I know I will regret this.
What I am about to do will undoubtedly incur the wrath of Miss Rose, and I know I will suffer the consequences of my actions in due course. But I ask you, how can I possibly resist the temptation of a sarcastic taunt when, on the rarest of occasions, Miss Rose strays from her organisational best?
You see, it was decided that in addition to baking Sundays when we would combine our baking prowess, Miss Rose and Miss Emily would also face-off against one another in our probably-monthly Friday High Tea Challenge. Miss Rose – the competitive little poppet that she is – thought this was a fantastic idea, and suggested our first challenge be a simple biscuit. No filling, no icing, just a plain but delicious biscuit of your choosing. So the occasion of our first Friday High Tea saw the following entrants…
I realise the scheduling of work obligations was out of Miss Rose's hands and a postponement was unavoidable, but following the filthy slander I received earlier in the week, and the power vested in me as official blog scribe, I just couldn't help myself. So in the absence of any real competition, the chewy, caramel pistachio-apricot oatmeal cookies prevailed and Miss Emily was declared the unofficial winner of the "preliminary challenge" that was Friday High Tea. Consequently, I was therefore bestowed with the task of selecting the theme for our next challenge.
Miss Rose is principally responsible for acquiring the ingredients required by Team Pretty Bake, and over the past few weeks has met with some delightful providores who have shown a keen interest in Team Pretty Bake, offered many helpful tips and suggestions in regards to their own areas of expertise, and have provided some of the finest produce to be used in the construction of our creations. Mr. Peter not only supplied the quatre épices for our simple country terrine, but offered the following sagely advice: within the pages of the Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union Centenary Cookbook (1904-2004) can be found "recipes of sublime simplicity and taste". His case in point was their butter cream, so it seemed fate that this should serve as the theme for Team Pretty Bakes first official Friday High Tea Challenge.
The rules of baking were simple: (i) a 'plain' cake to serve as the butter cream canvas; (ii) fillings were allowed but should not detract from the feature cream, and (iii) butter cream was to be made using the basic PWMU recipe lovingly bestowed by Mr Peter, and could be adapted to one's desired flavourings. If attempts at the specified butter cream failed, a back-up could be employed, but the original must be submitted "in-bowl" and points would be deducted accordingly.
Now, when I say "a basic, classic butter cream", I would just like to point out to those who do not bake that nothing about a classic butter cream is basic. Adding soft-ball sugar syrup to egg yolks is fraught with danger, and I will reluctantly admit that my first attempt was an absolute disaster. I did, however, quickly learn from my mistakes, and the luscious butter cream that resulted the second time around was well worth the frustration. Miss Rose was less willing to confide her encountered difficulties (need I reiterate just how competitive she can be?), but I suspect this was a learning experience for us both.
So, after a long night of baking and appropriate arrangements made to balance artistic presentation and transport logistics, we arrived at Friday High Tea. Contestants, your submissions please…
Miss Emily's vanilla bean buttermilk cake with orange curd butter cream
Miss Rose's white sponge with praline butter cream; so pretty! Yes indeed!
Miss Emily took a classic approach – a simple vanilla bean buttermilk cake topped with a luscious butter cream enriched with tangy orange curd. Judges were impressed with the "traditional yet elegant" design and enjoyed the tang, but thought the cake "could have been moister".
Miss Rose, on the other hand, intended to win over the judging panel with a high degree of difficulty, (store-bought) "pretty flowers", and a not-so-subtle attempt at subliminal suggestion (see last-minute place card). Judges were particularly impressed by the "consistency of layering" of white sponge and praline butter cream, and those that detected the use of apricot jam lubrication thought this added "a nice tang". The serving of this carefully constructed masterpiece was met by many "oohs" and "aahs", and although some felt that perhaps the flavourings were "a little overpowering", for others it was a case of "tastebud parties".
Both cakes were thoroughly enjoyed by all, and while most judges would have been happy to retire to their workstations with a strong cup of tea to recover from their respective sugar-highs, a task was still at hand. This was, after all, a Friday High Tea Challenge. And as there can be only one, the winner is…
Miss Rose and her divine praline butter cream!
While the vote tally showed that the two were inseparable on taste, flavour and texture, Miss Emily's buttermilk cake was simply no match for the impressive crafting of Miss Rose's layered sponge.
So having learnt that taste alone will not win you the prize, Miss Emily retired to the drawing room to work on her creativity. Miss Rose, basking in the adulation and sugar-drenched glory of a thoroughly deserved win, looked down from the dizzying heights of her success, and quietly pondered what theme to select for Team Pretty Bakes next Friday High Tea.
Will Miss Rose retain her crown, or crumble under the pressure of trying to uphold FHTC supremacy? Will Miss Emily get her creative juices flowing, or continue to be 'the plain one'? Tune in next time to find out!