It is National Cupcake Week!
We will release a bespoke cupcake recipe each day of the week devised by some top bakers to celebrate the nation's favourite cake.
First up is our home baker turned pro from the National Cupcake Championships last year. Shalini Sriskandarasa is now a professional baker and runs successful bakery Lovely Cakes by Shalini. For National Cupcake Week 2014 she has whipped up a poached pear and almond cupcake.
"This is a recipe I've developed. My parents love gardening, particularly fruits and vegetables and there is always a surplus of pears so I came with this cupcake recipe. It tastes so good with a warm cup of coffee on cold autumn evenings, or mornings for me."
What's the winning cupcake formula? Get some tips from our 2013 cupcake champion!
As the deadline for the National Cupcake Championships 2014 draws near, we spoke to last year's home baker winner, Shalini Sriskandarasa, about how it felt to take the crown. You can read all about how other contestants, winners and judges found the event here.
If you are inspired by Sriskandarasa's story and subsequent opening of her own successful business, Lovely Cakes by Shalini, there is still time to enter the 2014 championships.
Click here for all entry information and choose from four categories to enter: Classic; Themed, Made with Alcohol; and Free-from.
There is no limit on how many categories you enter - just get your recipe in before Friday 29 August.Video of last year's National Cupcake Champion, Shalini Sriskandarasa
Why enter? An insider's view of the National Cupcake ChampionshipsAs time for entering the 2014 National Cupcake Championship grows short, we asked a few judges and winners from last year what they think of the competition and why they would go back.
Remember - it's not too late to enter!
Judge: Sabrina Collins, Lady Jayne Cakes
"I was very impressed with the entries overall and ultimately, we picked the one that tasted the best! The NEC was a great venue choice and the competition provided great entertainment for everyone in attendance at Cake International. It was a great atmosphere and I always champion National Cupcake Week itself - it is fantastic. It would be nice to see even more media coverage this year."
Judge: John Young, Secret Ingredients
"It was ace - really interesting to meet the people who use our products and see what they do with them and what they make of the tastes. I also enjoyed spending time with the other judges and see how they approached the process. The quality and standard of the cakes was incredible and the two we put forward were brilliant.
"I was amazed at how much interest there was from the general public - the crowd watching was four or five rows deep. The structure of the day went well and was finished nicely with the awards presentation."
Judge: Gerhard Jones, Konditor and Cook
"It was interesting to be there on the day and see so many varieties of cupcakes across some intriguing different categories. I was interesting to see what people had tried to achieve and see what people were doing. I felt that some entries lacked a little flavour but the presentation was beautiful. Overall, it was a good day at the NEC."
Judge: Fiona Cairns, celebration cake baker
"There were a lot of cupcakes to judge and it was an interesting experience to judge them - some were very impressive. I would say that some entrants had gone over the top on presentation with some very over-decorated versions, but there were some very special cakes in there. The finals day provided a good atmosphere and good feeling and there were so many applicants and lots of people involved."
Home-baking, Best Cupcake made with Alcohol Category winner: Lauren Jenkinson with a mulled wine cupcake
"It was a really, really good experience. It was my first ever baking competition and I found it really easy to enter. On the day of the final I was sick with nerves but it went well and I was so happy for all the comments that were made - it made my year. I'd definitely recommend people to enter and see what they can do.
"I've entered again as a professional this year as not long after entering last year's competition I got a job in a bakery. Baking used to just be a hobby but when I progressed in the competition and made it to the final my employer saw I had potential and I got a promotion to baker. Baking is a massive passion of mine and I've been waiting all year for the National Cupcake Championship to come back."
Professionals, Best Cupcake Made with Alcohol Winner: Paula Archard from Lilac Sensation with Summertime Pimms Cupcake
"It has changed my life in a way - lots of people recognised me from the competition and people say they have seen photos of me from the awards. A few people at Cake International came up to me, which was good as I am trying to move on with Lilac Sensation.
"I started the business as a hobby because I enjoy baking, and that is still true, but the competition gave me more focus on action on the business side. The awareness of my capabilities and what I do has grown as a result of being a finalist. Sales have gone up and people are getting in touch with me for more unusual creations."
Professionals: Best Themed Cupcake Category winner: Helen Bollen from Mrs B's Cakes, Summer Sundae Cupcake
"It was a smooth and easy entry process with clear information. I liked the NEC as the venue - there was lots to do and we could see the judges tasting our cakes which was terrifying and exciting simultaneously.
"Winning has helped my business tremendously from the photo of Mary Berry presenting the award to helping with the SEO for my website. Winning awards gives people confidence in your products and I have seen significant changes in the last year."
Home-baking, Classic Cupcake Category and overall winner: Shalini Sriskandarasa with seven-ways Chocolate Box
"I didn't expect to win at all - even being a finalist was brilliant. I have loved baking since I was little and just focused on making the recipe for the competition to get it out there.
"Since winning I decided to open my own shop - Lovely Cakes by Shalini. I started it officially at the end of November, after the competition, as it was something I had wanted to do for years and had already been looking into it previously. I do a lot of wedding cakes and love focusing on the flavour. The business is in growth and I'll definitely enter the competition again when it's stable."
Sponsor: Clare Fisher, senior sales executive of Cake International
"Organising this prestigious competition with British Baker magazine is an honour for Cake International and we are looking forward to being part of the judging process team again this year. It was a real challenge last year, with so many amazing entries to choose from. We really appreciated the very high standard of entries submitted, not only in the professional categories, but also the home-baking categories, which were inspiring too, with an enormous array of entries for us to judge."
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