Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Success is a piece of cake for Shalini!

Fledgling baker becomes Britain’s first ever amateur cupcake champion

Emdad Rahman: Shalini Sriskandarasa, 25, has been named Britain’s first ever amateur National Cupcake Champion at her very first attempt.

I met Shalini and her proud parents, Sriskandarasa and Vijayarani, along with her partner Nimel at their home in Ilford, Essex. The family moved to the UK from Sri Lanka in 1998.

Shalini, who has never participated in a competition before eagerly spoke about her experience at the previous weekend’s national competition where she received her title from Britain's queen of baking, the TV presenter and food writer Mary Berry, before an audience of hundreds attending Cake International, the sugarcraft, cake decorating and baking show in Birmingham.

"I was just flabbergasted to be amongst the finalists," Shalini yelped. “I've been baking since I was a young child and have always enjoyed the creative side involved in cake making. It's my favourite pastime and brings out the best in me."

Now in its fifth successful year, National Cupcake Week (September 16-22 2013) celebrates a highly popular classic that has stimulated innovation and spawned a raft of new craft food businesses across the UK.

National Cupcake Week is an initiative created and managed by the magazine title, British Baker, as part of National Cupcake Week, and the purpose of the campaign is to drive sales and footfall into craft, high street and in-store bakeries, coffee shops and cafes. The sponsors of National Cupcake Week 2013 were Tesco, Secret Ingredients and BFP Wholesale.

Multi-talented Shalini beat off stiff competition from 36 other amateur finalists to take the title in the competition. The young Baker impressed the competition judges with her delicious classic cupcake, called Chocolate Box. They said the cupcake was rich, fudgy and tasted just like a proper chocolate cake should.

Shalini, who used to study medicine, was inspired to pursue a career in cake making after she baked an exquisite cake during the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012. She is hoping to set up her own cake decorating business, specialising in sugar flowers. She said: “I only started making cakes recently, for the Queen’s Jubilee, but it is a passion of mine. I found the recipe a while ago and everyone loves it. It’s my brother’s favourite. I really can’t believe that I have won, but this is probably the confirmation I needed. I now know for sure that this is my field and I will keep on researching and strengthening my creative skills to hopefully become a success.”

An all-female line up of home bakers were competing for the first ever amateur championship prize and four category titles. Judging the finals live at Cake International were Great British Bake off winner John Whaite, Royal Wedding Cake maker Fiona Cairns, Gerhard Jenne founder of Konditor & Cook, award winning pastry chef Will Torrent, British Baker editor Martyn Leek and sponsors John Young from Secret Ingredients and Neil Davey from BFP Wholesale.

“It was a closely fought contest and the standard of entries from the amateur bakers was brilliant,” said British Baker Georgi Gyton. “The taste and flavour combinations were innovative and their creative presentation even more so. Shalini’s cupcake however was an outstanding winner and we sincerely hope that this win puts her business on the path to great success.”

Shalini’s success was put further into perspective: “My bakes were slightly ruined during transportation to Birmingham from London. My partner and I spent an anxious few hours in the rain that evening trying to locate the right ingredients, including mint chocolate, to ensure that my creations were up to standard. It was very nerve racking.”

She hopes to start a business in the future and cites her parents as her greatest supporters. Shalini thanked her brother Senthilkumaran,  her sister in law and partner Nimel – “They have been instrumental in my achievement,” she gushed. "Thank you so much everyone! It's a great feeling to do something I love! Thank you to all my family and friends for always appreciating my cakes. I couldn't have achieved this without my amazing mum and dad's support and for believing in me.

Shalini, who last year received great plaudits after baking and designing a marvellous cake for her Brother’s wedding, also has a page on Facebook called Lovely Cakes and Lovely Sugar Flowers by Shalini.

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