Show queen takes the cake
SHE is the queen of Royal Adelaide Show baking.
But despite winning this year’s highest accolade – the Most Successful Exhibitor in the open cookery classes – Jennifer Williams remains unassuming about her culinary prowess.
“I get nervous beforehand,” she admits. “I don’t have the confidence in myself – ask anybody and they’ll tell you that. I’m very humbled by it all.”
Mrs Williams has been entering her biscuits and cakes at the Show for more than 20 years, amassing an impressive bounty of ribbons and certificates.
But this year she has produced her most successful haul, taking home six first places, three seconds, four thirds and three fourths.
Her blue ribbons were awarded for shortbread, ginger fluff sponge, edible standing Christmas tree, jelly cakes, swiss roll and vanilla butterfly cakes.
Entering as many cooking classes as Mrs Williams does takes careful planning. And in the days leading up to the show, her family will keep out of the kitchen at her home at Marrabel in the Mid North.
“It is a standing joke that come show cooking time, everybody has a wide berth,” Mrs Williams says.
“Even my husband comes in the door, pokes his head in and says, ‘Is it safe to come in?’. But they enjoy the spoils afterwards.”
Mrs Williams works as a nurse but takes two weeks off before the show so she can “psych myself up to cooking”.
“I actually start (preparations) a few days beforehand,” she says.
“I make sure my eggs are the same weight and I have all the flour and everything sifted beforehand.”
On the big cooking days, she can be in the kitchen from 9am to 10.30pm. It’s a huge commitment, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I just love it,” she says.
“I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing people enjoy eating my food.”
While Mrs Williams didn’t cook as a child, she was inspired by her mother, who she says appreciated the importance of food.
“The one thing I noticed, she always tasted her food as she went along. Mum and Dad were from Poland – they came out after the war – so they knew the importance of food because during the war they didn’t have any. Food on the table was the most important thing. Everything else went out the window – as long as you had food on the table, you were fine.”
Decades later, Mrs Williams is a decorated Show baker – and she 4 eggs, separated Pinch of salt ¾ cup sugar ½ cup cornflour 2 dessertspoons plain flour 2 level tsps ground ginger 2 level tsps cinnamon 1 tsp cocoa powder 1 tsp cream of tartar ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda 1 dessertspoon golden syrup Use cooking spray to grease two 20cm round sandwich pans and line the base with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to moderate (180C in a conventional electric oven).
Put the egg whites and the salt in a very large bowl and beat with a handheld electric beater or mixmaster on high speed until stiff peaks form (about 10 to 15 minutes). If you are using a mixmaster, attach the ‘whisk’ beater.
Continue beating on a high speed, adding the egg yolks one says you could be one too. “If you think, ‘Oh, well I didn’t do well this year’, next year it is probably somebody different who has got different tastebuds or whatever, and they might just find something different in what you’ve cooked,” she says.
“Even if something doesn’t go right, try it again.” at a time and beating until well blended. Add the sugar and beat until dissolved – the mixture should be creamy but reasonably thick.
Sift twice together the cornflour, flour, ginger, cinnamon, cocoa, cream of tartar and soda. Gently fold them into the egg mixture until combined, working quickly but gently.
Add the golden syrup by gently drizzling it from the end of the spoon, scattering it over the top of the mixture. Gently fold the syrup into the batter.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two prepared sandwich pans and bake in a moderate oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The cake is cooked when you touch the top and it springs back. Do not overcook.
Place a thick layer of paper on to a cake-cooler rack. Tip the cakes out on to the paper and immediately tip them back on to the bottoms so the tops of the cakes are not spoiled. your eggs and make sure they are really fresh. sponges, sift all the ingredients three times. need to be fresh. cooked cakes on tea towels on top of the racks. your food.
GREAT AUSSIE BAKER: Royal Adelaide Show champion Jennifer Williams in her kitchen at Marrabel. The Blue Ribbon Cookbook