Easter spirit takes the cake as Sydney gets ready for a festive binge

A riot nearly erupted at last year's Royal Easter Show when a macaroon stole first prize for a new baking category, dubbed ''the anything else cake'' for allergy sufferers.

''That's not a cake,'' said Mrs Barbara Goldman, of Normanhurst, whose baking won best in show at this year's Easter Show.

''Well, there were nearly riots so I put pen to paper, and so did others, asking the show organisers to define it.''

To avoid similar disputes this year, anything goes was ditched and replaced by new categories including a gluten-free cake, an allergy-free cake (no nuts, no eggs) and a health loaf.

These new categories are gaining popularity. They also mean Mrs Goldman can taste some of her own entries. Twenty years ago she was diagnosed with coeliac disease, meaning she can't eat anything containing wheat flour.

The third of four generations of show bakers, Mrs Goldman has been taking the cake at the show since 1980. She was over the moon on Friday when she heard she had won most successful for her non-perishable cakes, such as fruit cakes, and shared the first for the freshly baked cakes.

She also came in first for her chocolate sponge sandwich, banana cake and pumpkin scones, and won awards for many of her 28 entries.

Disputes regularly flare over cake size, shape or the use of untraditional coloured icing, so the schedule is updated annually to avoid disappointment.

When it comes to winning and judging the baking, it is all about knowing the rules and traditions.

And Mrs Goldman knows them all.

There can be no rack marks on sponge or orange cakes. Her tip: Up-end a cake on a pile of teatowels.

Cream the butter and sugar for at least an hour because if the judges see white specks suggestive of undissolved sugar there are marks off. Jam roll edges can't be trimmed to remove dry or browned edges.

''The first thing to know is the rules: Read the schedule,'' baking judge Brigid Treloar advised contestants.

Some people clearly hadn't, entering cakes in illegal tins.

An orange cake was out because it had decorative rind. The rules dictate icing but no decoration.

Ms Treloar checked to see if sides were straight and tops were even. She searched for the white specks Mrs Goldman was trying to avoid. None were hiding in the sponges, but she did see white flour that hadn't been mixed in.

Every sponge was poked to see if it bounced back.

Ms Treloar rejected some because they were too brown.

A sponge by John Turnbull, of Gerringong, using his late mother's recipe and tin, ''melted in the mouth,'' said Ms Treloar. But Mr Turnbull missed out on first because the cake had been baked in an old tin with slightly sloping sides.

''Not every cake can be perfect,'' said Ms Treloar, who stressed the ultimate test was taste.

Barbara Goldman's Pumpkin Scones

2 ½ cups SR Flour

60g pure icing sugar

1 tsp salt

60g butter

1 cup cooked, sieved pumpkin, cool to room temperature

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ -3/4 cup milk

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Preheat oven to 210°C (fan)

1. Sift flour, icing sugar and salt into a bowl

2. Rub in butter to dry ingredients with fingertips.

3. In a separate bowl combine pumpkin and egg, mix well.

4. Add pumpkin egg mixture to dry ingredients with enough milk to make soft

5. Dust bench with extra flour and shape dough to 2m thickness.

6. Cut dough with scone cutter

7. Bake on tray in oven for 10-12 minutes

The story Easter spirit takes the cake as Sydney gets ready for a festive binge first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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