Those of you schooled in the Indiana Jones back catalogue will know that, when picking out the holy grail, the cup of Christ is always the least showy, coweringly humble and the most easily overlooked in a sea of masquerading imitations.
The same could be said of cupcakes. And thankfully there was no damnable melting of judges’ flesh at the finals of the National Cupcake Championships, because they chose wisely: a simple coconut and lime cupcake.
While cupcake-making is often about exuberance, unbridled creativity and experi-mentation, winner Jennifer Buls of Absolute Treats showed that less can be more. She gave the judges a lesson in kissing keeping it simple, stupid! by focusing on the refreshing tropical combination of two flavours. The one major surprise was that the cake was a vegan recipe, using no butter or eggs.
Buls becomes the third National Cupcake Champion, and it was the hardest-fought victory yet, with the competition doubling in size for each of the last two years. She has been baking for less than a year and her fledgling business, run alongside her mother Virginia, is only now making the transition to full-time concern, having recently studied for an MA. Her cake took two category awards and the overall title at the National Cupcake Championships, which were staged by British Baker in the run-up to National Cupcake Week (12-18 September).
Hailing from Carmarthenshire in Wales, she won Best Free-from Cupcake of the Year, Best Tasting Cupcake of the Year and also took the National Cupcake Champion title.
"I’ve always loved cakes. I’m a vegetarian and I have an allergy to dairy," she says. "So I was determined to make a vegan cupcake that tasted just as good as any other. Absolute Treats is home-based at the moment, but we supply some outlets across the West Wales area, and we are Vegan Society-approved." Buoyed by the success, she now plans to open her own shop.
Over 50 innovative craft bakeries, independent cake emporiums and high street multiples attended the finals, having been shortlisted from over 100 entries. They included the high street giant Greggs; the 2009 champion Kevin Sibley from Mama’s Cupcakes in Cheshunt; and Rich Products, which creates cupcakes for Asda.
The event judged by top names in the cake world, including Peggy Porschen, Eric Lanlard and Tarek Malouf took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, overlooking The Mall in London,
l National Cupcake Week 2011 will run from 12-18 September, when a range of special events and promotions take place in craft and high street bakeries across the nation. Get involved by offering promotions to your customers and contacting local media. For details visit www.nationalcupcakeweek.co.uk.
Best Free From Cupcake (vegan) Lime & Coconut Cupcake
Absolute Treats is a small home-based bakery consisting of mother-and-daughter team, Virginia and Jennifer Buls. The business was formed in 2010, when Jennifer found it hard to find tasty vegan cakes and bakes. As such, Absolute Treats focused on making baked goods for special dietary requirements, catering for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and diabetic needs. The product range includes cupcakes, muffins, cookies, fruit pies and tarts. Of the winning cupcake, Jennifer says the plan was to come up with a summery tropical taste: "The choice of flaked coconut to top this cake presents a natural and wholesome appeal to the cupcake while adding another chewy texture. The zing of the lime on biting into the cake is a wonderful taste surprise element." Currently supplying local shops and mail order, the Carmarthen-based pair now plan to open a bakery shop.
Most Innovative Cupcake sponsored by FDQ
CCTreats has been baking for three years as an online business servicing London and the Greater London area, offering delivery or collection. Mainly using free-range, organic and Fairtrade ingredients, the company’s product range covers cakes, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops and dessert buffet displays. Of her winning cupcake, Rufaro says: "The incorporation of the dark chocolate cup with the Amarula marshmallow fluff is definitely something unexpected. The Amarula flavour works well with dark chocolate and adds a twist of flavour to the brown sugar Swiss meringue, and is not a common flavour option on most cupcake menus. The marshamallow filling also adds to the moistness of the cupcake and adds another texture to the structure. The hard chocolate centre cup is also an unexpected addition, so there are four textures."
Best Cupcake Crafted for Multiple Outlets
Third-generation family bakery Coughlans was established in 1937 and currently has 23 shops in and around the Surrey area. It also supplies the likes of Harrods and Virgin. The firm rebranded five years ago to munch@Coughlans to stand out on the high street with a more modern look. Having been shortlisted for the championship finals in 2010, with its Rolo cupcake, it made the cut again this year with a Strawberry Tuxedo cupcake.
"The skill and innovation comes in the topping getting the correct amount of the double-flavoured frosting and then finishing the fresh strawberry by putting its jacket on to look like it is wearing a tuxedo!" says Sean.
The sponge is injected with a homemade strawberry coulis, with some of the coulis blended into the frosting.
Best Presented Cupcake sponsored by Chevler
Let them Eat Cake, a home-based business in Hampshire, provides a bespoke cake-making service. Inspired by reaching the National Cupcake Championships finals in 2010, Victoria set up her own cupcake workshops, teaching basic decorating skills through to advanced methods, such as piping flower petals. These have proved incredibly popular, on top of the success of her celebration cake business. The idea behind her bouquet of cupcakes was to offer something different for table centres or gifts. The petals are made from a Swiss meringue buttercream, flavoured with rosewater, piped using a Wilton 127 petal nozzle in a graduated spiral type motion. "You may well be fooled into thinking you’re eating a plant!" she says. Cakes are arranged and fixed with cocktail sticks, into a polystyrene ball for support.
Best Decorated Cupcake sponsored by Renshaw
Peggy’s cupcakes is four years old. Started by Rosalind Miller, a former painter and graphic designer, the company is firmly pitched at the deluxe end of the cupcake market.
Miller says she saw a gap for "grown-up, luxurious cupcakes in a crowded market consisting of simple, childlike cakes decorated with sprinkles".
The gold-adorned Madagascan vanilla cake is iced with a layer of vanilla buttercream and a covering of sugarpaste. Each cupcake is then individually decorated with intricate hand-piped icing and edible gold lustre dust.
The company has targeted the gifting market, special celebrations and weddings.