Wednesday, 3 February 2010

ICL Challenge VIII – Love

Love was certainly in the air – cupcake love! We had 35 bakers entering a total of 40 varieties of cupcakes. For the first time we split the competition into professional and amateur categories; the standard of both was dazzling.

The winners include some familiar faces, and some very new faces. That’s what I love about this competition – you can win it with your very first entry.

Thanks to everyone for providing such positive feedback about all our changes this month.

Incidentally, you may happen to notice some gorgeous sparkling table jewels in the photos – they were very generously provided by our new best friends at The Last Detail, the only place to go if you want beautiful party and table decorations.

Amateur winner - Tamara’s Chocolate oreo cupcake with cream cheese frosting

Tamara’s sponge was divine – a cross between the squidgiest, richest brownie you’ve ever tasted and light sponge, with a deep cocoa hit. We all loved the creamy smooth frosting – amazingly light for cream cheese.

A well deserved win – even more impressive as it was Tamara’s Iron Cupcake debut!

Amateur runner up - Emma’s Chocolate loveberry cupcake

Emma’s chocolate sponge contained thick raspberry sauce which made the sponge rich and moist. The raspberry buttercream was whipped and thick. On its own this would have been delicious but the brownie heart topper was a delightful addition.

Professional winner - Amanda’s Pink champagne and strawberry cupcake

Amanda’s pink champagne cupcake had a strawberry filling and was topped off with pink champagne frosting. What always impresses me with Amanda’s cupcakes is how she balances the alcohol – your taste buds get the boozy tingle but it’s never overpowering.

Professional runner up - Eloise’s “A night in Paris” cupcake

Now you’ll either interpret the title of Eloise’s entry with a snigger or a romantic “ahhh”. I leave to you!

This quite stunningly beautiful cupcake comprised of a chocolate sponge packed with juicy berry compote. The mega-smooth whipped frosting contained pink champagne.

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.

We’ll start with the amateurs…I almost feel embarrassed calling them amateur entries and I’m sure you’ll see why very shortly:

Ying’s Classic sponge and buttercream cupcake

Ying’s cupcake was a classic Victoria sponge and had all the gorgeous buttery crumbliness you’d hope for. It had a lovely light texture and smooth rich buttercream. How cute are the tiny heart sprinkles on top?

Caro’s “Bitter and blue” cupcakes

Caro focused more on the dark side of love for her entry – a lime and blueberry cupcake filled with homemade blueberry curd topped off with lime frosting and a chocolate heart. The blueberry curd was a revelation – gorgeous flavour and texture. Lime and blueberry wasn’t a flavour combination I’d had before but it really worked.

Carol’s Classic vanilla cupcake with love heart themed icing

Carol gave us a perfect sponge with deliciously sweet and smooth glace icing. She decorated each cupcake so that it represented a love heart – each had it’s own message!

Kelly’s Red velvet cupcake

Kelly made the most beautiful red velvet cupcake – it was rich and moist yet retained the crumbliness that my favourite sponges all have. The cream cheese frosting was light and smooth and I could have eaten the whole cupcake…ok, two…alright, alright, three of them! Loved Cupid’s arrow spearing the frosting – very romantic!

Mitsu’s Strawberry and custard cupcake

Mitsu’s vegan friendly cupcake comprised of a strawberry and custard sponge topped off with strawberry buttercream. One bite of this and I was transported back to my childhood days eating Strawberry fruitella sweets – that’s just what it tasted like. Yum!

Sasha’s “Lover’s double chocolate” cupcakes

Sasha’s vegan friendly cupcake had a wonderful hit of cocoa that was rich but not overly sweet. Her double chocolate sponge was teamed with vanilla and chocolate buttercream.

Fiona’s Rose cupcakes

Fiona’s delicate and fragrant cupcakes were beautifully judged, and visually stunning. She used distilled rose petals to create a scent and flavour that lingered but was also light. This was a big hit with my fellow eaters.

Charley’s “Love button” cupcakes

Charley’s chocolate and mint cupcakes were well balanced and topped off with chocolate buttercream. Their dinky size meant that you could tuck in and feel virtually guilt free!

Kelly’s chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate frosting

Let’s start with Kelly’s decoration – I hope you can see the pink heart but there were also chocolate letters “I” and “U” thus the decoration was “I heart U”. Very sweet! The cupcake had a lovely chocolaty taste that was rich and powerful – lovely!

Natalie’s “Love Potion” cupcakes

Natalie cleverly chose ingredients that spelled out the word “Love”. Liquor 43 (which is a vanilla liqueur), Oreos, Vanilla and Espresso. All the eaters at my table enjoyed the chocolate/coffee combination and then the hit of booze. If you notice in the photo there is a little tab hanging out the side of the envelope – pull on this and a romantic message was revealed!

Ros’s Tropical passion cupcakes

Ros teamed passion fruit and pineapple sponge with coconut and lime frosting. The passion fruit was an intense flavour and I loved the way the seeds popped and crunched in my mouth. The pineapple came through later and left a lovely tangy flavour – a lovely burst of sunshine for a cold winter’s evening!

Ros’s “It’s a rocky road to love” cupcakes

Ros’s second entry of the night was a rocky road masterclass. Her rocky road included chocolate, marshmallow, peanuts and cherries…and this was only the frosting! Underneath all that was a delicious sponge and it all married up to a tasty mix of different textures.

Charlotte’s Bitesize love cupcakes

Charlotte chose a buttery, rich Victoria sponge for her cupcake and topped it with a classic buttercream with chocolate orange sprinkles (in the shape of a heart – what else?) The sprinkles added extra texture and flavour and were a lovely addition.

Katie’s “Vanilla is love” cupcakes

Katie’s classic vanilla sponge was teamed with buttery icing. The flavours were clean and simple…and no worse for it! Dave, our ace cameraman, is a sucker for a classic sponge and icing combination and he loved this one.

Mara’s “Cherry kiss” cupcakes

Mara gave us a chocolate and cherry sponge (awesome flavour combination!) topped off with chocolate orange buttercream and a Hershey’s kiss (brought back from America!). It was a really interesting combination as your taste buds noticed the chocolate and orange first before the cherry cut through.

Nathalina’s “Princess Raspberry” cupcakes

If ever cupcakes looked like a Princess then Nathalina’s are the ones! A raspberry filled vanilla sponge was covered with buttercream and enveloped in marzipan. And they were dairy free. I love the way the glittery heart is surrounded in tiny sugar pearls – so pretty!

Francesca’s Pink lemon and chocolate cupcakes with raspberry buttercream

The sprinkles you can see on top of Francesca’s cupcake are actually fizzy. When you took a bite of the cake and the lemon flavour started fizzing so it was like eating lemonade – really clever…and tasty! We all took some and went “ooh” at pretty much the same time!

Rose’s Raspberry heart cupcakes

Rose made a delicious chocolate sponge and swirled raspberry cheesecake through it – this created a lovely texture and flavour. The chocolate cream cheese frosting tied in beautifully with the sponge.

Thuc’s “Groovy baby” cupcakes

Thuc took inspiration from Austin Powers for her vanilla and strawberry swirl cupcakes. The chocolate lettering says “groovy baby” and the frosting had marshmallows in it making it sticky and sweet. Austin would love them!

Thuc’s Strawberry and vanilla cupcakes

Thuc’s second entry of the night was a masterclass in flavour combining. We all loved the way the sweet, almost fragrant, strawberry gave way to the vanilla and the simple cream topping cleansed your palate for the next bite. These were very, very quaffable!

Kat’s “Passionate fruit” cupcakes

Kat’s cheesecake sponge was moist and close textured and the passion fruit worked so well with this texture. Passion fruit was a popular choice on the night and I was very impressed with the sharp fruitiness it adds to a cupcake.

Cat and Hannah’s “Berries and bubbles” cupcake

Cat and Hannah went for the decadent with this little beauty - the berries were strawberry and the bubbles were courtesy of champagne! The champagne frosting was topped with popping candy and it gave a satisfying scrunch to the cupcake.

Andy’s “Opposites attract” cupcakes

Opposite’s attract – no longer just a musical guilty pleasure (come on – you all remember the Paula Abdul video with the sinister dancing cartoon cat or wolf…whatever he was!). It’s now a cupcake! Andy made a cupcake of two halves – one half strawberry, one half chocolate. Chilli flavoured chocolate added quite a kick to the cake – you ended up with strong heat in the back of your mouth!

Clare’s Strawberry and vanilla cupcake with champagne glaze and butter icing

Clare’s soft buttery sponge had subtle, classy flavours which we all enjoyed immensely. I loved the heart sitting on top of the pink buttercream – such a simple but pretty decoration.

Shelley’s Chilli chocolate cupcakes

Debutante Shelley spoiled us with three different entries! The chocolate sponge had a gentle hit of chilli and the cream topping cleverly cut through this and calmed all the flavours down. It was a really well balance mix of flavours.

Shelley’s “Wine and roses” cupcakes

Shelley’s second entry was a heady combination of rose sponge and wine buttercream. All the eaters at my table enjoyed the fragrant rose and the subtle buttercream. The cake looked so pretty with the rose petal decoration.

Shelley’s Raspberry and white chocolate cupcakes

Shelley’s final entry of the night was a creamy white chocolate sponge housing little pockets of raspberry. The light whipped frosting was a joy to eat. I know that Shelley and her helpers travelled quite a way to join us for the evening so I hope they all enjoyed themselves and went home happy and full of cake!

Philip’s “My first cupcake”

Be prepared to say “awwww, bless”. When I asked Philip why he’d titled his entry so he replied it was because these were the first cupcakes he’d ever baked and he only baked them so he could enter the competition. All together now…3…2…1…..awww bless! Philip’s strawberry and vanilla cupcakes will hopefully be the start of a great baking hobby – he certainly has an eye for presentation…you have noticed how the strawberry has been shaped into a heart?

