The Newcastle Show Part 2
You’ll recall my shock win at The Newcastle Show last week for my plate of four plain scones and strawberry jam. While I may have caught the local establishment off guard, no one was more surprised than me at having placed anything outside of disqualification given the myriad of do’s and don’ts that surround entries in cookery competitions. However, the icing on the cake (sorry!) was when it came to judging the men’s chocolate cake category.
Dean rather confidently agreed to enter a chocolate cake in the men’s category. ‘Rather confidently’ = never baked a cake in his life. Recipes are provided for cakes in the men’s category however the one for chocolate cake was a little vague for a novice. For example ‘bake in a moderate oven’. Hello Google. Also the recipe specified ‘ice with chocolate icing’ but did not provide a recipe for said icing. Hello cookbooks. Allayed by any fears of impending baking disaster off he went on his first baking adventure. And what a handsome cake it turned out to be.
On the big day, there were five entries and thinking he had a snowball’s chance in hell that he’d place anything, took the kids off to ride the Ferris wheel. I stayed behind to see how the judging panned out.
One cake was decorated with hundreds and thousands, and although the recipe did not specify undecorated, coupled with its icing having dripped over the edges it was ruled it out of contention. Another cake was iced upside down – honestly the judge’s radars are fine-tuned for these sorts of shenanigans. Again, ruled out of contention. I sat there nervously while they smelt, prodded and tasted the remaining cakes. It was nail-biting stuff as it turned out to be the longest deliberation of the day. It seems the icing was letting Dean down. Too much. As if that could ever be considered anything but bad. For competition it was really just too much, but the cake was so good they couldn’t knock it back. In the end he got over the line winning first place.
The marble cake was less suspenseful. There were only two entries and I didn’t think I’d do well at all given there was a large crack in the top of the cake (too hot an oven) and it hadn’t risen as high as the other entry. However, just like an iceberg, the outside only tells part of the story. What lies beneath is what’s really important, especially so for marble cake. Swirl too much and you end up with a swirl cake. Swirl to little and it’s more like a blob cake. How your colours have melded is the defining factor in a marble cake.
The judges cut each of the cakes in half at the centre at which point they discover all manner of anomalies, not just the marbling, or lack thereof. In my case it was air bubbles. Also my pink was ‘not vibrant enough’. In the end I received a second place – which pretty chuffed about given I’d tried two different marble cake recipes leading up to The Show with varying degrees of success. It turns out I was up against Ellice, Show Cooking Steward, who came up trumps with her lovely looking marble cake for first place.
Overall, entering a cooking competition was a fascinating experience. I never knew it could be suspenseful and I’ve met some passionate home cooks who are proud of their abilities. It takes a lot of practice to get baking and preserving right. Each person’s experience is different and the journey is never the same, whether it’s competitive or not. Sometimes you lose and sometimes you win. That’s the joy of cooking.
// More cakes, slices & biscuits
75g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
2 tbs cocoa
1 cup self-raising flour
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and white. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until blended. Add the milk and mix to combine. Sift cocoa and flour into cream mixture and beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Bake in the oven for approximately 35-40 minutes and turn out immediately onto a cooling rack covered with a tea towel.
1/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbs milk
Melt the butter. When slightly cooled add sifted cocoa and icing sugar plus the milk and mix well. Spread on top of cake.
By Julie Bonanno (Albion Park Show) from The Country Show Cookbook
125g butter, softened
1 scant cup (just under the measure) of castor sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup milk
1 ¾ cup self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cochineal (natural pink colouring)
2 tbs cocoa
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and white. Add vanilla and then eggs, one at a time. Mix until well blended. Beat in milk. Sift flour and baking powder together and mix into cream mixture until just blended. Divide the mixture equally into three smaller bowls. In one of the bowls add the cochineal until it is a ‘pretty pink colour’. Sift the cocoa and mix with ¼ cup of boiling water and mix into the second bowl. Leave the third bowl plain. Then place large spoonfuls of the mixture in alternating colours into the tin. When all the mixture is used, swirl once around the middle of the tin using a butter knife. Bake in the oven for approximately 50 minutes and turn out immediately onto a cooling rack covered with a tea towel.
2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons butter, soft
Few drops cochineal (natural pink colouring)
Combine the sifted icing sugar and butter in a bowl and blend. Add teaspoon hot water and cochineal and cream thoroughly until smooth.Share this on: