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

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