Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Iron Cupcake London Challenge IX – The Perfect Pair

Challenge IX was “The Perfect Pair” where bakers were required to pick the two flavours they thought best complimented each other and bake them into a delicious cupcake. Yet again the imagination of our talented bakers dazzled us – some went classic, some went wacky but without fail, all were wonderful!

Here are some happy eaters:

The cupcake paparazzi were present, as usual! I think ICL entries must be amongst the most photographed cakes in the world….

….and looking at how gorgeous they are, I can see why!

We had a total of 35 entries from 25 bakers; as we only had 2 professional bakers this time we merged it back into one competition – it made more sense.

All the entries:

Winner – Shelley’s Tea and biscuit cupcakes

As soon as I heard Shelley’s combination I knew it had potential to be great…and boy did it deliver! The sponge was chai tea flavoured, as was the amazingly smooth frosting. One of my fellow eaters described it as “incredible”. It was sprinkled with crisp biscuit crumbs and a little heart shaped butter biscuit sat atop. The creamy frosting and crumbly sponge was divine to eat –a taste and texture sensation. The pretty gingham wrapper also attracted many compliments. Well done Shelley on your most deserved win!

Runner up – Annabelle’s Strawberry and vanilla cupcakes

Annabelle’s cupcake proved that classic flavour combinations are always popular. A flavoursome vanilla cupcake was topped with strawberry and vanilla frosting which was creamy and soft in your mouth. The overall cupcake had a lovely lightness to it that made you think of summer and warm days. This cake was a big hit at my table of eaters and we wondered if the strawberry on top would count as one of our five a day, lessening the calorific damage we were doing by eating so many yummy cakes!

Those were the two winners on the night, here are all our other entries. Prepare yourself for a journey through flavour and awesomeness……

Gjinn’s Lychee and vanilla cupcakes

Gjinn’s pretty cupcake comprised of vanilla sponge with lychee buttercream and lychee jelly. The inclusion of the jelly (it’s nestling in the buttercream) added an extra layer of texture. Beautiful scented lychee came through and lingered in your mouth after eating the cake. It was sweet and fruity and – being a lychee addict – I loved it!

Gem’s “It was mint to be” cupcakes

Gem gave us a chocolate mint oreo cupcake with mint oreo frosting and an oreo truffle topping. She made the truffle by crushing oreos, mixing them with some cream cheese before covering it in thick chocolate. The balance of the mint and chocolate was perfect and the flavour was rich and deep. It was the sort of cupcake you could happily eat every day and never tire of it.

Ellie’s Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes

Ellie provided us with the first of our peanut butter and jelly. Ellie really packed the cupcake with peanut – it was moist and nutty and incredibly flavoursome. The jelly (or jam if, like me, you always think of jelly as something Knitted Character should be riding) was in the sponge as well as on top of the buttercream and worked very well with the crumbly sponge.

Charlotte’s Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes

Charlotte’s vanilla sponge was topped with chocolate buttercream. The stunning twist to this entry was that Charlotte, instead of using a paper case, made her cases out of chocolate so the whole thing was edible! As if that weren’t enough, she also coloured the chocolate and painted it in designs – one looked like zebra markings, others were pastel coloured. Quite amazing! The edible case added some texture and bite to the cupcake – eating sponge encased in thick chocolate is something I definitely need to do more often!

Kelly’s Chocolate and peanut butter hi-hat cupcakes

Kelly, I am in awe at your complete mastery of the hi-hat, and I speak as someone who has wanted to make these for a long time but always bottled it! A hi-hat is a cupcake that, once frosted, is dipped in molten chocolate so that the frosting is coated in a thin layer of chocolate. When the chocolate sets you have a crisp veneer encasing the fluffy frosting. To achieve this you hold your cupcake upside down in a bowl of molten chocolate – I always have visions of my frosting dropping into the bowl! Kelly’s frosting was whipped and light and teamed with the chocolate it was a knock out combination. Lovely flavours too – so clear and distinct. I know I’m not allowed to be partisan but you’ve probably guessed this was one of my favourites of the night.

