National cupcake Finals

It’s two years to the day since you passed. Right now I’m on my way to the National Cupcake Finals at Birmingham NEC to submit my entry. Criticising everything I have done.
Another nightmare right before submission means I’m feeling like going home not going to the finals.
I’ve had a little cry to myself, it’s more than just falling at the final hurdle, it’s what this day means.

Three years ago we had only just accepted the diagnosis. Not accepted, not really, not ever, not even now.
If you had stayed I don’t know if I’d be where I am now. Does that comfort me? Not really. Everything happens for a reason though, yes?

I’ve told, retold, and re-retold my ‘story’ and maybe today will be an additional chapter.

After loosing my nana to pancreatic cancer two years ago today I decided to sign up to the Cancer Research Race for Life. To increase the amount of donations to my sponsorship I began baking cupcakes and selling 6 for £5. It was such a success I managed to doubled my sponsorship and had such good feedback I decided to make baking a job. I got myself a job at a local bakery on the ‘patisserie finish’ section, filling eclairs, putting pavlovas together & piping custard! After a few weeks I was told about the National Cupcake Competition and decided to enter. I spent months developing a mulled wine cupcake and getting everyone I knew to try them! By the time National Cupcake week cake around I had pretty much forgotten about it and hadn’t felt too confident about getting through, so when I was on my break at work and the email came with the list of finalists and I saw my name I was unbelievably shocked!

Last year I was convinced I had messed up my chance at winning, the day before the competition I made three lots of my Mulled wine cupcakes because it all kept going terribly! I still wasn’t satisfied when time was up and I have to leave to get to Birmingham! I didn’t even think it was worth going but I set off with my friend and arrived late at night at my cousins who was putting us up for the night. In the morning I decorated the cupcakes, still feeling pessimistic and delivered then to the NEC. The day dragged to say the least, I felt sick with nerves! I wanted to win so much but I thought all hope had gone out the window!

We passed the time taking a look at all the decorated cakes, wondering the cake stalls and having a few drinks, the winners were to be announced at 3.30 and so at 2.30 we went to the presentation area and watched one of the demonstrations. When it got to 3.15 the organisers called all competitors together and sat us in the front few seats. I was fidgety and I imagine I looked like I was going to be sick because I certainly felt that way! They began the announcements of the winners with the homebakers, first classic cupcake, then free from, made with alcohol and finally themed. There was a highly commended and a winner from each category. I was genuinely pleased for everyone who’s name was called, when I didn’t hear mine for highly commended (which I thought was the best I could do with the nightmare id had) my emotions dropped to disappointment, so much so that as they said ‘Lauren Jenkinson with a Mulled Wine cupcake’ it took me a few seconds to register. The applause had already started and I turned to the guy next to me and I remember as if it was yesterday I said ‘oh my god, that’s me!’. My legs were like jelly they could barely carry me to collect my trophy and have my picture taken next to Mary Berry and last years overall winner!

Instead of going back to my chair I went straight to my friend, half crying, half in shock, shaking and smiling! I noticed the winner of the classic cupcake from the professionals was the guy who I had been sat next to, Martin Hargreaves (he’s a finalist again this year). After all announcement we were called together for a group photo and I got chance to speak to one judge who congratulated me on my recipe and innovation! He mentioned how Great British Bake Off winner and another judge for the competition John Whaite had been really impressed and loved the cupcake! I was overjoyed and overwhelmed!

When my cousin came to get us I pretended to be a bit gutted, we got in her car and she said ‘I guess you didn’t win’ at which point I pulled out the trophy! She scolded me for having been so negative and told me to have more faith in myself which I definitely have tried to do!

Since then all I’ve thought about was the National Cupcake Competition 2014. I started working on a few different ideas in December and entered into the professionals with a classic cupcake that didn’t quite make it and a Gluten and Dairy free Brandy Passion Truffle (with passionfruit curd and dairy free cream) which made it to the finals and I’m about to deliver to the judges!

I could still hope I’ve done everything within my skills to win. I know the competition is much harder this year because I’m entered as a professional even though I only do these experiments at home. I know I’m up agains professionals with their own businesses and who’ve been making cakes for years so again I’m not feeling too confident! This year I’m going to make the most out of the event and try not to focus on the competition!

I’ve got more to be thankful for and focus on even if I don’t win. I’m in the process of setting up a baking workshop with a homeless shelter in Manchester (The Mustard Tree Foundation) which I’m unbelievably excited about and I’m going to start selling cakes from home when our new kitchen gets in!

I love and miss my nana more and more each day and it doesn’t get any easier but because of her I’m where I am today.

It’s definitely an exciting time at the moment and I couldn’t be much happier!

Fingers crossed

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