Sinead’s “Blind love” cupcakes

Sinead – and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this – gave her cupcakes this name because she felt they had come out a bit…well, ugly. Apart from the fact they haven’t, they tasted delicious. The marshmallow frosting had a gorgeous sticky texture but also managed to be creamy. It worked really well with the vanilla cupcake.

Gemma’s Gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

These are so cute – notice how Gemma’s gingerbread couple are actually one biscuit and how they each have little heart shaped buttons. I love detail like that! I’ve never had ginger with cream cheese frosting before and it was a revelation – it was so good!

Eva’s White chocolate mudcake with passion fruit frosting

Eva’s mudcake was yummy – it was rich and moist and dense and very, very easy to make a piggy of yourself over! The passion fruit cut through the richness and added some zingy fruitiness. A very well thought out combination.

Lydia’s Beetroot and white chocolate cupcakes

OK, put your beetroot prejudice aside because it really works! Beetroot is a sweet vegetable and it added real depth and moisture to this rich sponge. Lydia clearly knows her stuff with the piping bag – the intricate swirl design is very pretty indeed.

Those were the amateur entries; I suspect you can now see why I struggle with the word “amateur”. Here are the professionals:

Elaine’s “Love me tender” cupcakes

Elaine took her inspiration from Elvis for these delights: a banana and bacon cupcake with peanut butter Swiss meringue buttercream and glitter. It was one of my favourite moments of the evening when Max, my nephew, asked me how Elaine had made her cupcakes taste of bacon. “Because she put real bacon in them”, I replied. He could only gasp in response, “but…..that’s AMAZING!”

Elaine’s “Chocolate and roses” cupcakes

Elaine’s second entry matched a chocolate sponge with rose petal jam and then smothered it in chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream and a chocolate moulded rose. All the eaters at my table loved the subtle flavours and textures.

Lucy’s Red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate and pink champagne frosting

Lucy’s gorgeous red velvet cupcake was topped with light, whipped white chocolate and champagne frosting. The little sprinkles added some crunch and it was an immensely comforting creation to eat.

Kerry’s “Love bites” cupcakes

Kerry’s rich chocolate sponge contained a hit of chilli and was topped off with a chocolate and cream cheese buttercream. The chilli just set the back of your tongue tingling and the cream cheese calmed it down. It was a lovely balance of flavours.

So there you are – all our gorgeous entries each interpreting love in their own way.

Thanks to all the bakers and eaters who came along on a cold and dark wintery evening to share some love and bask in the glory of cupcakes! Thanks also to all of you who have taken time to share your thoughts and provide feedback on the event and how we run it. I am glad you were happy with the changes we made last night.

Thanks again to all at The Last Detail for providing our lovely table gems!

My heartiest thanks – as always - go to my dedicated team of helpers who keep me from getting completely frazzled on the night by generously giving up their time for no reward other than my thanks (and some lovely cupcakes, of course!). I couldn’t run this event without them.
Thank you Paul, Dave, Max, Tina and Ying.

Iron Cupcake London returns on 1st March with a challenge entitled “The Perfect Pair”. You can bake any cupcake you wish as long as it contains TWO flavours – and only two flavours. Full details will be announced shortly.


Emily said...

All of these cupcakes look amazing! Nice work.

Amity said...

I had such a great night, thanks for posting this so quickly!

stumbleweed said...

They all look amazing! Especially love the princess cupcakes, well done Nathalina.

Cupcake Crazy Gem said...

Wow thanks for updating this so quick! we've been waiting for you to post it! and good work for describing each entries cupcake..that must take you so long! We only managed to try half of all the cupcakes there so we'll have to be quicker next time I think!

Katie said...

These are amazing! If there are any keen bakers out there who want to do something for charity, Bliss, the charity for premature and sick babies are holding Cake a Difference next week - and it's cupcake themed!

Maria said...

They are all super cute!

Didi said...

Thanks for a great night. I think I am only now coming down from the sugar high. Can't wait till the next one

I heart cupcakes said...

All the cakes look stunning! LOVE the gingerbread couple - so cute!

Joy said...

I enjoy these posts so much, I can almost feel like I was there!

Cakelaw said...

OMG - I want to fly to London just to attend Iron Cupcake! These are al amazing, and appeal to my girly romantic heart.

Irene said...

Wonderful cupcakes!!! The oreo one for me, please!

Icing Bliss said...

Another fantastic night - thanks again for all of your hard work organising everything. See you in March for the next round!

Dee said...

Drool, slobber. How on earth do you judge something like this... everything looked and sounded amazing.

Katie said...

Wow what a fantastic lot of beautiful enteries. It must ahve been hard to judge

Margaret said...

Love all of the cupcakes, just wonderful.
Are you in one of the photographs CC?

The Caked Crusader said...

Margaret - I am not in any of the photos. You will have to imagine what I look like.....!!!!

Suki-Lou said...

gutted I missed the Love challenge..those cupcakes look delish! Oh well, there is always next time!