It seemed like a good idea at the time. We like what we do, and we think we do it rather well, so it was a perfectly reasonable proposition that we test the virtues of our baking expertise against the masters of our craft by submitting a few entries in this year's Royal Melbourne Show. I say "seemed" because things didn't exactly go to plan, and in the end we were rather underwhelmed with the items we submitted. Perhaps it was a case of too much too soon, or maybe Miss Rose allowed competitive passions and the heights of self expectation to get the better of her. But whatever the affliction, and despite losing all confidence of raising the laminated certificate of victory in our virgin attempt, we did manage to have a good laugh at the end of it all.
We chose to enter two categories each, and my first was submitted to 'class 235: carrot cake'. Working from Ottolenghi's beautiful carrot and walnut cake recipe, I instigated a few tweaks and created a gorgeously moist cake that was dense but lusciously light with a hint of spice and a beautifully crisp top. However, while it tasted divine, I was sceptical that the somewhat rustic aesthetic would manage to win over the judges. Sadly they do not care for icing, so there was no disguising a less-than-perfect loaf.
Miss Emily's carrot and walnut cake
My submission for 'class 233: butter cake' did a better job of looking the part, and thanks to Mother Yow, I was able to work from a recipe masterpiece. It looked hot, smelled divine, matured nicely and was frankly pretty delicious. Whether or not they'd go for the browned butter, well for that we'd have to wait and see…
Miss Emily's browned butter butter cake
Miss Rose had a similar day of one success, and one round coming in well below par. Those who have delighted in Miss Rose's chocolate cake know that it's a winner, but on this occasion it had other ideas. Gorgeously dark and heavenly scented, at first glance everything was going perfectly to plan, but then things sunk, rather dramatically, and Miss Rose was all ready to pull the plug. But we figured what the hell, and put it in upside-down whilst trying to see the humour in what would likely occur at the judging table.
Miss Rose's chocolate cake
On a happier note, her second submission was spectacular, and required the presentation of not one variety of sweet biscuit, but three. It's difficult to know what the judges will look for, and whether they will be swayed by the lure of filled biscuit fanciness, but I for one believed Miss Rose's classic assortment had every chance of being right up there.
Biscuit #1: Orange, pistachio and cranberry cookies
Biscuit #2: Chocolate wafers
Biscuit #3: Grasmere gingerbread
So after a long day of baking, we rested our weary limbs and arrived bright and early to drop off our submissions for fervourent critique. Every expectation I had of what a royal show cookery competition crowd would look like was not only met but far surpassed by every stereotype imaginable. The desk ladies in their tweed two pieces were efficient to the extreme and had no time or compassion for first timers (apparently when it comes to inserting the toothpick, one must not hesitate).
Were we properly attired in embroidered tracksuits or two-pieces and stockings with our freshly permed blue rinse curled tightly into submission?
Did we come with husbands who carried our eskies and Tupperware mountains to then wait patiently in the car park with a thermos at the ready for a post-submission nerve shake-down?
Could we have been the granddaughters of every other entrant present?
I guess we can put it down to a learning experience. Maybe next year our creations will be less sensitive to the pressure of expectation and we will have our very own thermos-bearing manly support crew. Maybe we will concern ourselves less with the possibilities of what we may be up against and focus more on our own capabilities.
Maybe I'll wear tweed…
Oh, and just for the record, our minuscule hopes have been utterly dashed, and we have now been confirmed as the absolute losers we suspected ourselves to be. The repetition of results makes me slightly suspicious that the secular nature of such competitive gatherings was also against us, but that is still no excuse for our failings. We have let everyone down, and are the epitome of disappointment. I'm so sorry, Mother Yow. Now if you'll excuse me, I must away to sulk...