Here are some tips and tricks for preparing show entries in the cookery sections of a Show. Disclaimer: always read your individual Show schedule, as requirements vary from Show to Show. These tips apply for the Brookfield Show and will generally apply to others, but that may not necessarily be the case.
1. The most important tip is to read your Show schedule carefully and double-check before preparing your entry, particularly if you are a first-timer. Every year, we have to turn away entries where someone has misread dates and come the day after judging, or misread the entries and brought in something which can’t be entered. As this leads to heartbreak, particularly where there are children involved, check and double-check. If in doubt, ask the Chief Steward who will be able to give you guidance.
2. Read carefully the size of the plates allowed, and don’t exceed the size under any circumstances. Each Show has limited space available for display, and large entries can’t be accommodated. To avoid disappointment, adhere to size requirements.
3. If the Show Schedule says bring your entry on a disposable plate, please don’t bring it on your best China! Unfortunately this happens multiple times each year, and we have to either transfer the entry with possible damage, or the China plate slips through and then often can’t be reunited with its owner.
4. Judging is always anonymous at every Show. Don’t write your name on the plate.
5. Ice cakes the day before judging so that icing sets. This is important, particularly with childrens entries, as otherwise the result can be very messy!
6. Turn off your oven fan if possible when baking, to avoid dome tops on cakes and muffins. This is a common problem. If your oven fan can’t be turned off, experiment with a lower heat, but it is going to be more difficult to get a good result.
7. For general cake classes, normally ice cakes on top only (check your Show schedule for anything different, but this is a general rule), and keep decorations to a minimum. Decorations must always be appropriate to the cake. If in doubt, leave it out.
8. Don’t test with a skewer in the middle of the cake, as it will be cut there for judging, and your skewer mark will mar the appearance of the cake when cut.
9. For Show work don’t use any cream, mock cream, custard or similar icings or fillings. There is no refrigeration, and your entry will normally be unable to be accepted.
10. Slices or brownies are best cut into even sized pieces (eg, 5 cm square), with a hot knife if necessary. Check your Show schedule for any differences to this.
11. Scones should be light in texture; and shouldn’t touch each other when cooking.
12. The more traditional recipes are best for Show cooking, eg WW/ CWA cookbooks.
13. Make sure the cake tin you use is the right size for the type of cake entered. Cakes are sometimes brought in too small, and are either disqualified or ruled not competitive, as can be seen with the cake in the photo at the top of this post. This is particularly important for fruit cakes.