THEY were once only associated with children’s birthday parties, topped with jelly diamonds, but there’s still nothing more child-like than the feeling you get when tucking into a delicious cupcake.

And with the trend for these mini treats as popular as ever, one East Lancashire woman has converted the garage of her Blackburn home, and turned it into a mini-bakery to meet the demands of her thriving cupcake business.

Speaking ahead of National Cupcake Week, which starts on Monday, Sophia Patel said cupcakes are now a popular alternative to traditional wedding and birthday cakes.

“Cupcakes have taken off across the nation and I don’t think bakers like me, were prepared. I have had to extend my home because of the sheer demand and the increasing volume of cupcakes,” said Sophia who runs her business, Cupcakes and Cookies on Blackburn Market.

“I was not prepared for how busy I would be when I first opened up in Blackburn in 2010. It all started a couple of days before Valentine’s Day. I received loads of orders and I had to work through the night to keep up, and I thought wow – this must be the start of the madness and I was right!” said Sophia, who now also employs staff at her bakery in Billinge Avenue.

“From then on, with the occasions like Mother’s Day, I have been so busy.” But for the 44-year-old, whilst the cupcake industry is booming and the national competitions are beginning to start, admitting to herself that a bakery was needed, has been the best boost for her business.

“I couldn’t do the cakes in the kitchen any more. I have three children and a large family so I had to keep the cooking and the cakes separate,” laughed Sophia.

“I had to get all the correct materials and appliances; my cupcake mixer is absolutely huge and my industrial oven holds around 100 cupcakes, then there’s plenty of space to let them cool down and a station to decorate them.”

Decorating cupcakes is also art, according to the mother-of-three, who was winner of The Mall Blackburn’s annual Retail Factor competition in 2011. “There is so much competition around, it’s unbelievable, with the most artistic and detailed cakes around. It’s about making them look as delicious as they taste. You really have to be on the ball, and keep up with the trends, flavours and designs,” said Sophia, who also makes cake pops and custom-made cakes.

“I have started to incorporate henna designs onto cakes and they really are custom made. People even want giant cupcakes rather than a full-on cake.”

So if you are a baker or an eater, there’s no denying these mini treats are wonderful, but the main question on everybody’s lips is why has the cupcake craze taken over the nation?

“When you think of a cupcake, it can take you back to being little again, the time when you were happy to eat a small cake and it was all yours,” explained Sophia.

“Adults love the fun they bring and they can be customised for any age.

“Some people say it’s the fact that you get to keep it all and you don’t really have to share!”