Stunning student-made cupcake designs

It was hectic at the local technical institute today – students stressing, students crying, students giving their all at the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge.

I was there, tip toeing around frantic competitors, dodging plates of food and trying to keep out of everyone’s way, and I was amazed at what the students created in the cupcake icing competition.

These were some of the ones that stood out for me. I’m speaking for myself here when I say that I can’t even imagine creating anything like this now, let alone back when I was 16 or 17. One of the lecturers told me the students attended workshops prior to the competition so they could familiarise themselves with what they had to do and how they could do it. Even so, massive props to these budding young culinary stars for their creativity, preparation and skill.

My personal favourite is the cupcakes-turned-burgers!

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

An unlikely choice of cake

The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans really entices my sense of smell but unlike most people I know, I don’t drink coffee and it doesn’t make me alert; just jumpy and jittery.

It might surprise you then that I chose to make coffee and walnut cake today. Like I said, I enjoy the smell and I also like the taste of coffee. I don’t think there will be enough caffeine in a slice of the cake to put me on edge but if you see me blogging at an ungodly hour of the morning, you’ll know why. I do think the cake is all worth it though!

The recipe I followed was one by Nigella Lawson, which you can find here. She’s really grown on me since I first watched her cook on TV a few years back and if there’s one thing I’m sure of, her cakes aren’t short of butter or sugar. Knowing this, I cut down a bit of both for the cake and a lot for the icing. This ended up being (for 4 servings) –

For the cake:
100g caster sugar
100 g butter

For the icing:
50g icing sugar
75g butter

Instead of throwing everything into the processor, I put the walnuts into a clean plastic bag and crushed them using a rolling pin. Potentially good stress relief, although I did split the bag while doing this. Everything else I did as I normally would when making a cake.

I have to admit, I made some pretty rookie mistakes when making this cake. I almost used cream of tartar instead of baking soda (similar containers) and then I tried to soften butter in the microwave in a steel bowl (no explanation for this). Big, huge NO NO.

Potential disasters aside, the cake turned out moist and fluffy and the bits of walnuts were really nice for a bit of crunch. Not a fan of the buttercream icing though. I’ve never been big on buttercream icing so I don’t know why I bothered making this one. I might try an espresso or a mocha whipped cream frosting next time.

“Wow, it really does taste of coffee!”

 – My dad after trying the cake

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin