Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Saturday 12th September - The Darlings Do The Great British Bake Off

September has a feel of the new year about it, don't you think? It's back to school and back to work after the summer holidays... and it was back to the old hall for us at the Darling Roses, after a long two-month break. And so our agenda for September was pretty jam-packed, and we drew a room full of friendly faces (old and new), all ready to dive in.

Seeing as September is now officially 'British Bake Off' time and (alarmingly!) we've never actually had any cake-based fun throughout the three years we've been meeting (apart from eating cakes, obvs), we decided it was high time that cake took star billing and so we planned a workshop to whip our buttercream icing skills into shape, plus our own tribute to the GBBO - with members invited to bring along entries in three categories, biscuits, scones and Victoria Sponge. The biscuits were also to be very special biccies, knickers was the theme! Jayne had asked us to support a charitable cause that's very close to her heart, Endometriosis UK. Every September is Pink Pants month, when the charity invites supporters to host a Mad Pants Tea Party to raise awareness and funds for the cause. But more on the baking fun later...

After the 'business end' of our meeting was wrapped up, we were joined by two very special guests from the Leeds-based charity Sunshine and Smiles, a local support network providing a fantastic and valuable service to children with Downs Syndrome and their families. Ailith Harley-Roberts and Sharon Cook are two parents who started up the charity after encountering the absence of any similar support service in the area when their own children were very young. Ailith's and Sharon's experiences - both personally with their families, and as part of the growth of Sunshine and Smiles - were fascinating and inspiring to hear, and we're very proud to be official supporters of the group, in whatever small way we can contribute. To this end, we've been busy with the aim of collecting 100 (at least!) books for Sunshine and Smiles. (It had to be 100... don't forget that September has also marked the national centenary of the WI, so it's been a theme for the last few months - 100 Random Acts of Kindness, 100 Darling Inspirational Women... have a look at our Centenary page to find out more.) So, it was a pleasure to hand over our collection to Ailith and Sharon on the day, and add to their fundraising drive. Every year Sunshine and Smiles hosts a Great Charity Book Giveaway, with visitors paying an entrance fee to take as many books away as they like. The last event raised over £1000!

Then with the meeting done and lunch scoffed (at our usual shared lunch bun fight) it was time to hand over to our new friend, Sarah Rooke of Kitsch Cakes. Sarah is a kind of glamazonian Leeds-by-way-of-the-South version of Nigella Lawson. Not kidding! And she charmed us all when she talked us through her background and how she started up her cake making business. Before we got to that bit though, our bake off entries needed judging and boy did our judges take the whole business very seriously. We already had our Nigella (Sarah), and our member Maureen became Maureen Berry for the day (Maureen, the first to walk through the door at our first meeting, has become a kind of arch matriarch of the Darling Roses - I nearly called her our mascot but that somehow belittles her?! Also known as 'the Don', 'the gaffer' etc...) and a photographer from the Yorkshire Evening Post had joined us for the day so, just by virtue of being a bloke, we thought he'll 'do' as Paul Hollywood. Anyway, after what felt like hours of po-faced discussion, note taking and tasting, Nigella, Maureen Berry and Mr Hollywood were ready to announce the winners.

Our esteemed judges
The Bake Off entries
First category - who could make the perfect Victoria sponge? Kate Holdsworth! That's who.

Second category - scones, and who's wowed the judges this time? Kate Holdsworth! Err... way to hog the limelight Kate! :-)

By this point Kate had two rosettes pinned to, er, prominent places, and we've heard reports that she didn't take them off for days, even attending her pilates class wearing them. Think she was pleased! Well done Kate, a very worthy winner. However, we were all thankful that Kate hadn't entered the third category of the Mad Pants biscuits for Endometriosis UK, so somebody else could have a chance.

Step forward Jane Kettle!

Jane then dropped the bombshell that she hadn't even made hers! ;-) It was all above board though, congratulations go to Heather Oxley for her very cheeky tasty biscuits.

Finally it was time for the workshop. Well done to Sarah of Kitsch Cakes, by the way, for being in it for the long haul and putting up with us for the whole day! We learnt with Sarah how to prepare our buttercream, how to fill and handle our piping bags expertly and how to produce various pretty and flowery effects - glitter sugar dusted, ruffles, roses etc... There are a few baking maestros amongst our membership, but also a fair few who'd never done this kind of icing before, and I think we were amazed at the results we could achieve, with just a little know-how. The day was fabulous, and thank you so much to Sarah Rooke for coming along and having so much fun with us. Thanks to all of us, in fact, for making the Darling Roses what it is! See you next time, Saturday October 10th for wine, cider and cheese tasting, yum. It just keeps getting better.

Cheeky biscuits for Mad Pants fundraiser for Endometriosis UK
More cheeky knickknacks
The winning Victoria Sponge demolished. Thanks Kate! xx

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