sugar, salty, sweet: a cupcake story

cupcake tragedy, originally uploaded by mintyfresh.

I am a mad baker. I love to bake. Cookies, cupcakes, and other bizarre concoctions of flour and sugar and sweetness seem to flow from my kitchen on a regular basis, finding homes in the bellies of co-workers, friends, family, neighbours, and possibly a kitten or three.

So when the notion of cupcake camp started floating around a few months ago, first on twitter, as @CETO and others expressed their regret at missing such a glorious event, and then on facebook and in casual conversation, I just knew that this was something I had to check out.

The Ottawa version of cupcake camp took place this past weekend at the Jack Purcell centre, and was an absolute feast for the eyes - cupcakes as far as the eye could see! With over 3400 cupcakes, 100 bakers, 30 volunteers and more than 500 (very patient) tasters, cupcake camp was a resounding success.

cupcake crowd, originally uploaded by mintyfresh.

I attended the event as a taster, along with a baker partner in crime, the delightful @jcovert who effortlessly whipped up a fluffy batch of chocolate mocha cupcakes for the event. This way, we were guaranteed to get to see the event from both sides.

Doors for the event "officially" opened at 2pm, but bakers were cautioned to arrive quite early in order to get through the cupcake "check-in" process. Upon our arrival just after 1pm, we were ushered into a long line full of bakers, arms piled high with giant bakers boxes, tupperware containers and all other form of cupcake transport. It was fascinating to stand in line and just watch the sheer variety of cupcakes float by - plain jane cupcakes, beautifully iced, fancy decorated cupcakes, dressed like sunflowers, butterflies, purses, mushrooms and more, and even a special batch of cupcakes stashed away in a still warm crockpot (but more on those later).

wall of cupcake schedules, originally uploaded by mintyfresh.

Checked-in cupcakes were given a number, checked off the registration list, and then professionally photographed with one of the most lovely huge camera lenses I've seen in quite some time, so that photos of the cakes could be projected on the walls above the judges table during the course of the afternoon.

deliberation, originally uploaded by mintyfresh.

With cupcakes checked in, we headed off to the tasting room to get a real 'taste' (ha!) of what cupcake camp was all about. A horseshoe of crepe-covered tables greeted us in the centre of the room, and it's all you can do once you arrive to not watch, mouth gaping, as tray after tray of the widest variety of cupcakes you've ever seen are paraded out for public consumption. There were ten batches of cupcakes at this event, a new batch brought out ever fifteen minutes.

judges table, originally uploaded by mintyfresh.

There is no public vote, but there is a judges table. The public gets to taste at random (and we can be a choosy public!), however, the judges must taste every cake the comes their way. I can only imagine how they felt on Monday - sugar hangover anyone?

With all of the sugar in the air, I could only bring myself to try two tiny little cupcakes - a candy-glazed red-velvet ball, and a wee-mini chocolate merlot topped with toasted coconut. Rest assured, though, there were many more to be had. There was a fully vegan batch (about 20 different kinds of cupcakes), a nut-free batch, and many more. And those crockpot cupcakes? Meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting - certainly one of the most inventive of the bunch!