Chocolate freckle cupcakes and a rant about competitive baking

chocolate freckle cupcakes

Last year I entered the Ekka baking competition. I didn’t expect to win, but it seemed like a fun thing to do. After months of testing recipes on friends, family, housemates and workmates, I figured my banana bread, pumpkin scones and jam tarts were as good as they were going to get. When the big day arrived, I dropped off my entries and anxiously waited for the results. I still didn’t expect to win, but I secretly hoped I’d be surprised. I wasn’t. But that was ok, I figured, I can’t have done that badly. Perhaps I came fourth? Then I got the feedback in the mail weeks later. It was harsh. Like, unnecessarily harsh. And vague. The feedback for my banana bread said ‘More attention to baking required. Maybe try a different recipe’. Ouch. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that terrible. Everyone who’d tried it seemed to think it was ok. I was disheartened, and decided that competitive baking was clearly not for me.

But then I received the entry forms for this year’s Ekka. For some reason this made me feel all warm and fuzzy, like I was part of a community. And what if these types of competitions died out? That would be sad, right? So I decided I’d enter again, but in the novice category. And I’d only enter one thing – cooking three things the night before entries were due had been a mistake. So I decided on the chocolate bar cake, sent off my entry form, paid the fee and promptly forgot all about it. Unlike last year, when I tested and refined my recipes for months, this year I did nothing by way of preparation. On the weekend before the entries were due I thought I probably should a) find a recipe and b) do a test run. So I did, and it came out looking like a giant turd.

Behold:

chocolate turd cake

Iced, it just looked like a shiny (polished) turd:

iced chocolate turd cake

This was no good.

I couldn’t decide if I should bother entering. At around 10pm on the night before entries were due, I decided I would give it crack. But when I tried to get the cake out of the tin and it left a huge chunk behind, I gave up. Imagine the nasty feedback I’d get about a cake with a hole in it? But the recipe itself was pretty good, so I played with it a bit more and decided it was better in cupcake form with sprinkles. I also decided that competitive baking is stupid and it was probably a good thing if it died out. It’s such an oddly prescriptive form of baking, with all the fun removed. I can never figure out exactly what they want – can I cook any kind of chocolate cake I want or does it have to be a ‘traditional’ one, and what does that even mean? I swear, some of the categories say you need to enter a cake with a ‘good flavour’. WTF does that actually mean? And I don’t really know what a ‘nice crumb’ is, or understand why having a domed or cracked cake or testing it with a skewer is so bad… In short, because I’d failed I felt like I could write off the entire concept of competitive baking. I figure I can make a perfectly acceptable ‘rustic’ looking cake if I need to and I don’t care if it doesn’t meet the high standards of some uppity CWA bitches Ekka judges.

But, I digress. The outcome of this whole adventure was a recipe for nice, light, simple cupcakes. They taste like old school chocolate cakes. There’s nothing new fangled and fancy in them, like, I don’t know, almond meal and real chocolate, which seem to be all the rage in chocolate cakes these days.

Chocolate freckle cupcakes
This recipe is an amalgamation of numerous recipes from the internets.
Makes 18

125 g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup and 1 tbs cocoa powder
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
splash of rum (optional)
cupcake cases

Chocolate icing
Adapted from David Herbert’s The Really Useful Cookbook

50 g unsalted butter
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tbs boiling water
sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.

Put all the cake ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Pour the batter into the cupcake cases. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer (that’s right, a skewer) stuck into the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool completely before icing.

For the icing, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined. If it’s still a bit thick or not combining properly, add another tablespoon of boiling water.

Ice the cupcakes. Put some sprinkles in a bowl. Press the iced cupcakes in the bowl (one at a time) until the top is completely covered with sprinkles.

Done.

If, like me, you were lucky enough to be given an amazing cupcake holder for your birthday by an awesome friend, you can pop one (or two) of these suckers in it and take it to work with you.

cupcake holder

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6 responses to “Chocolate freckle cupcakes and a rant about competitive baking

  • Sarah Koch

    Boom! Im FAAAAMOUUSSS!!!!!! I love this post and the photos!! I went to the EKKA this year and looked at all of the cakes. It was fun. Next year, I’d like you to enter a marble cake. 🙂

    • Jen

      You’ll probably get heaps of offers to do your own reality TV show when you’re in the US next week – just give me a small cut and I’ll be happy 🙂

      Is marble cake an option? I don’t know if I can be bothered again, it makes me so ranty.

