It took me ages to think of something different to make. Eventually I came up with this idea for the bees, and everything fell into place from there.
My first idea was of honeycomb-topped cupcakes with little bees buzzing around them. I was initially going to make the toppers hexagon-shaped and have them all join up to form a large hive, but in the end decided circular toppers were cuter.
I'd wanted tulip-shaped patty pans, but the store I go to that usually stocks them were all out. So I got these cute patty pans that say "cupcake" on the side instead. I almost didn't want to bake in them and wreck them.
The toppers are made from white-chocolate, tinted with yellow powder colouring. The bees are made from fondant.
I've had a few goes at making the bees in the past, but I think I've finally got it down pat. Each time I've tried something new, but this is the best I think they have looked. I painted the stripes on this time and as I had a few days to prepare, I made sure I gave the fondant plenty of drying time before moving to the next step. This helped solve so many of the problems I've had in the past.
I attached the bees with edible glue I made from piping gel, almond essence and water, which had the unintended effect of making it look like honey inside the honeycombs.
I made a dozen in all, but it turned out that they were too tall for all of my cupcake carriers. I had to use other containers, so a couple got left behind.
I had thoughts about making the second half of the cupcakes florally with bees perched atop, but in the end decided to accompany them with lady birds.
It also gave me a chance to practise some fondant roses, something I haven't tried since the very first time I gave fondant a go. Those early fondant disasters taught me some very important lessons about what not to do with fondant. It's only in the last few months that I feel I've finally learned to control it properly, so attempting something I've been too shy to try was really therapeutic.
I embossed the toppers and the leaves and gave them some blossoms.
I also gave the lady bugs antennae for the first time. I think I prefer them without.
I finished these at 2am and after a few hours sleep was off to Uni with them, so when I got home I snapped a few dissected versions of the spares.
First with the bees.
These were honey flavoured cupcakes, topped with vanilla buttercream and then finally the chocolate discs and fondant bees.
Straight out of the oven, this recipe is delicious. The sort you want to eat warm with a dollop of butter. After they've cooled, I felt they lost some of that magic.
These cakes were cherry and choc chip coconut cupcakes, topped with a swirl of vanilla buttercream and fondant decorations.
Of course, having choc chips these ones were going to be also better straight out of the oven, what with the melty centres of goodness. But they were still really nice and packed with flavour later.
The whole time I was baking, decorating, making fondant flowers while watching the football on TV and yelling at it, and photographing the end results, I had a little fluff ball staring really intently at the bees. He wanted to nom some.
How about the bake-off itself? It was lots of fun with another awesome turn out and an impressive array of baked goods. I wish I had photos for you, but I was far too shy to take any. There were lots of yummy-looking cupcakes and elaborately decorated cookies. Some of the cookies were crocodile and koala shaped, flooded with royal icing and decorated with things like coffee beans or sprinkles for the features. There were giant cake pops decorated with fondant roses (and non-edible glitter - eeek!), so there's definitely a few seasoned decorators around the department.
Somehow I still got the Judges Choice and the Peoples Award. Somehow the certificate giver misspelled my name. The Judges gave best-tasting to the chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes, and the croc and koala cookies received the "OMG" Award -- the later being a renamed version of the "OMGWTF" Award that was supposed to go to the most deliciously ugly entrant, but nothing was considered ugly enough.
Last years prizes were some makeshift trophies, but this year we got some awesome bakey gifts:
Last but not least, here are the recipes if you want to make the cupcakes yourself!
Cherry and Chocolate Chip Coconut Cake