After being on maternity leave for two years running, I was thrilled to be able to enter the FreeFrom Food Awards again.
You may remember (back in 2016) I got shortlisted but no further. This was a surprise as I'd been conceited enough to think I'd win. But what I didn't realise was it's not just about the taste of the cake.
Confused? Let me fill you in. I did a spot of digging and discovered what the FreeFrom Food Awards really want. The answer? Innovators. They want people to produce food that hasn't been achieved before. Something different. Something that offers hope to those who've not been able to consume egg, wheat, nuts and dairy for thirty years but have hankered after a frangipane tart or an egg custard. They want something to replicate their favourite foods but using an allergen-free set of ingredients instead.
It got me thinking. There was no point submitting the same cake as before but what could I enter that would really make the judges sit up and taste?
As luck would have it, the answer came in the form of an Italian bride who came to me for her wedding cake. She wanted something that replicated the cakes she could get in Italy but no-one seemed to be offering anything. She wanted something not too sweet but light and fluffy. Oh, and vegan.
So I set to work in the kitchen. It took four taste trials in total, but in the end I cracked it (and not one egg). The result? A light and fluffy completely allergen-free cake. That's right: no gluten, soy, egg, milk, nuts, peanuts, lupin, sulphites, sesame or...well, I've yet to see mustard, fish, molluscs, celery or shellfish in a cake but you'll be relieved to know they weren't in there, either.
I decided chocolate would be the best flavour to go with, so 18 double chocolate cupcakes winged their way to the judging on one of the coldest days ever. (I mention this only because at one point it looked as though I'd have to be part of the tasting, too, my hands having welded themselves to the icy cake boxes.)
And that's how I got my ever-so-special silver award with the following comments:
'Good flavour and texture – not overwhelmingly rich, which is good. Great that this milk-, egg- and gluten-free.'
As for those who won gold, they were:
Asda (including a mince pie flavour cookie)
Liberty Loves (with a pastry shell created out of flaxseed)
Marnie Searchwell (with a vegan mocha gluten-free cake)
And if you're wondering why I couldn't compete with the cake, I'm not quite sure. There were a lot of people commenting on its excellent texture, so this gives me (literal) food for thought. By this time next year, I'm hopeful I'll have developed a new cake recipe which will see me winning gold. Watch this space!
Click here for the winners in the Tea Time category at the FreeFrom Food Awards.
Apology: in an earlier version of this blog post I suggested Marnie Searchwell used gluten-free oat flour in her cake. This is incorrect and I apologise for any upset caused.