I thought I’d write a little about what I did this last week when I turned my hand to baking cakes to help raise some money for Children in Need.
One of the girls in work organised this, with part of the process being a bake-off just to add that little bit of competitiveness into the proceedings. I decided to do some cakes for it but was struggling to decide whether to stick to a classic cake like the Victoria Sponge, a Chocolate Cake, etc or whether to try something a little different so I hit my recipe books for inspiration.
I found what I was looking for in the Australian Women’s Weekly Home Library Cakes & Slices book in the form of the brandied sultana cake and the cinnamon & ginger cake with caramel icing. Having decided what I was going to do I then proceeded to plan a test bake and purchase everything I needed.
I’m glad I did a test bake for this as the cinnamon & ginger cake split the crust and the tin proved too large for it and it spread too thin, the sultana cake came out perfect so after eating half of each cake for a week (we’d given the other halves away to some friends) I felt I was ready for the challenge.
I baked both cakes two nights before the day and they both looked perfect when they came out of the oven, I gave the ginger cake a little more time as I’d lowered the temp a little after the last one and was using a smaller tin to prevent it spreading too much. The skewer didn’t come out clean on the normal timing but the sultana one did. With my day job, cooking tea and everything else it was 02:30 by the time the last cake was ready and I got to sleep.
That same night I prepared some icy leaves and cut-out teddy’s (for Pudsey), left the cakes overnight to cool and decided to decorate the night before they needed to be sold.
- Won 3rd place in bake-off
As this was the first time I’ve actually decorated a cake and had done no reading up beforehand (which is very unusual for me but time was limited) I think I did an ok job of it. Unfortunately I learnt one big lesson, icing sugar is absorbed if you brush the top of the cake with apricot jam – I won’t be doing that again. I think my first icing attempt of the cinnamon & ginger cake went well, I have a lot to learn though and have a better appreciation of how much is involved for those that do managed to do it well.
As for the bake-off, I had to admit to myself afterwards that I hadn’t realised quite how much it meant to me until it actually came right down to the testing. Up until that point all I’d wanted to do was make some nice cakes that would sell well and make lots of money for Children in Need. I surveyed the competition entries and there was some strong competition, I think perhaps by this time I wasn’t so much thinking about making money for charity as much as I was about whether I’d win or not.
I must have been kidding myself. When it actually came down to the judging I didn’t want to go over to where it was happening because I didn’t want to hear what they were saying about the cakes. It was at that point I realised just how competitive I was about it all.
After being waved over when the totals were being calculated I think I was a little overwhelmed to find out I’d got 3rd for the brandied sultana cake and 1st for the cinnamon & ginger cake. I had lots of people congratulating me and the winning cake flew off the platter, which made me so proud. I’m not sure if saying I was aiming for 1st and 2nd was a good thing or not but at the time I couldn’t think of much else to say, I almost had a tear in my eye I was that chuffed at winning.
- The winning cake
I made more mistakes with the sultana cake than I did with the cinnamon & ginger cake, and they were silly mistakes to make.
- Firstly the oven must have been slightly cooler that on the test bake as it was still a little uncooked in the middle – perhaps I should not have opened the oven as often.
- I was a little too generous with the brandy, which will have altered the liquid/solid ratio of the cake – I should have allowed extra baking time
- The decorating could have been better if I’d done some research and tested it on the test bake cake
- I think for a bake-off it was also a slightly heavy cake and I think I’ll concentrate on something lighter next time
The great news is that between everyone who made a cake, cookie or pudding we made £300 for Children in Need.
On reflection …..
- If I do not aim high then I will not do as good a job.
- I believe if I take the same care and attention to the recipe and put in as much enthusiasm and love into the making and take pride in what I can do then I see no reason why anything else I make can’t be just as nice and achieve the same empty plate status as that winning cake achieved.
- I enjoy seeing other people enjoying the food I cook.
I’ve yet to see the scores for each cake, hopefully that’ll help me even more in highlighting where I went wrong with each cake. I’ve definitely learnt from the experience.
- I know now that despite thinking I’m not competitive and it’s all for charity, part of me is hugely competitive and there is always the danger it can overshadow the reason behind making the cake in the first place.
- I’ve discovered that I enjoy baking, up until recently bread and pizza and biscuits have been the limit of baking in the oven.
- I’m going to expand my cookery skills into this area and will probably enjoy it far too much so will need to exercise more often.
- I might be rather good at it – if I am then I will definitely thank my mother as I’ll be following in her footsteps and in her mothers footsteps in terms of cake excellence.