Taking the cake: A&U bakeoff revisitedOctober 8, 2010
One table, fifteen plates, two notebooks and great deal of salivating. That’s what greeted the Empress and me as we stepped into the hallowed halls of Allen & Unwin‘s Sydney offices the other week.
Long-term visitors to this blog will recall that last year Steph and I had the same honour – judging the A&U staff bake-off. We love A&U, not only because they publish the Empress’s book as well as my own, but because frankly they are the most enthusiastic cake-baking publishing house we know of. We believe if more publishers paid this level of attention to their morning teas the world would be a better place, and not just because the proceeds go to such worthy causes such as the Indigenous Literacy Project.
But back to the judging. The Empress and I must admit to some relief on seeing this year’s table carrying only 15 entries this year, because last year’s tasting of 27 cakes, biscuits, slices, quiches and pies took about a year to work off.
The bakeoff went all wild-card this year because neither of last year’s butter-and-sugar-fingered winners competed this time. One is overseas (or that’s what they told us).
The other, serial winner Anthony Bryant, has clearly become so much of a threat that shortly before the contest he met with a mysterious “accident”, resulting in a broken leg and the inability to nip around the kitchen to make his customary dozen or so outstanding entries. Poor man couldn’t even make it up the stairs to the bakeoff morning tea. I told you they were serious. (Anthony, give us a call. I know someone who for a modest fee can help you out with some ‘protection’ next year.)
Once again, the judging was taken extremely seriously. By the Empress anyway, who is quite experienced in these matters (she actually does food judging, for real!) and goes so far as to wear no perfume so as not to interfere with her senses, and sips only water as she makes her way studiously around the table.
I, on the other hand, was doused in perfume (Chanel, darling, if you must know) and slurped coffee the whole time. See how we complement each other?
The Empress and I made our way through the blind tasting in four categories this time, separately keeping our scores out of 10 each for presentation and texture, and out of 20 for flavour.
This year we also added an optional extra point for X-factorness and general pizazz. Once again, our scores were remarkably similar, varying only by a point each time.
And the winners were…
General: Susan Suhood’s delicately balanced and stunningly presented lemon tart (top).
Chocolate: Andy Palmer’s tiramisu – rich, exquisitely layered, and artfully balanced with the surprise element of delicious lumps of hard chocolate throughout (pic 2).
Savoury: Fiona Wilson’s perfectly textured and beautifully sharp & crumbly cheese biscuits (pic 3).
Slices, biscuits, friands & muffins: Kate Calhau’s rich, velvety berry & almond muffins (right).
So, thanks to all bakers and Jo and Fiona from A&U for having us back, and for showering the Empress and me with a copy each of this most brilliant and divine gift (more on this perfect book later!).
Lastly, congratulations to the winners – from left below, the Empress with Fiona, Andy, Kate and Susan. Till next year!