Monday, November 14, 2011

On a sugar high

Every year the email comes around recruiting judges for the Fundamentals in Food Preparation cake contest. Every year I’m tempted. And most years - well every year until now - I’ve resisted.

Thinking it would be fun to write about in this blog, I volunteered. But while walking over to Berky Hall on cold, windy Thursday afternoon, I was already regretting the number of calories I was about to consume.

The task seemed simple enough. Six judges were divided into two groups. Group A tasted the cakes in group A, and nominated three semi-finalists. Group B judges did the same with the group B cakes. Then Academic Dean Sally Weaver Sommer and Associate Dean Lamar Nisly selected the winners.

The first task was to judge on appearance. We have very creative students, there was a pumpkin cake made to look like a pumpkin, complete with a green “stem”; a cake wrapped in fondant; a cake surrounded by KitKats and topped with M&Ms to look like a candy dish.

Now do they compete with the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes? Not so much, but for some of these students this was their first attempt at decorating a cake. They all looked good. But a judge judges, so I scored the group A cakes on appearance. There, that wasn’t too tough.

But then came the hard part. Judging on flavor and on palatability - or as the directions said “mouth-feel.” This is when I realized that I was such a newbie. Long-time judge Steve Rodabaugh is rolling the cake around in his mouth, analyzing, debating. Another long-time judge Darryl Nester has his own system, analyzing the tastes, jotting notes on the score sheet, very methodical.

Me? I went with first impressions. Can I justify the scores given? Does “that was yummy” count? I’d never make it as a judge on Chopped.
The Bluffton University Nutrition Association will serve cake at Friday night's "Fill the CUP" spaghetti dinner.
Katie the student photographer is taking photos, drooling over the cakes and looking over my shoulder. As I tally the scores, she whispers, that chocolate cake was made by a soccer player. Call me relieved that I had scored it in my personal top three! In the end it wasn’t chosen as a semi-finalist because of appearance. But heck it was probably the first cake he had ever decorated. Not a bad start.

Jealous yet? Hungry for cake?

You are in luck. The Bluffton University Nutrition Association will be serving cake at its annual Fill the CUP spaghetti dinner Friday night. Come to the Bluffton First Mennonite Church, 5-7 p.m., for a donation-only meal. You are invited to contribute cash or canned goods for the Lima-based Churches United Food Pantry.

And enjoy cake made by Bluffton’s students.

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