Written by Niko Kolios
I awoke for the 3rd Great Selsey Bake-off feeling rather anxious, mostly because I had not had any pudding for the last two days (which we all know is hard to do), as I was saving myself to ‘sample’ the competition on the day. This proved an ample distraction from the weather which, albeit now unavoidably ‘fresh’, did little to curve my hunger pangs as I made my way up to The Seal, with cake and sweet treats in my minds eye.
As with the previous competition, the judge’s table was set up in the spacious pool-room area, and I proceeded to lay out the judges’ score sheets, pens and forks for the desserts to come. The last Seal Bake Off had a curtain separating judges from contestants and their treats. This year I decided to have it more open plan, with the judges able to move freely between competitors. Once happy with the set-up, I made a coffee and contemplated whether to break my sugar-fast now or to hold off until the judging began. With great difficulty I chose the latter. This was made worse by having to watch the competition arrive with their various winter-themed treats.
This year boasted four categories: Mince Pies, Boozy Truffles, Sweet Spiced Fruit Loaf & Kids Iced Christmas Cookies, judges being Steve Power (WAVE 105 fm), John Mears (Country Gardens), Paul Seabrook (Master Baker) and Colvin Rae (RNLI representative). Although the bar was there, and the gin and beer were flowing for some, our judges were not led to distraction. Instead their unwavering focus was held solely by the top quality, deliciously sweet treats that could be seen filing past. Jealousy isn’t the right word for it.
The prizes for this year’s Bake Off were as follows:
1st place – £30 The Seal voucher
2nd place – £15 Country Gardens voucher
3rd place – Posh chocolates.
The children in the kids category would be competing for toys and chocolate, much to their excitement.
At around 2pm the judges descended upon the first category: mince pies. The spread on offer was nothing short of delicious and being a fan of mince pies myself, I found this round to be extra exciting. I wasn’t as excited as Mel however, whose crumbled-top effort proved a stonking success and stole the show. She clinched the winning spot from Seal local Sylvia, whose untraditional frangipane concoction proved very popular also. Catherine claimed third with a very respectable score and an even tastier traditional mince pie. I am a mince pie snob so you’ll be pleased to hear that I liked the look of all of them, and did not waver from my determination to sample all of them for myself.
Truffles (not the kind found by pigs) were up next and I saw many eyes follow the plates, some with more intensity than the judges! As soon as the salivating had stopped the scoring began. Walking away from this one with a victory was Jacky, whose marvellous spread of truffles proved too much for the rest of the competition. Second place was awarded to Mel, who once more wowed the judges with her baking expertise. The Seal’s own Beatrice was only just pipped at the post and claimed third, but her boozy truffles proved a stonking success with a lovely selection of Amaretto, Benedictine and Grand Marnier. A nod to Polly who missed out on the podium, but did however auction off all of his coffee treats in the later stage. All for a good cause!
The category up next was kids cookies, and I was blown away by the effort made by some of the youngsters who participated. The entry that really impressed this years panel of judges was that of young Rosie, two-and-a-half years old, who had a hand in baking a marvellous array of cookies, presented on a christmas tree display. Her score was the best of the day, so a very well done to Rosie! In second was Ava who’s tray of very appetising advent calendar cookies not only turned heads, but also fetched £10 at the auction. Finally, in close third came Hannah, whose gingerbread reindeers (the only ginger entry of this year’s competition) were shaped like christmas trees, and definitely hit the nostalgia note with some of the judging panel.
As I began to contemplate whether or not I had incurred a bout of diabetes from the day’s intake, the judges announced the final category – Sweet Spiced Fruit Loaf. By now it was becoming apparent that our star bakers were feeling competitive, and as the final marks were tallied, it was agreed that Margaret’s chai tea loaf was the most flavoursome. The scores indicate that all judges felt strongly about the her loaf, and no-doubt she was happy to win the final round. Second was Jerry with a beautiful walnut and date loaf, walnut and date being my achilles heel, so naturally I was quietly hoping for nutty success. This husband and wife combo rocked the competition, resulting in third place being a tight one. Ultimately it was Steph narrowly claiming the final place on the podium with a rather scrumptious fruit loaf.
Steve Powers was tasked with announcing the winners and awarding certificates (a load of these photos can be seen on The Seal’s social media), and during that time I scurried about the place selling tickets for the raffle. Enticotts Bakery provided some additional prizes for the charity push, so a big thank you to them for all of their help. Once everyone had a ticket, the raffle began. Prizes such as gift sets and cakes were up for grabs. Everyone was a winner, at least to some, and this only added to the final tally, so a big thank you to all who took part in the raffle and contributed their precious pennies to a hearty cause.
After a brief hiatus whereby I drank nothing but water (by now the coffee was flowing) I prepared to bid a fond farewell to the rest of the sweet treats, as Steve readied himself for an auction. Naturally, I chose to hover next to Steve as he released the puddings to the masses. The total raised by the auction was over £80, and those treats that were not up for auction were sold to a hungry crowd anyway, ramping this total up further. Many congratulations to the winners, their donations, and most importantly their full bellies.
In total, all of the activity of the day raised £400 for the RNLI. This is a stupendous effort by all involved, and speaks volumes for how much fun was had on the day, particularly seeing as how this total outdid the last by some margin. A truly fantastic time had by all, and I can only thank the brilliant judges, the determined participants and the continuous flow of sweet treats and coffee for a wonderful day well had.