April’s meeting was the first time since we moved to Electric Works that the Helter Skelter sat unused and forlorn. After all, who needs slides when you have over 20 different cakes?!
This month’s meeting saw Great British Bake Off 2012 semi-finalist, the wonderful Danny Bryden, come to speak to the group. And with a baking expert at hand, it seemed appropriate to host our own SHWI Bake Off with Danny as judge. As I am already a great friend of the Great British Bake Off Stars (see April 9th’s blog post!) I was obviously very blasé and nonchalant about this particular SHWI Meeting. Er, yeah RIGHT! I had been dreaming about this meeting for months and excitement had reached fever pitch over the few days prior to it when we started getting hints dropped by SHWI members about their impending cake creations. There were two categories to enter – upside down cakes or flourless. And yet again, SHWI ladies showed their fantastic imaginations and mad skillz in the kitchen. The entries were as follows:
Upside Down Cakes
Pina Colada Sandwich Cake Pear and Walnut Orange and Lemon Pineapple, Lime and Chilli Cherry and Almond Banana Pear and Nutmeg Salted Caramel, Apple and Pecan Rhubarb and Ginger Pear and Chocolate Apple and Cinnamon Pear and Pistachio
Rose and Raspberry mini loaves Cherry Bakewell Lime and Passionfruit Drizzle Raspberry and Chocolate Fig, Pecan and Maple Syrup Lemon Polenta Vanilla and Strawberry Rainbow Battenburg Carrot Cake Hazelnut and Praline Clementine and Almond Cherry and Chocolate Brownie Cake
Drool, cakey goodness… Sorry, back to business! Committee member Grace had done a wonderful job of organising the 23 entries into their relevant categories and walking round the corner to be faced with the display was quite frankly like walking into utopia – SHWI has some very talented members. The table was laden with beautifully presented cakes of all flavours and types (more of which to follow). Danny was to judge them based on three criteria – appearance, texture and taste. With my mind already boggled by the amazing array of baked delights, I decided to channel my inner April O’Neil (the journalist from the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, non-80s kids) and make notes about all the cakes on display so I could remember them all and note some of Danny’s comments. I wish I had the time, space and superlatives to describe in detail every cake, but actually I think I’ll let the accompanying photos do the talking. Danny’s first job was to judge on appearance so that Grace could slice up the cakes for the taste and texture judging (and also to feed the hungry hordes come break time). I can exclusively reveal (get me!) that she gave a special mention in terms of appearance to Sam Cleasby’s Pear and Walnut upside down cake – she loved the rustic presentation and thought the glazed pear decoration was a fantastic touch. Danny’s next job was to judge taste and texture. She approached this with slight trepidation as 23 slices of cake is a lot in anyone’s book. However, it says something for the quality of entries that she told us she enjoyed every single bite! She was bowled over by the brilliant concepts and beautiful presentation, but as the cliché goes, the proof of the pudding (or cake) is in the eating. She thought the Clementine and Almond cake was beautifully citrusy, the Cherry and Almond had very clean and distinct flavours and she loved the gorgeous home-made marmalade on the Orange and Lemon Cake, these are just a few of the many, many positive comments she made.
As you can probably guess, the judging was EXTREMELY tight and faced with the prospect of ties, Danny asked myself and Grace to give her a second and third opinion on the taste of her favourite few. It’s a hard life. It just so happened that we were unanimous in our opinions and so after an hour of cake scoffing, the judging was over…
The next part of the meeting was Danny’s talk and what a captivating talk it was! It was her first time speaking to a WI group and she had planned her speech around the assumption we’d want to know about her Bake Off experience and baking in general – she certainly knew her audience! Firstly she explained how entering the competition had been, in her words, ‘a bet that got out of hand’! She had first developed an interest in cooking at school thanks to her inspirational Home Economics teacher (and of course Delia) and also due to the fact that she wanted to be able to eat things she liked and nobody else in her family was particularly interested in cooking. She has always cooked and baked, especially at Christmas, and was renowned for her skills amongst her family, although she stressed it was not something she did avidly. Danny is not much of a TV watcher herself but her sister is a cookery show fan but not much of a cook herself (something I can definitely relate to). She and her husband encouraged Danny to enter GBBO because they felt it was the most suitable show for her, as she is a vegetarian and shows like Masterchef generally involve a lot of meat and fish cookery. Upon submitting the LONG application form, Danny was selected to progress to the next stage of a lengthy application process. She had many phone interviews, spot tests on baking, screen tests, techinical challenges and more! Danny says she felt confident about these tests and attributes this to her job as an Intensive Care Consultant, where her medical training conditioned to jump professional hurdles and look for the next. Perhaps it was this attitude (as well as her amazing food!) that got her into the final 12.
Danny then let us into a few secrets behind the filming of the series which we couldn’t possibly tell!
However we can tell you that TV isn’t all glamour and fun. The 6am starts and long hours left the contestants feeling exhausted and Danny admitted that she was happy to get to the semi-final as it had given those who had invested time in supporting her so much pleasure to see her progress, but that personally she was more than ready to go.
All the contestants got on really well and many keep in touch still – Danny recently had lunch with Brendan and is working with James on a medical article about comparing medical feedback with the feedback you get on TV. SHWI Vice-President Jen was also able to pass on a message to Danny from fellow contestant Cathryn who told us to say hello to Danny after we met her at Manchester’s Cake and Bake Show recently! Danny said that although she doesn’t intend to pursue baking as a profession she has gained a huge recipe library and has infinitely developed her baking skills so that she has the confidence to tackle difficult recipes with gusto and was proud to be able to bake her Mum’s 90th birthday cake recently.
After her amazing talk, Danny proved again what an all-round inspirational lady she is by promoting a charity close to her heart, the Sheffield Hospitals Charity’s new initiative, Charity Chef. This encourages charity supporters to host a dinner party and ask their guests to make a donation to the Charity in return for their food. For more information on how you can get involved with Charity Chef go here.
The final act of the night was announcing the winners of the Bake Off. And (drum roll….) the prize winners in both categories were as follows:
1st Blanche Spataro’s Cherry and Almond cake
2nd Sam Cleasby’s Pear and Walnut cake
3rd Jen Marsden’s Pina Colada cake
1st Caryl Carson’s Carrot Cake
2nd Samantha Duffy’s Chocolate and Raspberry Cake
3rd Amy Grange’s Hazelnut and Praline Cake
Well done ladies! Although all entrants should be very proud as it was a VERY tough decision! The prize winners were presented with rosettes to mark their accomplishments. A fitting end to a fabulous night! And, of course, the icing on the cake (boom boom) for me was adding a picture with Danny to my burgeoning collection of GBBO contestant photos!
Finally – SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! If this blog post has whet your appetite, why not come to the next SHWI Dining Club event on Friday 24 May at the Showroom cinema?!
Notice that I used the word ‘event’ rather than meal – because we are having a TUDOR BANQUET! A bespoke menu has been created for us and in the words of the Tudors themselves, you’d be a massive fopdoodle to miss it! Look here for more details.
SHWI Committee Photos by Laura Bainbridge