  • Sarah

    I love ranty Jen!!! And ranty Rach. Ha. Miss you guys 😦

  • Johnny

    Is there something wrong with the Cookery Section at the Ekka?. Ask yourself this – when is a novice not really a novice? Well when it comes to competeing at the Ekka Cooking Competition. A novice is a person who is new or inexperienced in a certain task or activity, a beginner. But unfortunately the true meaning of the word, novice, is not being used or understood by the Ekka Cookery Section. The Ekka is allowing competitors who have been winning successfully for many years, and some even decades, to enter into the ‘novice’ section of the competition as long as they have not won that particular class before. This is totally unfair and unjust to truly novice (new and inexperienced) exhibitors there. Just check the records and you will see that a Ekka cooking legend won the date loaf class in the Novice section and another Ekka legend was placed in the chocolate cake class of the same Novice section. They are not in anyway a novice competitor. Not many new or inexperienced exhibitors know this and would be shock and disheartened to know that this was going on. Competeing against other novice competitors as well serious old-timers in the competition. It is not fair. It is down right dishonest. It needs to be fairer and more just and change this as it is unfair to let new and unexperienced exhibitors to complete against experienced exhibitors like the Ekka cooking old-timers. I just thought that you should be aware of this problem and hopefully help make it a level playing field so to speak with all the new and inexperienced exhibitors competeing against themselves. Thanks for taking the time to read this and lets hope that you can make a difference and make the Ekka redefine the term novice. Lets make it fairer for everyone as we all love the Ekka and love cooking. If you compete at the Ekka – you should be aware of this and if you want it to change then send off an email to them and tell them what you think and demand for the rules to be change… otherwise the competition won’t be fair at all…. No its not good enough.. not good enough in any sense and its a poor response and its an easy cop-out. You should state in the Schedule that those ‘Novice’ classes are open to ALL except for those who have won that class previously. It’s not really ‘novices’ then really as it implies. BTW well answer me this then about how fair the Ekka is – the Ekka Schedule clearly states that “Preserves will not be accepted unless in correct bottles … All jars are round 375ml jars” except for certain classes with other jar sizes stated yet in 2009 and again in 2012 the winner of the Lemon Butter preserve was presented and awarded to a entry that was NOT in the stated jar (round 375ml) but rather in a 270ml square jar. Clearly the judges and the stewards of the Show at that time should have disqualified that entry on the grounds that it was not presented in the correct jar as stated in the Schudule – as it clearly states “Preserves will not be accepted unless in correct bottles”. And another point concerns Pickled Onions – the awarded entries seem to be simply bought pickled onions and then placed into a jar and then presented at the Ekka. This has been going on for years and years and I quote the chief steward of the Ekka Cookery “for quite a while was the pickled onions … we use to say that they are bought pickled onions and they just tipped them into the jar and they use to win every year. Once we started asking questions …. after we started asking too many questions we never got the onions again”. Cheaters is what they are. That was said back in August 2010 during a ABC News segment. Well it has started again… The judges should have disqualified them again as it is against the rule no. 1 of the schedule. So it is all a very poor reply to this problem that it seems that the Ekka is just ignoring it or putting its head in the sand. Hope more with read this and complain to make it all fairer in the Ekka Cookery Competition. Just not good enough.

  • Johnny

    I guess that RQSCompetition doesnt want to rebuff the points that were made in my little address about how unfair it is and that some of the entries that won at the Ekka should have been disqualified. Though I am still waiting on a reply from them about the preserve section and that winners were awarded to entries that should have been disqualified – – – – As I said prevously and I will re-copy it here again … about how fair the Ekka is – the Ekka Schedule clearly states that “Preserves will not be accepted unless in correct bottles … All jars are round 375ml jars” except for certain classes with other jar sizes stated yet in 2009 and again in 2012 the winner of the Lemon Butter preserve was presented and awarded to a entry that was NOT in the stated jar (round 375ml) but rather in a 270ml square jar. Clearly the judges and the stewards of the Show at that time should have disqualified that entry on the grounds that it was not presented in the correct jar as stated in the Schudule – as it clearly states “Preserves will not be accepted unless in correct bottles”. And another point concerns Pickled Onions – the awarded entries seem to be simply bought pickled onions and then placed into a jar and then presented at the Ekka. This has been going on for years and years and I quote the chief steward of the Ekka Cookery “for quite a while was the pickled onions … we use to say that they are bought pickled onions and they just tipped them into the jar and they use to win every year. Once we started asking questions …. after we started asking too many questions we never got the onions again”. Cheaters is what they are. That was said back in August 2010 during a ABC News segment. Well it has started again… The judges should have disqualified them again as it is against the rule no. 1 of the schedule. So it is all a very poor reply to this problem that it seems that the Ekka is just ignoring it or putting its head in the sand. Hope more with read this and complain to make it all fairer in the Ekka Cookery Competition. Just not good enough. THE NOVICE SECTION OF THE EKKA IS A JOKE AND ALL FAKE!

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