Ask An Expert – Jan Berry Baking & Competition Tips

Jan Berry of Jan Berry Sugarcraft is a qualified pastry chef, sugar floral expert and Cake International competition co-ordinator and Jan will be judging at the show Friday 2nd November 2018.

Jan’s love of gardening prompted her towards a career in sugarcraft, where she is able to combine her two loves, creating beautiful flowers and plants.  Jan also created a tutorial for Cake Life called ‘last days of summer’.   Jan was recently asked to take on the role of Cake International Competition Co-ordinator, working with Melanie Underwood, event manager, as the competitions continue to grow.

Baking Tips

Firstly, thank you Jan for agreeing to be interviewed.  I love talking to you, I always learn so much!

This year it’s looking very likely that lemon and elderflower cake is going to be the number one recipe, as a pastry chef and Cake International competition co-ordinator, we would love you to give us some tips on the recipe and on Cake International competitions too!

Harry and Meghan’s choice of lemon and elderflower cake is proving popular with brides this year
Q.  Can you recommend a quick and easy way to create lemon and elderflower cake please?
A- You can just use your normal sponge mixture, and add some Uncle Roys Elderflower Essence and some grated lemon rind
Q.   Can you tell us how you would create this if you had plenty of time!
A- I would make my own elderflower syrup, reduce the syrup to a concentrate and freeze into cubes and take one out when needed, also adding fresh lemon rind to the cake mixture, also once the cake is baked to make a stock syrup adding more elderflower syrup and a touch of limoncello and brush that over each layer of sponge
Q.  That sounds amazing, please bring some to CI!  What is your favourite cake recipe?
A.  High density sponge recipe
Q.   What do you love to make, if you had a whole day free to yourself for example?
A-Not always cake related, I love to make chutneys, jam, syrups, sausages, black pudding, smoking foods etc.

Cake International Show

Jan Berry is also the competition co-ordinator for Cake Internationalhelping Melanie Underwood, event manager and Karen Keaney, Head Judge, with the vast organisation for the ever expanding competitions.

Karen Keaney, Head Judge for Cake International
Jan, I would love to ask you some questions about the schedule for 2 – 4 November Cake International Show.
Q. The competition schedule has some interesting new categories, for example category Q the embossed plaque.  A 2D embossed plaque, I can’t wait to see the entries for this, Any tips please? 
A-It is a solid plaque of pastillage left to dry then the top is decorated with a minimum of 2 different mediums, when you take it to the show you can either sit it on a board or a plate stand.  Remember you can’t cover a cake card or board and decorate that as that is not a plaque.  If you google 2D clay (but obviously you can’t use clay) art and the tiles you see is the criteria.Make sure the plaque itself is an even thickness, don’t be frightened of using different mediums and colours, Google is your friend here, think tiles!
Q.  Illusion cake category F – what are you hoping to see from competitors in this category?
A- Imagination being used, also how things are finished off, its the finishing touches that counts
Illusion cake category F example 
Q.  Fantasy Winter Wonderland category E – this is going to be a popular category – so a competitor can do any number of tiers or create a carved cake?
A- Yes absolutely, this can be all dummies, all cake, a mixture of the two, it can be one tier to what ever the competitor would like.
Q.  Category C Fireworks theme – we had this category last year, why did you choose the same one again?
A. We have had several classes being repeated for several shows over the years, this is the second time we have had fireworks, last year we had a good turn out for it and we thought we would give it one more go this year, Classes and topics will be changed on a regular period , so never presume that same class will be there next year, it is a competition after all!
Q.  Marzipan Animal Magic category – you don’t often see marzipan used nowadays in this way, I’d love to see some examples of this medium being used
A- No its not seen very often and its a shame as it is just another edible medium, one of the first shows I attended it had the marzipan figures in and it was those that popped into my head for a class
Example of marzipan figures from a Cake International competition, this was a themed category from a number of years ago.  You are encouraged nowadays to use your imagination for your designs. 
Q.  As you are a floral expert, any tips you can give the competitors?
A.  Concentrate on your wiring, patchy glaze ( the lighting at the NEC shows every blotch of glaze there is) rough burred edges, and remember if you want to put down a list of flowers you have used then do so, but most of all enjoy the experience, you are competing against yourself and no one else and no matter what you walk away with, most of all be proud of yourself.

Thank you so much Jan, for your time, I can’t wait for Cake International Show 2 – 4 November 2018!

Melanie Underwood – editor of Cake Life and event manager for Cake International Shows

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