Bakery competitions are seeing a revival in the trade, writes Andrew Williams.

The 2010 Bakery Challenge is the latest to capture the imagination of bakers in the north west of England. Entrants’ cakes were displayed at the Bako North Western Family Fun Day in June for attendants to enjoy, including a wonderful celebration cake with a whimsical garden scene and a large castle made completely out of chocolate rice krispies, which was entered into the innovation category.

Winners and runners-up were presented with their awards on the day, with judging having taken place at Bako North Western’s ’Bakory’ facility, by Peter Lonican, John Robertshaw and Patrick Moore all experienced bakers and judges. John Robertshaw commented that "the competition was very tough, with a lot of products reaching beyond the standards of the previous year, which made the judging process extremely difficult".

The event was bigger and better this year, featuring a number of how-to masterclasses in using new ingredients. Among them was Puratos, which was demonstrating Cryst-o-fil a pre-crystallised chocolate filling, containing 50% Belgian chocolate, which can be used to make ganaches and carries crispy inclusions, flavours and alcohol. "It’s time-saving, as opposed making ganache the real way, where you will have to boil the cream and mix the chocolate, and then go through the process of crystallising the product, which takes time and effort," said George Spain of Puratos. "Using Cryst-o-fil will eradicate that and make it a faster process. There are lots of things you can do with it and it’s already being used widely by chocolatiers." Also on show were Renshaw’s new natural coloured icings used on decorated cupcakes designed not to make your kids go nuts.

The idea was to offer live demonstrations, so that visitors could ask questions about costs and retail price and, hopefully, find a product idea with a 200% return. "This is all about introducing new people into bakery," said Andy Hodgson, Bako NW’s head of sales and marketing, "and also getting ideas across to the high street baker. We’re not trying to teach bakers how to bake; we want to show them that some of these ideas are quite simple and have a much higher margin; cake pops are a good example of a product that sits on the counter that is an additional sale, an impulse buy, that can generate an additional £30, £50 or £80 a day."

"The objective is to get as many of our suppliers to show as many of our customers new and innovative ways for their bakeries to prosper," added Mark Tomlinson, CEO of Bako NW. "We are a co-operative, so making money is not the be-all and end-all for us. Of course, we have to stay viable and expand, but bakers will always be the core of our business and we want to see them thrive."

The Bako North Western Bakery Challenge 2011 winners

Category 1400g Multiseed Loaf
1stGreenhalgh’s, Bolton
2ndWesses Bakehouse, MarketHarborough
3rdGeary’s Bakeries, Loughborough

Category 26 Assorted Commercial Fancies
1stM Ray, Merseyside
2ndHunters the Bakers, Bolton
3rdArthur Chatwin, Cheshire

Category 3200g Shortcrust Traditional Pasties
1stM Ray, Merseyside
2ndGreenhalgh’s, Bolton
3rdBev’s Bakery, Staffordshire

Category 48-inch Square Celebration Cake
1stShuga Budz, Wolverhampton
2ndIced of Garstang, Garstang
3rdM Ray, Merseyside

Category 5Battenberg Cake
1stM Ray, Merseyside
2ndHunters Bakery, Bolton
3rdW Mandeville, Cheshire

Category 6Innovation: Cluster Cakes
1stShuga Budz, Wolverhampton
2ndClassic Cakes, Stockport
3rdHunters the Bakers, Bolton