Mitsu’s Coffee and walnut cupcakes

Mitsu’s vegan entry comprised of coffee and walnut sponge with coffee icing. The icing was whipped and light. Mitsu’s flavours were great – you got the full richness of the coffee but then the slight nutty bitterness of the walnut.

Sasha’s Chocolate and ginger zing cupcakes

Sasha’s vegan-friendly cupcake was a chocolate sponge containing chunks of fiery ginger topped with chocolate frosting. They certainly lived up to the “zing” in their name – my mouth was filled with hot ginger and then cleansed with smooth chocolate. A lovely combination.

Sasha’s Orange and apricot cupcakes

Sasha’s second vegan entry was a sweet and juicy orange sponge containing dried apricot pieces with a buttercream frosting. The orange flavour dominated but then the tangy apricot cut through in a fruity, refreshing way.
Sasha’s Banana, walnut and maple syrup cupcakes

Sasha’s third entry technically breached the rules as it contained 4 flavours (including the vanilla frosting) but we allowed it. Sasha admitted she got confused and thought the challenge was a minimum of two flavours! All the flavours were identifiable – the banana and walnut being the strongest and the maple syrup lurking in the background.

Luke’s Lavender and vanilla cupcakes

Poor Luke had an awful day at work and arrived at the venue just in time to pipe the vanilla icing on his cupcakes. We’re all glad he did as these were yummy. I often find lavender overpowering in baked goods but Luke judged these perfectly, telling me that he infused lavender overnight in the milk he then used for the sponge. The creamy vanilla flavour gave way to the sweet scented lavender in a dreamy way – so tasty!

Victoria’s Cheese and pickle cupcakes

Most bonkers entry of the night? Step forward Victoria! Cheddar cheese and proper pickles (i.e. pickles, not a jar of pickle like Branston for example) combined to make one of the strangest cupcakes I’ve seen. But believe me - it tasted good! The cheese and pickle flavour was exactly like eating a savoury roll but the sponge was so light and crumbly you had no doubt that it was a cake. I have to be honest – this was one I was nervous about but it was so tasty that we all went back for seconds!

Victoria’s Apple and clove cupcakes

Victoria’s second entry was an apple and clove sponge with decorative apple on top. The sweet apple and intense clove worked very well. Max, my fellow taster, said admiringly, “this cake smells like a lovely forest” and I sort of know what he meant! The clove flavour built in your mouth and got more intense – I loved it!

Annabelle’s Mint chocolate cupcakes

This was Annabelle’s second entry of the night (her first entry claimed the runner’s up spot) and her favourite of the two. It just shows that you can’t always trust your own judgement! Her chocolate sponge was topped with mint buttercream and an After Eight chocolate. The sponge was moist and gooey and rich, then the mint cut through and cleansed your palate. My fellow eater Jasmin (who frankly has been watching far too much “Gavin and Stacey” lately) described it as “lush”.

Fiona’s Vodka and cranberry cupcakes

Fiona’s combination was a classic for anyone with a penchant for cocktails! The sponge and frosting both contained the two flavours; the cranberry was sharp and fruity then the vodka came through subtly. That sticky marshmallow frosting was a work of art – how something can be so light, yet so satisfyingly sticky beats me!

Alix’s “Rebel rebel” cupcakes

Alix’s vegan cupcake was a powerhouse of flavour – the flavours being chocolate and peanut. The chocolate and peanut sponge was rich and flavoursome and the peanut butter frosting was smooth and whipped. Extra texture came from the chocolate shavings and caramelised peanuts. The caramelised peanuts were the star component for me – they added crunch and bite but also intense nuttiness. I can say no more than three out of the five eaters at my table voted for this one!

