After a two-week holiday earlier this month the main highlight of my return to work was the Great Office Bake Off. I allowed myself to get more than a little carried away in the preparation, making constructive use of that post-holiday re-entry period where you haven’t got round to arranging a social life.
Maybe people were just humouring me, but I found others were interested too. At open house the week before we had a long and detailed chat about options for different types of cake; the relative merits of a crowd pleasing chocolate cake against a quirkier but divisive lavender cake, or a visually impressive but not so excitingly flavoured rainbow layer cake. And because of my slight obsessive tendencies, all of the items needed to complement each other; it just wouldn’t do to have any flavour appearing more than once despite the anonymous judging.
The preceding weekend, ingredients were bought and practice runs carried out. Samples were handed round friends on condition that they submit to interrogation as to whether the gingeryness was *just* right. Monday morning brought team planning and analysis of the weekend’s attempts. Sceptical bosses were won round by the prevailing baking madness and demanded cake to be set aside for them on the great day. Motivational emails were sent out, and inter-floor rivalries were set in place. And the finer points of ‘cake or pie’ were debated and adjudication sought.
We could enter up to one item in each of the three categories of cake, pie and bread and after much contemplation I had decided that entering all three was eminently sensible. After an evening of cooking madness, a few hours sleep and an early morning start to shape and cook the bread, I was feeling pretty pleased with my offerings. Then the dawning realisation hit that I had made GIANT things. My triple-layer cake was taller than the cake carrier; and the excitingly expanded bread was the size of an enormous chopping board, not to mention the plates, garnishes and utensils that needed to make the trip in.
Resignedly I booked a taxi to the office, and tried to think of ways to explain away my mode of arrival to my peers but failed to come up with anything better than sheer baking obsession. Happily though, everything survived the journey, and for once presentation of the final products lived up to the image in my mind’s eye, with three of my very own recipe creations beautiful presented.
An amazing 50 bakers signed up to participate, in baking teams including ‘macarons sans frontiers’ and the ‘financiers’. It may not have been the most productive day in the office, but the team-building value was immense and excitement palpable, as people snuck upstairs to give final touches to their entry, and check out the competition. When judging time rolled around, most of the staff in the building turned up, to be surprised by the appearance of celebrity judges!
The final products were a gin and tonic cake; a cardamom, chocolate and pear tart and a ginger tea-bread ring. And I’m happy to say my efforts were successful. The G&T cake was a winner, with the tea-bread getting a runner up prize, and the Bakers Without Borders won a prize for best team effort! To round the morning off, two of my friends won the prizes for other categories, and the sender of the overly competitive motivational emails didn’t win anything at all; overall a truly great office bake off!