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We all know about the agricultural and horticultural classes at Village and County shows, but what about the homecrafts and baking categories? These are as much a part of fayres, fetes and shows as prize-winning runner beans. Nevertheless, entering one of these classes can feel a little intimidating, especially considering all the rules and guidelines that entrants must adhere to. Given that home-baking has had such a renaissance over the past few years, we got in touch with Andi Silcox of CakeandJam to give us some useful hints and tips about how to set about entering a comp. She is well versed in entering competitions, having won the Great Abergavenny Bake-Off…twice! Here she dispels some of the myths about competing in baking competitions and tells us a little about what inspires her:



What is your baking background?

I started decorating cakes many years ago after being taught by a lovely lady. My first cake was my own wedding cake! I saw the Abergavenny Bake Off leaflet by chance and I nearly didn’t enter. It was my first competition and I was so pleased to come first. Winning raised my profile considerably, and I had a lot of interest in my work. After that I left the job I was doing and set up my own business. I’m now busy with celebration cakes, teaching classes, holding various cake clubs, supplying coffee shops and sending tutorials through my website.

cakeWhere do you get the inspiration for your decorative cakes and how do you plan them out?

I find inspiration everywhere I go. I’ve always been influenced by nature’s colours and I find fish, birds and flowers particularly stunning. If I have a celebration cake order or competition to enter there is usually a brief to follow. I mull over quite a few ideas and usually a flash of inspiration comes to me. I research and explore other possibilities as well, until I come up with an idea that I am happy with. Usually I sketch and make notes, but much of the end result comes from the ongoing ideas that come to me during the process of decorating. I’ve described it as the cake calling the shots!

What tips do you have for the home baker in terms of getting the flavour of their cake right?

Quality is key. I only use good quality ingredients and free range eggs. I know perhaps more profit can be made from buying cheap flour and so on, but that’s not me. I use pure flavourings, such as vanilla, rose, lavender, lemon/orange zest and juice and spices; mixed, cinnamon and nutmeg. I also enjoy experimenting with combinations of sponge and icings. I’m tempted to try a champagne one I’ve seen but would rather drink the real thing!

handbag-cakeWhat advice would you give somebody entering a baking category at a country show or fayre?

Stick to what you are good at and don’t judge yourself against other people. Instead, take inspiration from them! There will always be people who you think are better, and then there’s the other end of the scale too. If your skills lie with making sugar flowers then wow the judges with this instead of stressing over making 3d models, which maybe you haven’t quite mastered yet. Your fist attempt my not be a winner but you’re on the road to improvement so PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

Andi Silcox owns CakeandJam.
Tel: 07950 636 368

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