Betty’s Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes

Betty combined her peanut butter sponge housing a nice splodge (that’s a technical term) of strawberry jam) with peanut butter frosting dotted with more jam. I think it’s a very pretty, happy looking cake! I loved the stickiness of the jam in this cake – the peanut butter is smooth and the textures worked well together.

Rosalyn’s Pecan and homemade marmalade cupcake

Rosalyn’s light sponge contained both pecan and marmalade. The flavours really complimented each other and we all liked how the marmalade was packed with flavour but not overly sweet. The nuttiness of the pecans added more flavour and I like that Rosalyn kept the decoration simple – just some more of her yummy homemade marmalade (how talented are our bakers?) and a pecan.

Rosalyn’s Chocolate and beetroot cupcakes

Rosalyn’s second entry was this dark beauty! The intensely chocolate sponge had the extra depth of flavour, colour and moisture that beetroot adds. It was a great decision to top the sponge with whipped cream as it cleansed and freshened your palate leaving you desperate to go back for another forkful of decadence!

Florence’s “Fluff and nutter” cupcakes

If you’re not au fait with ‘fluff and nutter’ (and why would you be – Florence invented the term!) I can tell you that it’s marshmallow and peanut butter. The first thing you tasted eating Florence’s cupcake was the sweet and sticky marshmallow frosting – it was stick to your lips fluffy marshmallow and hugely satisfying! Once you’d licked your lips clean you noticed the peanut butter sponge. If I had to describe this cake in two words I’d pick “gooey” and “naughty”. If I was allowed three, I’d add “divine”!

Jack’s Saffron and orange cupcakes

Jack’s elegant cupcakes were packed with flavour and intrigue. The juicy sweet orange was heavenly then the saffron came through – it added an exotic richness that was unique. This was an imaginative combination that worked well. I’ve never used saffron in baking before, saving it for my paella, but this cupcake opened my eyes!

Mara’s Chocolate and strawberry cupcakes

Mara’s chocolate sponge contained strawberry juice and was topped off with a light and flavoursome strawberry buttercream. I like that Mara managed to make the strawberry as dominant as the chocolate. It reminded me of a strawberry Quality Street – remember that gorgeous fruity pink filling? That was exactly like this beautiful cake.

Mara’s Lime and coconut cupcakes

Mara used her flavours in both the sponge and the frosting and it was a tropical delight! The fruity aroma hit you as you moved the fork towards your mouth. It’s a classic combination – the sweet citrus lime then the rich coconut. I always love anything with coconut – it’s the way it adds texture as well as taste.

Tamara’s Lemon and blueberry cupcakes

Our defending champion’s cupcake comprised of a lemon and blueberry sponge topped with lemon and blueberry frosting. The sponge was delightful and contained blueberries that oozed their fruity goodness into the sponge. The frosting was smooth and not overly sweet. I think blueberries are one of the prettiest coloured fruits for baking – just look at the gorgeous colour of the frosting!

Shelley’s Lemon and blueberry cupcakes

Our winner Shelley spoiled us and entered this cupcake too – it was our lucky night! Her lemon and blueberry sponge was topped with an intense lemon frosting – it had the richness to it that lemon curd has. My fellow taster Max rightly observed that the blueberries sitting on top of the frosting cut through the tartness of the lemon resulting in a gorgeous flavour.

Vanessa’s Pink champagne and strawberry cupcakes

Vanessa’s decadent champagne and strawberry sponge was topped with a strawberry frosting. There were two key aspects of this cupcake that delighted me: firstly, the incredibly soft sponge and secondly, the lovely fruitiness. I have to admit a fondness for the dinky little strawberry decoration too!

Natalie’s Raspberry and white chocolate cupcakes

Natalie produced an intensely fruity frosting that worked so well sitting on top of a creamy, mellow white chocolate sponge. White chocolate is so nice in sponge cakes (well, in anything really!) as it seems to make the sponge even softer than normal. I have never teamed white chocolate with raspberry in a cupcake and it worked so well that I can see myself dabbling with these ingredients!

