It's a Major Award!

A few months ago I'd never even heard of Cupcake Camp. I had no idea there was such a thing until I saw Kiesha (52 Weeks of Baking) post on her Facebook page about organizing an event here in town. Cupcake Camp? Is that some kind of amazing, sugary, delicious summer camp? Sign me up! Immediately! Sadly, it's not that kind of camp. But who cares? It's cupcakes! All you can eat cupcakes! And most importantly, it's a chance to share my baking with an audience other than Boyfriend, my friends, my family, and my coworkers. While they all seem to enjoy my baking, maybe it's time to test the waters outside my circle. See what people who don't actually know me think of my baking. See if I'm actually cut out for this, or if everyone I know is just humoring my silly obsession. There's even categories to compete in! I could win prizes for my baking! I signed up to attend almost immediately. I'm in. My first real baking event with other real bakers. People who know what they're doing. And my first chance to show the world what I can do. What did I get myself into?

(Oh. And who am I kidding? All you can eat cupcakes is the most important part.)

So if it's not the most awesome summer camp on Earth, then what is Cupcake Camp? According to the website set up by the original founders of the very first Cupcake Camp, "CupcakeCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and eat cupcakes in an open environment." Okay. Only slightly vague. Looking into it, I realized it's based on the BarCamp events that have taken place around the world, only with cupcakes, not computers. Never heard of BarCamp either? Yeah. You're not alone. I had to consult Wikipedia and Boyfriend to have that one explained to me. Basically, from what I gathered, it's people with common interests (such as computers and programming, or baking and cupcakes) coming together to show off what they've done and what they know with others in a public setting (such as a conference center, a hotel, or an awesome restaurant/bar), usually "camping out" all day and even overnight. Hence the "camp" part. It's basically a big nerd party! (And I mean "nerd" in the kindest way, because I consider myself one too.) So coming together to eat cupcakes with other cupcake bakers and connoisseurs? Bring. It. On!

For this particular Cupcake Camp, bakers were allowed to submit 2 unique flavors of cupcakes. They were also able to enter their flavors into categories for judging. You could enter in Most Creative Decoration, Best Vegan, Best Use of Alcohol, and my personal favorite, for the sheer absurdity of it, Best Use of Bacon. At first, I was hesitant to enter in the judging. Although it would be fun, I didn't know what on Earth I could possibly make that would fit in the categories. I don't drink so I don't even know what alcohol would work well in baking, I've never tried vegan baking, and what in the world could I do with bacon?? I resigned myself to entering in the decoration category even though it's not my strongest skill. But the more I thought about it, and the more I tossed around ideas with Boyfriend the Muse, I decided, if I'm going to put myself out there and let complete strangers eat and judge my cupcakes, I'm going to put myself WAY out there, and go with something that will take me so far out of my comfort zone that I have no choice but to step up my game and make something truly amazing. That's right. I entered cupcakes into the Best Use of Bacon category.

Cupcake Camp EntriesWeeks of testing recipes for cupcakes and frostings, I had my two entries. French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream for judging, and Neapolitan Cupcakes for just eating! Things were touch and go for awhile leading up to the event. Between recipes not living up to the concepts I had in mind, to struggling to find someone to cover my shift at work, I had doubts I would even make it to the Camp. But, in the end, everything started falling into place. A coworker offered to cover part of my shift, even though it meant working close to 11 hours straight, and that's not including the opening shift she was working at her other job. I'm eternally grateful for that!! You have no idea! The managers even let me take the remaining hours I had that day completely off so I was able to finish everything up and not have to rush around like crazy the morning of the event. Even my recipes came together beautifully in the end. I don't know how or why, but the stars finally aligned in my favor, and I'm so glad! I was seriously stressing out for awhile!

My CupcakesSaturday afternoon, I packed up the cupcakes, and Boyfriend and I loaded up the car and headed out. We even got there like 20 minutes early and had to wait in the car until it was time to go in! Amazing! I'm NEVER early to anything. I'll be late to my own funeral when the time comes. And somehow we also scored the best parking spot possible, mere feet from the door of the Surly Girl Saloon, where the Camp was held. Apparently, Fate had smiled upon me, making it a truly miraculous day. Meanwhile, Mother Nature was smiting me with her wind. I swear, and my mother will attest to it, we've never tried to do anything even remotely important in my family that it hasn't been completely blustery with gale force winds wreaking havoc on whatever it is we are trying to do. I attempted to make myself presentable in public by taking the time to actually do my hair. The wind immediately un-did it for me, and I ended up in a ponytail, like always. The wind threatened to slam car doors shut as we were loading cupcakes. It even threatened to upturn boxes as we were walking. At one point, the lid of the top box I was carrying flew open and smacked me straight in the face. Me = Not a happy Camper. Boyfriend joked that it was about to turn into a slo-mo movie sequence: with the lid obscuring my view, I stumble blindly into the path of the oncoming jogger who slams into me. Cupcakes fly through the air, and rain down upon me in a shower of frosting. I stand dumbfounded, coated in frosting, with bacon in my hair, mere feet from the door of the party, while the restaurant patrons all point and laugh as silent tears streak down my sugary face. Luckily, that didn't happen, and we arrived unharmed, cupcakes intact.

