I had an email drop into my inbox last week, mentioning the bake off and then another one a while later saying that there were not enough judges.
How? An excuse to sample everything, not do much work and people aren’t throwing themselves at it?
It just so happens that on the same day I hear a familiar scrabbling behind the kitchen units. You guessed it. Mice, round 3, or 4, I can’t remember. Though this time the flat next to us have had to call some real dodgy pest controllers. Keeping the sides completely food free is paying off, they’ve moved on to more fruitful pickings.
Good. Eat the poison and skedaddle.
Needless to say, I didn’t want to risk cooking on the surfaces.
What a shame… I’ll just have to judge!
Now it’s sounds easy to judge: sample some cake, score it, move on.
This works on paper, but when there’s between 10-15 things to taste, suddenly a little piece adds up to one massive slice. Add to that a hungry crowd eyeing up the cakes and then staring intently at you, because you’re not sampling fast enough, then the pressure begins to mount.
I also have the problem of: It’s baked goods, how can anyone be critising of baked goods? Especially baked goods for a cause? I’m no Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry it seems. I just like cake in all forms. Needless to say, we were a bit more relaxed, we didn’t force them to watch us eat every mouthful and write a score down. I am not brave enough to stand between Met, Maths and cake.
After judging, you could eat the goods after making a donation to the chosen charity; one that’s very close to heart. Donations were made towards the David Grime’s trust, a trust set up in memory of David Grimes, a lecturer, amongst a whole list of other things that few would be able to top. I only knew him for a short while, as part of my undergraduate degree was taught by him but this was a man who could inspire people and make everyone feel welcome and wanted, regardless. A much more elegant tribute to him can be found here.
Needless to say, he did a lot of work helping Reading’s twin town in Nicaragua (which is regularly hit by hurricanes and floods) as part of the Reading San Francisco Libre association.
I am pleased to say that around £150 was raised as part of the bake off for this worthy cause. Congratulations everyone!
So without any categories or anything, just the term ‘Bake off’, here’s what the two departments managed to create on fairly short notice. There really was something for everyone to eat, cake, chocolate, savoury and free-from.
Sorry for the ‘meh’ quality of the photos, I was trying to eat, score and take photos at the same time. Some of them I’ve stolen to :).
So, this was an entry from my office, A Spicy Orange Autumn cake. Looks good and tastes good to, just the right balance of frosting to cake.
Next up with a very topical Met cake, with glace icing and chocolate decorations on a sponge cake filled with butter cream. This one won the ‘Most topical’ Category and was made by the peeps that are part of the Reading Uni weather facebook page. No-one really wanted to cut into it, so it was one of the last to be judged.
Next we have one of the most flavourful ginger cakes I have ever tasted, it managed to be light yet treacly at the same time. You can see the little squares cut for the judges.
Moving away from cakes and onto a little savoury section for the time being.
Here we have a ripe and share smoked tomato and pepper happy bread. It looks good, had probably taken ages and was soon demolished to the core, which no one wanted to take.
Now, we had two sets of cheese scones, some of the hardest things to perfect. Surprisingly, both were of a completely different texture and flavour. The bottom image shows scones that were crumbly and very cheesy, whilst the top ones were firmer with a more subtle flavour. They were tasty, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t really like cheese.
Moving back away from the savoury and back to the sweet- to these gluten and diary free carrot and orange frosted cupcakes. For something that was free of everything they sure were tasty! Minimalist design as well. Needless to say, they got eaten, by everyone.
Some more free-from goodies here- these are pinata cookies which are diary free and rainbow. These won ‘Best appearance’ for their stripes. They tasted great, with not a sign of food colouring in the flavour. Having attempted making these myself, they do take quite a while!
Keeping with the cookie theme, here are the oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. These were great, with not a hint of flour flavour in sight, with the taste being a very rich chocolately bite. I had one of these after judging, despite feeling slightly ill.
We gained a couple of new people in the departments for a while. Until they got eaten. These were tasty, but I felt a bit guilty ripping a leg off one to taste them. I like gingerbread. These had a good snap and were nicely decorated in a minimalist fashion. Childhood memories here we come.
I now present to you the creation that won the prize for ‘most effort’, this rather large gingerbread house covered in sweets and icing. Giving this to kids would probably end in hyperactivity. Giving it to adults enabled many to make it through until lunch time, though I was glad I didn’t have to break the first piece off. The gingerbread was soft as well, so it was a delight to eat. I think one solitary shard without icing remained when I left the building at the end of the day.
Maybe the next stage is a 5-floor Lyle tower.
Let’s go a little healthier now, with those that included vegetables. Yes, vegetables in cakes. The perfect way to sneak veg into unsuspecting kids, or adults, as you wouldn’t know from the flavour that these delights actually contained veg.
These won Best flavour, because of their creamy topping and sharp tang of lime curd coupled with lightly flavoured courgette based sponge complimented by a slight crunch of pistachio nuts. Courgette and lime cupcakes were another entry from my office and had apparently made the rounds on Monday, before being perfected in time for the Bake off. Needless to say, these were the first to go. Their zesty flavour helped cleanse the palette ready for the next big hitters.
Could these be passed off as healthy? Probably not…
From zesty fresh flavour to more earthy tones, the next entry were the very thick and chocolatey beetroot and chocolate brownies. They were very squidgy and very dense, just like a proper brownie should be. These vanished quickly to.
Moving on to pure chocolate, there were plenty of entries for the chocoholics within the departments. I know that Time-outs are some of the least popular chocolate bars within the departments, they tend to linger at the bottom of the fridge looking all sad and dejected. Next time you visit the chocolate fridge, give a lonely Time-out a home in your office drawer for chocolate emergencies.
May I present, the chocolate Crunchie people. Homemade honeycomb coated in a generous layer of milk chocolate. The honeycomb was very chewy and a lot denser than the stuff I’ve made before (here) and it did help to clear the pallet halfway round the table.
So the next entry has a very fancy name but I’ve forgotten it for the moment. This cake takes a whole jar of Nutella, so for Nutella lovers it’s a fantastic combination of nuts and chocolate. Be warned though, it can get quite heavy quite fast because of this, so keep that in mind when portioning it. It won best texture to.
To bring the entrants to a very chocolately close, this is another entrance from my office. It looks like a rich chocolate cake from the outside but has an oozing caramel filling between the layers adding some sweetness to the very rich, dark chocolate cake. It was messy, but it was worth it. I’ve never eaten a chocolate cake that was as dark and rich as this. This is good as it stops me eating too much of it, but it is chocolate cake…
Thank you to those who helped organise this event. By the sounds of things another one will be happening at some point. So that’s more cake and more change for a good cause. I should also thank amazon for providing many of the boxes that transported the cakes to the coffee room.
Thanks as well to all those that made something, excellent effort all round! If I have missed anyone’s creation out, send me an email and I’ll add it in.
I was pretty busy stuffing my face when it came to taking pictures and was feeling slightly queasy afterwards (That is my fault for not starting with the savoury things first), so if you do have any pictures you want included message me and I’ll add them.
When it comes to normal blog items, I’m working on adding cookie dough to my Cold combating chocolate chilli cinnamon coffee cake and figuring out what to bake now Christmas is slowly approaching.
A very full,