The events of this year's National Cupcake Championships started for me with the difficult decision when offered to judge of whether I should defend my title (no one has won it twice as yet thus giving me the opportunity of becoming the undoubtable ultimate Cupcake Champion of undefeated ranking!) Or take the role of judge and rise to ‘expert in my field' celebrity judge status. Both options have obvious appeal and I couldn't do both (I checked, not allowed surprisingly). So I plumped for judging mainly because if I didn't win again, which was quite possible (as I mentioned no one has won twice) I probably would not get the opportunity again and I can always enter next year (I checked).
So little old me had to hang up her apron, remove the flour, buttercream and other unidentified kitchen fodder from my hair and venture out into the big wide world of competitive baking.
The first round of ‘paper' judging involved getting myself to a rather fancy office building just outside Brighton. After signing in at reception and getting name tagged up I swiped my card fob through a number of doors (whilst pretending I was a CIA agent in 24!) until I reached the judging room. Here I was paired with another judge and we went through stacks of applications scoring each one on a number of categories such as innovation, presentation and technical skill. We were then left a much smaller stack of the cupcakes we just had to have the chance to try.
Round 2 and the final judging was held at Birmingham's Cake International show, an epicentre for baking enthusiasts! So after a ten hour shift in the kitchen, a rather late, long train journey and a very nice but brief stay in a local hotel I rocked up fresh faced and ready to judge (no cake in my hair or anything).
After getting the chance to meet some of the other very lovely and very talented judges such as Fiona Cairns, Gerhard Jenne and Will Torrent we went through to the show floor for our live judging. I was paired with last year's winner of the ‘Great British Bake Off', John Whaite and given the task of judging the Home Baker category of cupcakes containing alcohol. Everything was laid out and looking fantastic on the judging tables displaying all the hard work of this years entries. Fifteen cupcakes, some buttercream in my hair and a little thicker round the waist lines later, John and I gave our top marks to a very well balanced Mulled wine cupcake. I even got to meet Mary Berry as she came round to have a look at the competition.
At this point our sweet tooths were definitely done but our job was not. All the judges got to taste the winners in each category and score them to find our overall champion for 2013. The scores were counted and we were ushered to the main stage of the show for the prize giving. I have to admit I was pretty nervous to get up on stage but I got to open a gold envelope and present Lauren Jenkinson with her award for her Mulled Wine cupcake along with Mary Berry. Soon after my gracing of the stage the overall champions were revealed and crowned with a riot of applauds. And so it was done, my reign as National Cupcake Champion was over and passed on to another well deserving baker.
So was it the right decision be a judge rather then a competitor this year. It definitely was, I learnt a lot, met some fab people and had a much more relaxing time putting cupcakes in my belly rather then my hair (mostly). Even got a photo of Mary Berry and me!
About Emily Johnson
CakeBlogger Emily Johnson runs Upsy Daisy Bakery in Hammersmith and was winner of the National Cupcake Championships 2012.