CupcakesMad props to Surly Girl. The set-up was awesome! The parlor where it was held looked so cool. Once all the cupcakes were set out after the bakers arrived, it looked even more amazing! The event was split into 2 identical sessions to accommodate more people, since there was limited space, and turn outs from both sessions seemed really good. I attended the first session with Boyfriend. We ended up trying about 15 of the 21 cupcakes that were presented. Not whole ones. We split them. And even splitting them, we didn't eat all of what we had on some of them. There were just too many. But they were tasty! There were some really amazing ones. I loved the Crepes Suzette and the Chocolate Stout with Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting. (Mmm. How I love you Irish Cream. That's why I don't drink. I think I would love some of it a little too much.) After testing 15 cupcakes, I had the biggest sugar buzz ever! And I was afraid Boyfriend was going to have to roll me to the car later. There was no way I could try the other 6 during the second round that we missed the first time, so Boyfriend and I skipped Round 2 and walked around the Short North area of town for about an hour, and made it back in time for the winners of the judging to be announced.

It was a landslide victory for the Green Tea and Lavender cupcakes in the Best Vegan category--they were the only entry. (I have to confess, I didn't try these because Green Tea makes me gag, but they looked beautiful.) The Most Creatively Decorated went to The Homer Cupcakes-- topped with delicious TimBits donut holes. The Best Use of Alcohol went to the Irish Car Bombs. Incredibly tasty. And the Best Use of Bacon? Guess who won that one. That's right. Me! I won! I actually won! (I'm still in shock..) I Won!There were 5 cupcakes within the category. I was up against Maple Bacon, Dark Chocolate Bacon with Salted Buttercream, Pretentious Pork, and The Elvis, a peanut butter/bacon combination. I still can't believe I won. I really, honestly, didn't think I would. I thought the other bakers would have combinations and recipes that were so much better than what I was haphazardly throwing together. I still think some of them did. But for whatever reason, the judges liked mine, so I'm really excited! I won a $50 gift certificate to Sassafras Bakery in town, and I've already seen so many things I want just perusing the website! I also won a t-shirt with the Cupcake Camp logo on it, with "Bacon is the New Black" under it. And it's pink! The t-shirt is still being printed, so I don't have it yet, but it's going to be really cool when I get it! I did get a really cool brown t-shirt with the logo on it just for being a baker though!

As for my Neapolitan Cupcakes.. I guess they went over pretty well too. At the end of each session, we were allowed to take home whatever we could fit in to-go boxes. By the time each session was over, the Neapolitan platter was empty. I'll take that as a good sign! Overall, I had a great time. Thanks for Kiesha and Carmen for organizing it! The event was successful enough that the planning of another in the fall has started already, so I'm looking forward to that! I have 4 to 5 months to start coming up with the best recipes I can find! I know one will be some sort of chocolate inspired flavor, but I haven't quite figure out what yet. The other flavor is up in the air right now, but I'm sure I'll have narrowed it down by the time the next one rolls around. I just hope there's not another Bacon category. After 3 packages of bacon, I never want to cook another piece again. And it'll be a long while before I can even think about looking at another piece! Plus, I'm not sure I can come up with anything else to defend my title of Reigning Bacon Champ. So let's let this one go down in the record books, and all marvel in my Major Award, shall we?
Cupcakes and AwardIt's a Major Award! I won it!
"You say you won it?"
Yeah, mind power, Swede; mind power.

Check out the recipes for Neapolitan Cupcakes and French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes!

*Picture of ticket courtesy of the Cupcake Camp Facebook Event page and be sure to check out the Cupcake Camp Flickr Page for some really great photos of the event and all the beautiful tasty cupcakes! There's even a candid shot of me and Boyfriend in there!
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Heavenly Housewife said...

HOw fantastic! I want to be part of cupcake camp! Congrats on your win :)

Kelley (Colin's aunt) said...

Danae!! Me and Danny are reading your blog tonight. CONGRATS! Wow, what an honor....and bacon???? How neat. You're very talented! Good for you honey!


Kiesha said...

Danae, I hope you didn't tell me at some point in the past that you have a blog and I just TOTALLY wasn't paying attention. I sincerely hope that you just didn't really mention it to me.

I love the blog by the way. I linked to it on mine. And I put a link to your CCC post in my CCC post.

Kiesha Jenkins-Duffy said...

I still dream about these bacon cupcakes sometimes. We went to the Brooklyn Flea market a few weekends ago and a girl was selling cupcakes. She had bacon ones, but they didn't look anywhere near as beautiful as yours.

I need to make those French Toast ones soon.

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