Yesterday I was one of the lucky judges taking part in the MFDF16 Bake Off final.
After round one, over at MilkJam Manchester in September, it was clear the competition was going to be high, but I didn’t expect it to be as high as it was. I don’t think any of us did.
And it’s incredibly hard to keep a straight, serious poker face when you’re sampling such delicious cakes.
Not only were the cakes themselves beautiful, but the descriptions, the information attached to them, the themes, everything had had the same amount of care, time and love invested. I can’t begin to imagine the number of test bakes, trial runs, and discarded ideas that went into the creation of their final entries, but I’m hoping this little blog post, highlighting some of the bits that stood out particularly for me, might go some way to say thank you.
The theme was loosely ‘Manchester’. And my goodness did Sam leap into it. Manchester Tart profiteroles, Chester pudding tartlets (that had all of us hitting Google because none of us had heard of it and now I desperately need to make one), Eccles cakes and beneath is all a vanilla sponge with Vimto buttercream. Sam, you pastry is fabulous – your choux was a great foil for the vanilla custard, whilst the crisp tartlet cases and soft meringue with that sharp lemon. Delish.
Carina opted for something unusual – a mint and chocolate Battenberg. Carina, mint is such a difficult flavour to get right, especially in baking and yet you managed to get that fresh clean taste through the sweetness, to work with the richer chocolate.
Yuliya entered two bakes. A Nutella and strawberry cheesecake, and a peanutbutter and chocolate cheesecake. Both were beautifully set, and the macarons atop the latter were crisp with a good hit of nutty flavour. The vegal protein balls ontop of the Nutella cheesecake were perhaps my favourite bit – intense, deep, crunchy, I might need that recipe to replicate at home!
Sarah’s cake was such a prettily decorated entry – those roses were so delicately done, and the fruity sponge on the top was perfectly light and fluffy that the knife barely needed a hint of effort to slice through.
A lovely light hazelnut Genoise atop a rich dense chocolate cake from Kate – it was the finishing touches that I adored. That little squirrel and his hazelnut was the cutest ornament on the cake (so we went in from the back and left him intact!).
Ah Marina. Your layers of light meringue sponge and caramel were incredible – but more so was the love that you put into this. We saw your care and attention through your notes, the story that came from the heart and your look of concentration that we all empathised with! We’ve been there, done that and felt your pain. (I really wanted to come and find you and give you a hug afterwards – your mum would have been very very proud!).
Hannah crafted layers of sponge with pistachio, elderflower and blackberry. Not three flavours I’d have automatically paired together, but not only could you taste each flavour, but they worked well together. And that jam! Oh, home made blackberry jam that had a little floral touch that made it somehow juicier in flavour.
Autumnal – with a chocolate velvet cake covered in a mirror glaze, macarons, and mini sponge cakes all around it, this was not one cake, not two, but three. My love for citrus pulled me towards the lemon curd macarons and the lemon curd sponges, but the chocolate cake itself was light and fluffy – and I’m so envious of the glaze!
The last two are perhaps my favourites for very different reasons – very selfishly I’ve left both for last, and I really wish I could go back and eat more of them both.
The winning cake was this incredibly creation from Nicola.
The outer is beautiful, but the inside was too – the bottom layer was coconut and mango, the middle chai tea, the top pistachio and cardamom. All difficult flavours to work with, but all came through. There was no weak element, there was no sponge better than the other (save for personal taste). Nicola was a very worthy winner.
For me, however, my inner geek had a big soft spot for this beauty.
Lauren created a black galaxy sponge with chocolate and coffee that was delicious light and velvety, the buttercream was chocolate chip cookies and cream, her topping was an atomic model and the icing around the edge was formed of graphene hexagons. Why?
Because Manchester is a scientific city. And Lauren wanted to pay homage to it and our year as the European City of Science.
Lauren, please, please, if you happen to read this, can I have the recipe? I also may have passed the pictures to the professors, and to the School of Physics & Astronomy for their newsletter. Thank you.
An incredible day, an incredible amount of cake, an incredible set of bakes and after all that, the accompanying bake sale raised over £600 for Forever Manchester.
Not a bad day at the office.