Somewhat terrifyingly, I was first. And this meant I hadn't the foggiest what the standard would be. It was all anonymous so I had no idea who or what I was up against, and it all got a lot more nerve-wracking and tense than I'd been expecting.
As I struggled to decide what to make, my dear friend Amber reminded me of my old caramel apple cake, which is one of her faves. It always was a winner, if I do say so myself.
But in an effort to make my bake a) more impressive, and b) easier to transport, I decided to turn said cake into cupcakes. And reader, they turned about pretty gosh darn well.
And because they went down such a treat with both my colleagues and my flatmates - I couldn't not give them one now, could I? - I figured I'd share the recipe with you all too.
I love these cupcakes. They are soooooo caramelly! There's caramel in the cake batter instead of sugar, caramel actually dolloped inside each cake, caramel in the frosting AND then even more caramel drizzled on top. Yeah, your dentist ain't gonna love you for this. But everyone else will so it's fine.
I think these cupcakes make for a rather lovely early autumn recipe - I know we eat apples all year round but I can't help but associate them with autumn (the best season of them all), for some reason. Maybe it's the memories of picking them from the orchard in my family garden or eating toffee apples on bonfire night as a little girl.
125g unsalted butter, softened (just leave it out of the fridge for a few hours to reach room temp)
397g can caramel (I used Carnation)
2 eggs, at room temp
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt
300g Bramley (cooking) apples - I used 2 big ones
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp demerara sugar
Rest of tin of caramel
400g icing sugar
A pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tray with paper cases. Peel, core and chop the apples into little chunks.
2. Place the butter and 225g of the caramel into a large bowl and beat with a handheld electric whisk until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
3. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and fold them in along with the milk before gently stirring in the apple until evenly incorporated into the batter. Spoon the cake mix into the muffin cases until each one is about 3/4 full, sprinkle a little demerara sugar over each cake and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes.
4. When done, the cupcakes should be golden, springy underneath the sugary crust, and a skewer inserted into the middle should come out just about clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray for about ten minutes before popping the cupcakes on to a wire rack to cool fully.
7. Add the rest of the tin of caramel (apart from about 1 tsp worth!) and a pinch of salt and beat for a couple of minutes more until well incorporated. Finally, add the icing sugar a third at a time and beat well (I like to fold it in first to stop icing sugar going everywhere!) until you have a light, fluffy frosting.
I saved one cupcake and popped it in the freezer so I can have cake for breakfast on my birthday in a week. And I'm looking forward to it already.