Gill’s Blackberry and white chocolate cupcakes

Poor Gill was stuck in traffic and fearful that her cupcakes might not make it in time – luckily for us, they did! This combination proved, again, how well white chocolate works with fruit; the white chocolate and blackberry sponge created creamy, fruity flavours in your mouth and the blackberry in the frosting added fruity stickiness.

Nathalina’s “Tropical Paradise” cupcakes

Nathalina’s coconut sponge was teamed with passion fruit buttercream. Not only was this a great flavour combination but great texture too. I love the way passion fruit seeds crunch – it’s inexplicably satisfying! I’m always a fan of shredded coconut too.

Nathalina’s “Batman and Robin” cupcakes

Nathalina’s lemon sponge was drizzled with liquorice before being topped with lemon and liquorice buttercream. Nathalina used popular liquorice sweets from Finland (her home country) for the liquorice. The liquorice hit first then the lemon swept through to clean your palate. My favourite description of these was from fellow taster Tina who likened them – because the flavours were so clean and distinct - to Willy Wonka’s 3 course meal bubblegum!

Eloise’s Cookies and cream cupcake

Eloise went for a classic – who doesn’t love cookies and cream? You could have eaten this with your eyes closed and been able to identify the flavours. As with all of Eloise’s cupcakes, the frosting was awesome – whipped so it was light as air and creamy smooth.

Eloise’s Toffee apple cupcakes

Eloise’s second entry of the night was one of my all time favourite combinations – a sticky toffee sponge cupcake containing apple and topped with two-tone apple and toffee buttercream. I have three things to say about the frosting: firstly, how pretty is it? Secondly, how clever is it? Thirdly, how delicious was it? Answer to all three questions: very! And I haven’t even mentioned the adorable little caterpillar!

Amanda’s Chocolate orange cupcakes

Amanda really provided us with a masterclass her in beautiful flower-making. It’s a work of art! Amanda’s chocolate orange sponge was filled with orange curd. The sponge was topped with chocolate Ganache and then chocolate orange buttercream. This truly was a luxury, indulgent cupcake! The chocolate and orange was perfectly balanced and I adored the Ganache – it was amazingly chocolaty and smooth and shiny.

So there you have it – I’m sure you’ll agree that we were spoiled rotten with the selection of amazing cupcakes on offer.

As always I’d like to thank all the bakers for taking the time to enter, and all the eaters for coming along and helping us pick the winners:

Special thanks to my awesome team of helpers who make the event run so smoothly on the night: Paul, Dave, Tina, Jasmin and Max – thanks. I couldn’t do it without you.

All photos are the property of Dave Shipman and are reproduced here with his kind permission. If you wish to use any of his photos please can you email me first for permission – thanks.


Cupcake Crazy Gem said...

As always thanks for the awesome write up!! I hadn't realised the cookies n cream one was also by Eloise! because both her entries were our tables fave of the night!! what a yummy baker.

Belle said...

Had a great night, and so surprised to have bagged the runner up spot! A few of my friends were first timers to the night and all had a great time trying imaginative flavour combinations!! Can't wait until next month!

shevie said...

ooh...hungry!Jack of the saffron & orange variety is my cousin,Im very proud!

Cakelaw said...

Everyone is so creative - love it!

Joy said...

It always such a treat to read through your competition write ups. I mustn't be in a hurry, I need to scroll through and feast on every picture and enjoy every word of your descriptions.
Such a pleasure! Thankyou!

Fiona said...

All of those cupcakes leave my mouth watering.

I must say though, fluffernutter is an American thing..... nice to see it as a cupcake! Yum!

Margaret said...

Congratulations CC. All of the entries look superb.

Dharm said...

What a great event!! All the cupcakes look just awesome. Wish I was in London...