Image: A judge inspects a chocolate cake entry at the Ekka, 6 August, 2013. Credit: Ursula Skjonnemand.

What does it take to make a prize-winning cake for the Royal Queensland Show?

We visited the cookery judging in progress and asked a judge, an associate judge and the Honorary Council Steward, who agree that presentation, texture and flavour are all important.

Cookery judging at Ekka 2013. Credit: Ursula Skjonnemand.

Cookery judging at Ekka 2013. Credit: Ursula Skjonnemand.

Interestingly decoration does not interest the judges (except in specific cake decorating categories).

“You can have decorated it just beautifully but…. it’s the cooking we’re judging, not the decoration,” says Cheryl Thiel, the Honorary Council Steward in charge of cookery.

Cheryl says technique and recipe are equally important.

“We have people who come in every year and if you asked for a recipe they would rather die than give it to you.”

Ekka judges started providing feedback to entrants last year in an effort to help them improve.

“People enter every year and they may not win a prize and they’re finding it’s because they’re not learning,” says Cheryl.

Judge Lynette Pearce says it’s important to pay attention to small details such as getting the oven temperature right and ensuring there are no rack marks on the bottom of the cake or folds from baking paper.

Judge Lynette Pearce (right) inspects the texture of a chocolate cake entry with associate judge Maree Harvey, 6 August, 2013. Credit: Ursula Skjonnemand.

Judge Lynette Pearce (right) inspects the texture of a chocolate cake entry with associate judge Maree Harvey, 6 August, 2013. Credit: Ursula Skjonnemand.

“Cut your paper to suit the size of the tin,” says Lynette.

“You’ve got to learn to know your own oven… have a practice run.

“A cake has to be cooked… hold it up to your ear, if it’s still making a crackling noise or talking to you, put it back for a little while.

“And make sure you read the schedule, that is most important.”

Maree Harvey is in training to become a judge. After 20 years entering the Queensland Royal Show cooking and many years in the regional shows, she has taken the step up to associate judge.

“Talk to the stewards, the stewards have a lot of knowledge,” says Maree.

“If you aspire to be a judge, try to cook everything on the schedule.

“Practice each one until you get it right.”

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  • John Travlos

    I dont think that the judges left very good feedback at all if any. I entered some classes for the cookery and received no feedback at all as I didnt place with my entries. So I dont know where I went wrong at all. The same people just keep winning the same classes… Do they know something that others dont. You should have looked at some of the entries thoroughout the section – some were cheats I think. Look at the pickled onions section…. how did they get them so small and so white – just like the ones sold in the shops… did they simple pour the bought ones into the show bottles.

    • Ursula Skjonnemand

      Interesting feedback John. I’ll have to chase it up with them.

  • John Travlos

    Thanks for that. But here’s a more controversial topic that definitely needs to be investigated!!!. I think that it is totally wrong for this to happen. The RNA allows stalwart competitors to compete in the novice classes. A novice is a person who is new to or inexperienced in a certain task. A few competitors who have been competeing at the Ekka from over 20 years and successfully winning were allowed to enter into the novice class entries. Some of them actually won in the novice class. This is totally unfair and unjust to the new (beginning) competitors. I think that the RNA shouldn’t allow those more experienced winning competitors to be allowed to enter into the novice classes. I don’t think that many new competitors realise that they are competeing not only against other fellow new competitors but actually against more experienced winning competitors. The other Royal National Shows like Toowoomba, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide all have specific rules that don’t allow more experienced/ winning competitors to compete against the new/ novice competitors. I hope that the RNA takes this seriously and makes a rule that the novice class is only for competitors who are new to or inexperienced with competeing in the cookery section.

  • Johnny

    ursula, did you get any feedback at all? As you havent update this page in a while… or is there no story?

  • Johnny

    I just like to know if you have given up on this old story — but i would also like to add that some more people have been allowed to enter the novice section clearly against the rules and they won the class…… it is NOT fair… rules are there to be applied and followed…..

  • john travlos

    Well, Ursula, it happened again at this years ekka—- ekka show legend cooks have been allowed into the novice section and won ribbons in that section…. it is not fair at all…..

  • Sam

    What a shame you didn’t get a response John. I’m looking to enter for the first time, but if the experienced competitors enter the novice classes – where’s the fun in that?

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