So last night, in the absolute high point of my professional career to date, I judged a CAKE COMPETITION, an even more exalted event than the time I had dinner with Kirstie Allsopp off of the telly. It will be downhill all the way from here. This is all I have ever wanted from my life, well, this and an Icelandic horse and a lot of cashmere and some boots that don't get lost in the post. I am available to judge all cake competitions from now until death and possibly thereafter.
The cakes were of a very high standard, truly, and that is not just the obligatory judgey lip-service waffle. Behold their beauty:
- People like walnuts a LOT. I mean, I thought I liked walnuts, but there are people who like them far, far more than me.
- Cream cheese frosting is a tricky beast, especially in a hot conference room.
- Chocolate and carrot are by far the most popular flavours of competition cake, though I am not mad for either of them.
- 24 cakes is more cake than even I can handle with equanimity. By around cake 18 you become a glazed, sticky bundle of misfiring synapses and walnut fragments. "IT'S A FOUR. EVERYTHING IS A FOUR", you slur, your face a twitching mess of hundreds and thousands and syrup. There is salted caramel on your handbag and phone and buttercream all over your pen. It is a gravely sweet business, cake judging and it is not for everyone.
- There are some very serious bakers out there and it was a good thing I was judging and not competing, because I would have come last and ended up crying on the pavement in the rain, soaking up my tears in the leaden layers of a soggy Victoria sandwich.
My personal coups de coeur were as follows:
1. The team who had constructed a colour-coded EU legislative timeline out of cake. Respect, EU nerds. There are definitely not enough cakes out there depicting EU committee hearings. Also, it was a lemon and thyme cake, so they called it a "thymeline". Very good.
2. This incredibly charming Halloween cake:
I LOVE THIS CAKE. I love the approximative marshmallow vampire bats and I love the rather shy-looking pink backed spider and I loved, beyond all reason, the accompanying RAT IN A BOX that sat beside it, as a sort of spooky bonus.
Make me fondant rat droppings and win my heart forever. I don't know who made this rat, but they are my hero, henceforth.
L, who accompanied me, was very concerned no one had eaten the rat. He had already basically eaten all the decorations off the top of that cake, plus about twenty gummy Smurfs that garnished the gigantic blue cake up the top, there, and was starting to look slightly green around the gills but he was still totally prepared to go in and give the rat the respect it deserved, because he is his mother's son.
3. The eventual, and very worthy, winner was this magnificent scale model of the Grand-Place. I mean, come on, it's the GRAND PLACE MADE OF CAKE.
Also, when we cut into it, the cake was striped in the colours of the Belgian flag, which was above and beyond the call of patisserie duty. Here is a man very nervously cutting into it, and he does well to be nervous, because national pride is at stake.
As for the actual judging, I was overruled on everything, but it did not matter much, the winners were totally deserving and in any case, as described above, I was fully crazed with sugar and incoherent by that point. I think I started hallucinating that the whiteboard where we were totting up the points was a giant dancing meringue.
Thus ends my brief but glorious reign as a bake off judge. It was amazing. You might imagine it would have put me off sweet things for a while, but by mid-afternoon today my KitKat was most welcome. That's dedication.