For my second agricultural show, we travelled to the other half’s home county of Laois. Clonaslee was the venue and the competition was fierce. Once again I went for the Decorated Cupcake class and to mix it up, the Cherry Cake class, but the less said about that one the better.
I tried to up my game with this one so I decided on a bit of a fanfare with a peacock theme. Having spent the previous Saturday assembling peacock feathers, the day before the competition was all about the bakes themselves. This time I was prepared. This time I knew there wouldn’t actually be any tasting of the cupcakes… which was just as well as one of the sugarpastes I used for the feathers was slightly out of date (half price in Decobake, thank you very much). So rather than toil away precious minutes spooning curd into the cakes, I had more time to hand paint my individual feathers, build a good colour in my buttercream and comprehensively turn the kitchen blue from top to bottom…. a smurf’s cooking paradise!
Once the assembly was done, the hard part was still to come. The transportation phase is never something I enjoy and I truly feel for the poor unsuspecting soul whose arms I task with cradling my beloved bakes. In this case, it was himself. A normally reliable conveyor with nerves of hardened butter, his coolness melted away when one peacock decided to liberate its neck from its body. Luckily, the glue was to hand and the drama was short lived. I may have saved the peacock but I fear I have lost my usual porter for good*.
Arriving at the show, I felt content but not over confident. My fellow competitors had seriously brought their ‘A’ game and there was a clear front runner placed front and centre of the pack. Leaving the judges to their devices, I nervously returned to the hall a few hours later, expecting to see the favourite named 1st place. Yet something was amiss; they had failed to even place. Rumour has it that they were ruled out as the baker had entered the exact same cupcake toppers into another recent competition. The scandal! Nonetheless, my peacocks kept a level head and I placed third. I was absolutely over the moon. The perfect way to finish off the show season and cement my competitive thirst for next year.
For the batter
160g caster sugar
140g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
140ml whole milk
For the buttercream
250g icing sugar
2 tbsp whole milk
Royal Blue food colouring
Set the oven to 180C and prepare a 12-hole tin with cupcake cases. To ensure a nice and clean base, put a spoonful of rise in each hole before placing the cases.
For the cupcakes, cream the butter and sugar and beat in the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt until combined. Separately, stir the vanilla extract into the milk before adding to the dry ingredients. Then add the egg and beat until you have a nice smooth, relatively runny batter. Fill the cupcake cases until they are ¾ full. Pop them in the oven and set the timer for between 20 and 25 minutes.
For the buttercream, cream the butter and beat together with the icing sugar. On a slow speed, pour in the milk and when combined, increase to a high speed.Then, add the dye to the buttercream, a few drops at a time until you reach the desired colour.
*All those wishing to apply for the position of cake carrier may comment below to do so. Must have steady nerves and the ability to stay awake in moving vehicles.