Learning remotely during the lockdown has seen Rotherham College’s Catering learners and staff undertake a ‘learner versus tutor’ baking competition to get the creative juices flowing.
The entries were judged on the best use of ingredients, technical skills and presentation, rather than the more traditional taste test.
Entries were submitted from both learners and tutors, who sent photos of their tasty treats online to be judged by Graham Kirkland, an experienced pastry chef and husband of Rotherham College Catering and Hospitality tutor Carol Kirkland who organised the competition.
Carol said: “The bake-off was a challenge I wanted to set to encourage a bit of competition and also get learners and tutors to think creatively about what they have at home and how to best utilise the ingredients they have available to them.”
Level 3 Catering and Hospitality learner Kira Fowkes, who aspires to one day run her own café, claimed first place with an indulgent layered Malteser cake topped with chocolate, piped icing and Maltesers. As well as winning a £20 Love2Shop voucher, Kira’s bake will feature on The Wharncliffe Restaurant (Rotherham College’s commercial training restaurant) dessert menu for customers to enjoy when it reopens after COVID-19 social distancing measures are eased. The runner up of the bake-off: a luxurious tiramisu with homemade chocolate fudge, made by Curriculum Manager Christine McManamon will also be included on the menu.
First-place winner Kira said: “I’ve always liked baking cakes and it was my brother’s birthday at the time, so I made it for him. It had Horlicks for the Malteser taste, plus milk chocolate and dark chocolate to give it that balance. When I assembled the layers of the cake I had to trim around it and this was the most difficult bit, to get it even. I used a piping bag for the middle of the cake and around the sides, and piping for the drip effect down the sides.
She continued: “I was happy to find out I’d won, it was really rewarding.”
Graham acknowledged that judging was tough, with lots of entrants displaying a range of good baking skills and use of ingredients. Other strong contenders included macaroons, an NHS-themed rainbow cake and chocolate brownies.
Graham said: “Obviously I couldn’t taste any of the entries, so they were judged on the ingredients used, technical skills such as piping plus how they presented it. Presentation in cooking is so important; people eat with their eyes. If something looks good, that’s what they tend to go for. The winning Malteser cake was very skillfully decorated and piped.”
He continued: “This competition was about being resourceful. If you have limited ingredients available it forces you to think creatively. When the learners are working in the industry they will be creating their own dishes, which involves looking at what ingredients they have available and using a creative flair to produce something great – ultimately that’s what the best chefs and bakers do.”