Today in kitchens all over South Australia, passionate bakers are pulling on their aprons, turning off distractions, weighing, measuring, preparing and baking pasties, cakes and pies with utmost precision, hoping that will be enough to gain them one of the coveted ribbons at the Royal Adelaide Show Open Cookery Competition.
Being naturally competitive I've always had an interest in baking competitions, but most baking and pastry competitions held within Adelaide require proof of formal training or apprenticeship. Having had no formal training or qualifications in pastry or baking, but having run a catering company and working in a commercial kitchen for over 5 years I stood somewhere in between the amateur home baker and a professional. Until I found the Royal Adelaide Show Open Cookery Competition.
I first entered the Open Cookery Competition in 2012, not really thinking I'd produce anything good enough, but secretly hoping that I could earn even one place. I did better than that. I won a blue first place ribbon for individual tartlets and a red second place ribbon for carrot cake.
Needless to say I was hooked!
Entries for 2013 rolled around soon enough and I could not even decide what I wanted to enter, being a natural glutton I just wanted to enter ALL THE THINGS! So I think I went on to enter 5 or 6 categories, only 3 of which I actually completed. That year I was once again lucky enough to score a few more ribbons for my efforts with a second place for fruit mince tarts, third place with my meringues and a commendation (fourth place) for my free choice bake.
Being super impressed with my own ability (and a little bit smug) I thought I'd tackle the show for a third year in a row. Well, I think we can all guess what happened here - I tanked, big time. I entered 5 or 6 categories that I would never complete on time. Add into the mix a super busy schedule, a small at home business and a fiancee who was working half way across the world, well it was definitely a recipe for disaster. Late into the night when the one and only cake I actually had time to bake was finally in the oven I took a 'nap' on the couch. I don't know what woke me up but the bell on the oven had log stopped ringing - and the oven was obviously still on. That year I meekly delivered my one bake and sheepishly handed it over to the judges. It surely was a brick, I mean I could feel how dense this thing was.. No surprises I didn't place at all that year. Although I knew I'd made a silly mistake I still took it to heart. I am very passionate about my bakes.
last year I didn't enter the competition and I missed it like crazy. I missed reading through the categories and day dreaming of all the things I'd like to bake. I missed receiving my exhibit cards in the mail which signifies it's time to begin refining my bakes. I missed the lining up with giddiness while secretly trying to peek at other peoples entries to see where mine sits in comparison. Most of all I missed the feeling of waiting for the results, waiting for the updates to come through and hopefully seeing my name there with the other winners.
This year I've entered 3 categories; lemon curd, carrot cake and of course my macarons. Baking for the competition takes on another challenge with an adventurous 10 month old who wants to help. Seriously though, they should open a new section specifically for those who have to work with a toddler attached to their legs, that makes things very interesting. So, tonight on the eve of 'Judging Day' I am feeling that excited, nervous, giddiness that comes with the unknown, what are the judges really looking for? Have I delivered on size, shape, filling, bake? Only time will tell.. I'll keep you all updated :) and if you have entered the competition this year I wish you all the very best!!! I'd love to know if you have any winning entries also :)
So.... following on from all of that I am thrilled to say that I placed first in the carrot cake category and second with my macarons!
I'd been hoping to take out that first place in carrot cake since 2012 and I finally made it! I am super proud!!
I had hoped for first place with my macarons but even before delivering them to the judges I knew they had their faults and competition judges scrutinise everything - appearance, size, flavour & texture. I know the size, flavour and texture of my macarons was nearly spot on, but appearance could definitely have been improved. This year I have to be happy with that second place but my sights are set on that blue ribbon next year :)