Entering a Cupcake Competition Part 2


Just to get any suspense out of the way, I didn’t win the competition!  However, I had fun taking part and had I known the way it worked I probably would have gone for a much “safer” option on flavour.

Let me explain why, although other bakers in the competition praised my choice and the flavour, the “eaters” were clearly looking for something a bit more “normal”.  I also have to take into account that there might be a higher proportion of people who don’t like aniseed than I’d originally thought!  The winners were lemon sherbet, rhubarb and custard and an amazing rainbow cake based on rainbow dust.  Its made me realise that for next time I need to do something more “mainstream” just do it really really well!

Anyway, it was fun and there were lots of lovely eager cupcake eaters there.  It was really great to see an event so busy more than anything, the room was literally heaving!  £5 for just over an hour of cake tasting fun!

I promised the recipe, so here it is below.  (The original recipe I adapted came from Martha Stewart’s Cupcake book)

Boozy Black Jack Cupcakes

For the cupcake (makes 24)

3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 cup (225g/8oz) butter melted
1/3 cup hot water
3 large apples peeled and finely grated
2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds

Fennel Syrup

2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup water


5 egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 pound (400g) butter
1 bottle miniature sambuca

For the cupcake

  • Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
  • blend together molasses, eggs and sugar until creamy
  • add butter and hot water, continue to mix until all combined
  • carefully fold in flour, bicarb, salt and fennel seeds.
  • finally add the apple and stir until combined.
  • divide into cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 mins or until cake skewer comes out clean.
  • Whilst the cupcakes are baking make your fennel syrup – put all ingredients in a pan and cook on a low heat until bubbling lightly.  Strain fennel seeds and pour a spoonful on top of each of the awaiting cupcakes.
  • Cupcakes will keep for 24 hours at room temperature or 2 months in the freezer.

For the Buttercream

  • Place egg whites and sugar in a bowl above a pan of simmering water.
  • Whisk continuously by hand until the sugar has melted and you have a completely smooth liquid.
  • Remove from heat, continue to whisk (by hand or with electric beaters) until mixture has completely cooled and forms soft peaks.
  • Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, continually beating, don’t worry if it curdles a little, keep beating and it will combine again.
  • Once all butter is combined add sambuca and mix well again.
  • I then added most of a pot of black icing colour gel which created an effective grey “black jack” colour.
  • Its then recommended that you put this in the fridge until it sets, then remove from the fridge, beat again and then pipe.  You can however use straight away if you like.
  • Frosting will keep for a few days in the fridge, or one month in the freezer.

Entering a Cupcake Competition

For the last couple of years there has been a competition running in Leeds called “Iron Cupcake Leeds”, I have always wanted to take part but never had the time, been available etc, this month I thought “Why not?”.  The theme is Penny Sweets.  For those of you who don’t know me, penny sweets are not something which featured much in my life, my mum was very strict with “treats” when my sister and I were little and when we did get them they wouldn’t usually be what normal kids thought of as a treat!  (for example, I love Halva, a sesame based sweet meat, not your usual kids sweet snack!)

However, when I turned 15 I started working for the newsagents in the village and I discovered that a lot of children did get penny sweets as “treats” and suddenly it was my job to count them out!  The only penny sweets I do recall eating were Fruit Salads and Black Jacks, I’ve asked my mum why this might be and she said “They were the only ones I liked, all the others were disgusting!”.  So that explains it, my tastes were dictated by my mum’s!

With this in mind, I have created a “Boozy Black Jack” cupcakes (booze amusingly being another thing my nutritionist mum disapproves of!) The competition is tomorrow and I’m hoping that I’ve created something that is chewy and aniseed-y enough!  This is what they are currently looking like –

Boozy Black Jack Cupcakes 1

Tomorrow I will let you know the results of the competition, show photos of the completed product and type up the recipe for those of you who are interested!