How does a girl celebrate her 16th birthday? A barbecue with friends? An all girls sleepover? Well, not my daughter! Always one to think of something different, my daughter decided she would like to invite a group of friends to a Masterchef-style challenge to celebrate her recent 16th birthday. 
“Sure, honey!”
I just wondered how we would manage this one!
So, the invitations were sent but the actual challenge remained a mystery. All the girls accepted the challenge and although most had little experience in the kitchen, all were fanatical followers of the TV reality show.
A cupcake challenge would be the easiest in many ways. We decided on a basic muffin recipe because it is easily made without an electric mixer but can still be flavoured in many ways and iced and decorated creatively. The recipe cards were printed and some crazy, fun rules were made up. Ingredients were bought – spices, nuts, dried fruit, spreads, syrups and various forms of chocolate and sweets along with food colourings and assorted sprinkles- and displayed on the day of the big event.

 

The eight contestants were paired to make 4 teams and each received purpose made aprons in their team colour along with a wooden spoon and a measuring cup to help complete the challenge. Once the challenge was announced and the quite ridiculous list of rules read, the ingredients were unveiled. The teams were given 3 minutes to check out the ingredients and 2 minutes to brainstorm with their partner before the one hour challenge began in earnest. This is when the flour began to fly and the eggs and milk poured from the table onto the floor! 

Cupcakes (muffins) were baked and carefully checked!

And then the decorating began….

…..Precision,

….expertise,

…and concentration was required!

Finally the proud result but the judging was still to come! My husband paraded as George Colombaris while my son became Matt Preston. But wait there was more… Maggie arrived! My sister threw herself fully into her roll as Maggie Beer discussing with her fellow judges the attributes of each entry, the crumb, the texture and the presentation. Matt threw his plate to the floor saying “That is disgusting……disgustingly good!”
Certificates were given in various categories – Best Plating, Most Creative Cupcake, Most Likely to Succeed and The Grand Prize which also took out the coveted trophy!
Everyone had a fun day and more food colouring, butter and chocolate was used in one single batch of cakes and icing than I thought possible!

Most Likely to Succeed – “Chocolate Insomnia”
espresso and chocolate)

Best Plating – “Contagious Choc Cherry Cupcake Creations”
(Chocolate and Cherry Ripe)

Most Creative – “Heaven Delight”
(white chocolate and butter)

Grand Prize – “Chocolate Extravaganza”
(Mars bar and chocolate fudge)

Basic Muffins

2 cups self raising flour (or all purpose flour plus 4 teaspoons baking powder)
3/4 cup fine white sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
vanilla

Sift flour and mix with sugar. Combine egg, milk, oil and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Spoon into large cupcake trays. Bake at 200C for 15 minutes.
Variations are totally your discretion!