One of the Judge’s finished cupcakes.
There are, largely, two branches of thought surrounding cupcakes. There is the ‘yay cupcakes! Tiny bites of yum!’ branch of thought and the ‘eh, I’m over it’ branch of thought. There’s even a food rumour going round that ‘pies will be the new cupcakes’, and if pies in a jar start popping up commercially then I may very well well jump on board the pie train (mhm, pie train…). However, until that time, I am rather firmly in the ‘yay cupcakes’ camp, and proud to be so.
When the Tesco Real Food team asked me to be one of their ten London bloggers to judge their nationwide cupcake decorating competition of course I said yes. Cupcakes were made and decorated, I judged with my judging eyes (oh little judging eyes, how thee judge so) and on Friday 10th December we Judges, along with the two winners of the competition, were invited to attend the Winners’ Day at The Make Lounge with professional cake decorating chef, Mich Turner of The Little Venice Cake Company to decorate cupcakes. Huzzah!
Mich is one of those astoundingly beautiful women who are possessed with not only grace and a charming sense of humour, but also the ability to decorate the heck out of a cake. I was shockingly late, thanks to the fact that I live in the aforementioned arsehole of West London and there had been a total lack of public transport available to me that day, so missed the earlier meet-and-greet with Mich, but made it in time to introduce myself as “the-girl-who-cannot-bake-or-decorate”.
Anyone who is regular round these here parts will know that my baking is more often a fail than a success. I never decorate cupcakes and rarely blog them. My skills with a piping bag are limited (read: non-existent) and I have never worked with fondant. Mich had brought two of her creations along to show the group what she does, which only further cemented my fears that nothing I could possibly achieve on this day would live up to her standards. I was, however, determined to press on, true Feeder Lady style, and even had the faint hope that maybe, just maybe, by the end of the afternoon’s activities I would produce something just as awesome. It, er, didn’t happen, but it was only a faint hope…
Supplied with champagne, orange juice and canapes, Mich first showed us how to make our own piping bags with baking paper (it really should’ve been a clue to how the rest of the afternoon was going to go when I was the only one at the table unable to fulfill this simple task), then pulled the fondant out of the bag and started molding it into all sorts of shapes. She worked effortlessly, all the while explaining what she was doing and happily posing for photos. Fondant roses and candy canes were the order of the day, and they looked awesome. They also looked easy to do. Ha, I thought, rather naively, this’ll be a piece of (cup)cake! Oh how wrong I was.
The wee adorable rose on the right? That’s Mich’s rose. The giant, ugly, pink lettuce on the left? That’s mine. It turns out that just because Mich makes it look effortless it most definitely is not. I made about five roses and instead of getting better as I went they were definitely getting worse and worse. By the time I’d got to my fifth they were not only giant lettuces, they were giant flat lettuces. I had far better luck with the candy canes, but then let’s be honest, that’s just a matter of rolling the fondant together and letting it sit! Nobody could really mess that one up.
Mich was wandering around checking over everybody else’s work, praising and encouraging, but every time she got to my station she would say, “hm… well, better… put some glitter on it, it’ll be better!” So I did. I put glitter on everything. I very nearly poured glitter all over myself in an attempt to make Mich proud of the girl who could not bake, but refrained only because glitter is the STD of the decorating world – it’s the gift that keeps on giving – and I didn’t fancy finding millions of sparkly speckles in unmentionable places two weeks on. I still did (strangely I found a good teaspoon’s worth in my bra later that evening, er…) but can you imagine the horror had I covered myself in it?!
Mich stopped me mid-glitter frenzy to show us all how to correctly frost a cupcake with a piping bag. She also taught us how to pipe buttercream leaves – the secret, apparently, is in building up the pressure just so and then giving a slight wiggle and releasing to form the shape. I was apparently much better at the frosting than the fondant-work, which is when I came into my element (well, element enough for me) and frosted a few too many cupcakes by mistake (we each had 10 to decorate). Oh well.
We made little sparkly berries (or ‘tiny little balls of wonder’ as I took to calling them, I was also the only one who was quietly trying not to die of laughter everytime Mich told us to ‘put some glitter on your balls’; real mature, I know) for our fondant holly, and the more adventurous/creative of the bloggers made wee little icing designs on their fondant bases. I, however, was still frosting the heck out of all of the cupcakes I could get my hands on.
More of the Judges’ cupcakes.
4pm rolled around all too soon and our cupcakes were packed up into the cake boxes provided by Tesco’s. The other judges had made lovely little cupcakes, their icing work was clearly not in need of any work. Mine however:
Well, they were definitely a lot less refined and creative, but hey, I’d done it! I’d decorated my first batch of cupcakes! I’d even covered one in sparkly tiny little balls of wonder (I ran out of ideas and just dumped a bunch of glitter over it and called it a day).
But of course, this day wasn’t about me, it was about the two winners of the competition, Shereen & Sandra:
I was lucky enough to sit next to Sandra (on the right) all afternoon, and she was absolutely lovely and had made the most adorable little reindeer with squiggly antlers as her entry. Definitely a well-deserved win! Neither of the winners had to dump glitter all over their cupcakes to win, either! Maybe next time I need to decorate some cupcakes I should put the fondant lettuces down and just give either of these two a call, they clearly know what they’re doing far better than I do…
All in all, a great day. You can read Tesco’s write up here. Congratulations again to the two winners, and thanks to Tesco Real Food, Jai from Ruby Agency and, of course, the lovely Mich Turner, for a fabulous day and remember kids: when in doubt, shove some glitter on it. Everything will be better…
Until next time, peace and love.