It was a Great British Bake-Off styled event, so as one of the two judges that meant I was playing the role of baking legend Mary Berry.
The other half of the famous partnership, Paul Hollywood, was taken by my fellow judge Jason Hartley, third generation member of a Huddersfield baking dynasty.
We’d been invited to assess the cakes, breads, buns and biscuits produced by amateur bakers from the Nerve Centre charity in Greenhead Road for an awareness and fundraising event.
Before I departed the office to carry out the task I joked: “It will be difficult, but someone has to do it.”
I was later to eat my words, along with slices of lemon drizzle cake, frangipane tart and chocolate torte.
Because it is difficult judging cakes, particularly with the bakers next door awaiting a decision.
For every niggling fault we found, there was a redeeming feature.
Fortunately Jason, who has a bakery and shop in Lindley and two further shops in Brighouse, brought expertise to the job.
As he assessed the colour and ‘cut-ability’ of a chocolate sponge, he revealed that he has been on the receiving end of judgements about his own cakes at professional level and therefore knew what to look for.
“People watch the Great British Bake-Off and think that baking is easy,” he said. “But it isn’t. I’ve had my disappointments at competitions and at the bakery we’ve had our fair share of disasters.
“But we just put them in the bin and start again.”
In professional competitions, bakes are assessed for colour, crumb texture, how they cut, taste and other criteria.
We worked our way through the laden table. We cogitated and deliberated, in the style of another cookery programme, and decided in the end to award the top prize to a Bakewell Tart.
It turned out to be the work of Jo Dedrick, the wife of Nerve Centre member Simon, who just happens to run a cookery group for the charity and was the winner of the bread section.
Jason, whose family business Hartley’s Bakers, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, says programmes such as the Great British Bake-Off have done for the baking industry what cookery series have done for chefs and restaurants.
“Baking is about 10 or 15 years behind in that sense,” he explained, “but people are getting more knowledgeable and interested. People ask us more questions about the ingredients than they used to.”
Certainly, the Nerve Centre supporters intend to cash in further on the popularity of baking and are planning a series of baking events.
“This was our first, more of a trial run,” said Joyce Fox, manager. “We’ve learned a lot from it for future bake-offs.”
The Nerve Centre, which supports people with neurological conditions, has more than 5,500 members locally and has a drop-in facility at its offices from Monday to Friday.
Visitors are welcome at any time, but don’t expect there will always be cake!
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