It took no less than the Pope’s visit to the UK to keep National Cupcake Week off the top spot of the most talked about topics on Twitter during last year’s festival of all things cupcakey. This year we again plan to give any visiting digni-taries, super-injuncted footballers or ritually humiliated celebs a run for their money on the chatter wires.

National Cupcake Week celebrates and supports the growth of an industry sector that con-tinues to spawn a raft of new businesses across the UK. While initially considered by many to be a fad product, it has established itself as a true classic of the cake sector.

The number of "occasions" that people consumed cupcakes at home or out-of-home rose by 52% last year alone (source: Kantar Worldpanel, 52 w/e 28 Feb 2011).

As the third annual National Cupcake Week which takes place from 12-18 September draws nearer, we are again giving you the chance to prove you are the cupcake king or queen of the UK. Today we kick off the highlight of every cupcaker’s calendar: the annual National Cupcake Championships.

Every cupcake is or should at least aspire to be a little work of art. Experimentation among cake makers has reached dizzying heights. It is in that spirit of creativity that we have chosen the nation’s foremost bastion of artistic experiment, The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, as our venue for the National Cupcake Championships.

Sixty shortlisted professional cupcake makers will be invited to this exclusive final judging event to be held 15 August to fight it out for the crown. Fiercely competitive though it may be, scenes of Bugsy Malone-style cake flinging are usually avoided at this annual gathering of collegiate cupcake makers. The bakers will be joined by a top panel of judges (see below).

Winners will not only benefit from a PR bonanza, but a tangible uplift in sales. Last year’s winner David Bennett of Sunshine Bakery in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, saw his sales rocket by 50% overnight and his business continues to expand. So enter now you only have four weeks to get your entries in!

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Among the judges

Eric Lanlard
Aka Cake Boy, Eric has hosted his own C4 series on desserts, recently published his first book Home Bake, and opened a second bakery shop, Cox Cookies & Cakes, with shoe designer Patrick Cox. A CC&C book is due out this summer

Tarek Malouf
Founder of the UK’s leading cupcake emporium, The Hummingbird Bakery in London. Tarek is the best-selling author of The Hummingbird Cake Bakery Cookbook and, more recently, Cake Days

Peggy Porschen
One of the country’s most celebrated cake decorators, supplying cakes from her boutique in West London and Fortnum & Mason, and author of a number of classic cake decorating books. Her latest, Peggy’s Favourite Cakes & Cookies, is published this summer

Lily Jones aka Lily Vanilli
Experimental cake-baker extraordinaire, author of A Zombie Ate My Cupcake and a regular columnist for British Baker. Lily’s cakes are stocked in Harrods and she recently started London’s first underground cake club, called 180, which attracted 3,000 membership requests in the first two weeks
l See for details of all the judges