Cupcake Camp

Belfast's sweet tooth is sated in Blick Shared Studios

It is a strange experience to admire cakes for 45 minutes. Cupcakes, in particular. Housing prices may be on shaky ground but at Cupcake Camp, real estate (in the form of table space) is at a premium. The high-ceilinged main room in Blick Studios is awash with cupcakes of all shapes, colours and flavours. Carrot and sultana cakes sit happily alongside peanut and chilli cakes, while raspberry and strawberry fight it out for inches of display room. Pinks, whites, deep browns, neon greens and purples entice wide-eyed spectators towards the beautiful buns.

When the command to eat bellows through the room, a moment of mass indecision ensues. Nobody Carrot cupcakesdares take the first cupcake, never mind the first bite. But soon the cupcake display is toppled in a coup d’état of good-tempered gluttony

Cupcake Camp is the latest off-the-wall event at Belfast's Blick Studios, which is fast gaining a reputation for baking outside of the box. The concept was conjured up by American Ariel Waldman, who modified the concept behind BarCamp, an ‘unconference’-style event originating in Boise (Idaho's state capital), where attendees discuss the latest web applications - an informal way of keeping up to date with your peers in the ever-changing world of information technology.

Waldman's genius was to replace information technology with cupcakes, describing Cupcake Camp as 'an event where people can buy or bake cupcakes to bring to the event, or they can just show up and eat cupcakes. It's really just an event for cupcake lovers born out of the tech scene'.

Waldman is tapping into a cultural phenomenon. Cupcakes are cool, cupcakes are in, cupcakes are now. At least that's according to the Sunday Times Style section, which described them as 'the most fashionable treat of our times'. Heidi Klum brought them to Posh Spice's birthday, dontcha know?

A sense of excitement grips the 35 bakers as attendees sample their sugary creations. Waistbands strain and blood sugar levels soar as the tables empty. A few desperate bakers shield their favourite cupcakes from potential consumers' eyes to preserve them for the competition later.

Complimentary coffee flows as attendees discuss recipe ideas and ingredient ratios. Photographers and journalists mill around tables, searching for the best cupcake angle. Teenagers rub shoulders with proud grandparents, kids natter in available corners, with organiser Ciarán Madden pulling the apron-strings.

Chocolate cupcakes'There have been Cupcake Camps in Idaho, in San Francisco, all over the States. I contacted the girl who started it and asked if I could host the first Cupcake Camp in Ireland and she agreed. So we're attending history,' says Madden, who, still at school, has come early to the world of cupcakes.

'I didn't believe this many people would come. I thought that the cupcakes were not going to be anywhere near as magnificant as the ones I saw in America, but these ones are brilliant, really gorgeous looking stuff ... People have really gotten into the spirit of it. I have to commend everybody who have come and brought cupcakes, and even those who came just for the laugh.'

Cupcake Camp hasn’t totally abandoned its technological past, with a large number of attendees, bakers and even Blick Studios, hearing about the event on the net, especially via Twitter. But the main message of the day is good old-fashioned community spirit and enjoyment. The humble cupcake has a kitsch innocence, which brings out the best in people. Life is sweet, indeed.

Robert Geoghegan

Click here to find out what's coming up at Blick Shared Studios, Belfast.