Bakers rise to the challenge

This Is Wiltshire: the judges of the competition, left to right, are Marion Sauvebois, Annette Baskerville and Gale Evans Buy this photo » the judges of the competition, left to right, are Marion Sauvebois, Annette Baskerville and Gale Evans

CRUSHED from an early age by the realisation that my appalling baking skills would unfortunately always stand in the way of my dream of rivalling Mary Berry in the hearts of the nation, I jumped at the Great Western Hospital’s invitation to judge its charity Bake Off.

Those who can’t do teach as the saying goes, or judge in my case.

Along with the rest of the very thorough panel, I took the task of crowning the best dessert very seriously, not hesitating to have a second and third helping when necessary.

The mouth-watering cupcakes, show-stoppers, sponges and brownies laid out for us were not however just for our own guilty pleasure but prepared to be later sold in aid of the new accident and emergency department, which the Adver has been supporting through our Making it Better Appeal.

The bake sale raised £150 at lunchtime towards new toys in the unit’s children area to ensure each visit is as relaxed and stress-free as possible.

After tasting every single one of the 14 cakes, and scoring each on originality, taste and presentation, Dr Zoe Ridgeway’s exceptional vanilla chai chocolate cake scooped first place with 28.75 points out of 30.

It was closely followed by Georgia Davey’s chai-spiced maple cake in second place and Karen Fido’s unconventional beer, bacon and peanut brittle cake in third.

The crispy cubes of meat topped with chewy salty caramel proved a surprisingly scrummy combination.

Reaching the top three came as a slight shock to the admin project support manager.

“I just thought it would be fun to join in and raise money for the emergency department,” said the 39-year-old. “It’s going to have to be my signature cake now.

“It took me three hours last night. I found the recipe on the internet and changed a few things. I was looking for something with salted caramel because I love it and saw that this one ticked the originality box.”

The Bake Off was the occasion for staff to challenge themselves, some by choosing intricate designs and others simply by venturing into unknown territory.

Petrina Shurmer’s traditional Victoria sponge forced me, a self-proclaimed sponge-hater, to indulge in a second helping. Yet it was the 54-year-old nursing auxiliary’s third ever attempt at baking.

“I made my first cake two weeks ago for the girls up here and they said it was nice so I thought I would make one for this,” she said.

Replete head judge Dr Guy Rooney, the Paul Hollywood of the panel – at times harsh yet always fair – said: “There was a fantastic selection, clearly heavily influenced by The Great British Bake Off. A lot of people obviously made a lot of effort. It was a difficult job but one that had to be done.”

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