating velvet! A single cranberry and some gold sprinkles produced a classy looking cake.

Kate’s Chocolate mint cupcakes

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – anyone who puts a whole chocolate on top of a cupcake is ok with me! The chocolate cake and mint frosting were a happy union – as one of the eaters at my table said, “this is like a really, really, really good After Eight!”

Suzanne’s Mince pie cupcakes with brandy buttercream

If I asked you to close your eyes and picture a Christmas cupcake I think you might picture Suzanne’s entry – it’s so elegant and sophisticated but is unmistakably festive. The sponge with mincemeat was so tasty – and I say that as someone not overly fond of mincemeat. We really were spoiled for buttercreams as this was yet another whipped, light, smooth delight.

Marie’s Jamaican Christmas cupcakes

Marie would only reveal a certain amount of detail as to this recipe as it is her mother’s recipe and a family secret. Here’s what I managed to find out: it contained lots of rum and spices! I adore rum in any guise and it made this cake moist and rich. The fondant icing decoration was so pretty and looks like a Christmas pud!

Marie’s “Snowflake surprise” almond cupcakes with vanilla and coconut frosting

The soft sponge and whippy frosting were both divine as was the beautiful snowflake topper but what was the secret? It was a gold wrapped chocolate coin! I’m assuming that Marie slotted it in after the cakes were baked as it was in pristine condition. This was a very clever idea and my nephew’s face when it was revealed was a picture!

Hannah’s Christmas word cupcakes

Each of Hannah’s cakes had a festive word iced onto it; I’m always dead impressed by people who can write so nicely in icing! The cupcake summed up the flavours of Christmas: fruits, peel, spice and nuts. It was a lovely cupcake to finish on!

So there you are – all 42 cupcakes. I’m sure you’ll agree we had a delicious array of designs and flavour. The ingenuity of our bakers is quite stunning!

That draws Iron Cupcake London 2009 to a close; thank you to all the bakers and eaters who have joined us on this wonderful journey and seen our little competition grow and grow and grow!

My heartiest thanks must go to my dedicated team of helpers who have assisted from the very first competition in May. Some have helped out when possible, others have been there for every challenge. I couldn’t run this event without them.
Thank you Paul, Dave, Jasmin, Max, Soo, Nola and Tina. I only hope that your services are available for 2010…at the current rates (i.e. free!)

All these gorgeous photos were taken by, and remain the property of, Dave Shipman. They are reproduced here with his kind permission (what can I say? He's a very nice man!). If you wish to use any of these pictures please email first. Thanks.

Happy Christmas everyone and wishing you a fabulous new year. I hope to see you all when Iron Cupcake London returns 1st February with the theme of LOVE.


Katie said...

Looks like another roaring success! What a lot of gorgeous entries and each one so wonderfully different. Merry Christmas to you too!

GeNiaL said...

Wasn't able to make it this round coz of a tummy bug but well done to you and your team for organising this! Keep it up. Will definitely try to make the next one. Hugz. Merry Christmas and have an awesome bright new year Sam :D

Joy said...

I can't tell you how much I enjoy watching and reading these events. I love the creativity and the fun of sharing. I am so impressed at how it is growing. I guess it will settle down soon or will it take over the word? It will be fun watching to see!

Lisa said...

I love the wee snowmen and penguin. And the seasonal flavors are to die for! This is so much fun to follow and you are doing such a tremendous job.

Cakelaw said...

OMG - what an amazing array of colours and flavours - fabulous! I adore the brazil nut penguin - I wanna make some of those.

silverpebble said...

Woweee! I need a lie down. they look absolutely fantastic. I am ravenous now x

Elise said...

Adore them all ! Happy New Year

Elthan marcotte said...

Amazing images and tempting a lot.