The Cake Awards at the Park Lane Hotel
Sipping on pink champagne cocktails amidst the art deco opulence of the Park Lane Hotel’s plush interior, excited luminaries from across the food industry were seated for the inaugural Cake Awards ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. Devised by food authority, Jane Milton, the event honoured the diverse variety of cakes available across the UK’s many retail outlets, bakeries and tearoom chains.
The jovial crowd included Dragon’s Den star, Deborah Meadon, and representatives from the UK’s biggest food retailers, such as Asda and Morrisons, which picked up the award for best Supermarket Cake for its Red Velvet by Claire Clark.
Entries across seven categories were subjected to the rigorous palette of 14 expert judges comprised of master pâtissier, Eric Lanlard, editor of the Observer Food Monthly, Allan Jenkins, quality & innovation chef at Marks & Spencer, David Swann, and award-winning pâtissier and chocolatier, Will Torrent, who also served as event host and delivered an impassioned speech about the enduring appeal of the humble cake.
After drinks, we devoured afternoon tea in the hotel’s stunning Grade 2-listed ballroom, tucking into three mouth-watering tiers and a choice of fragrant teas: English Breakfast, Lady Grey and Hibiscus. The accompanying vintage soundtrack was endearing and created a traditional tearoom atmosphere, further buoyed by the nostalgic dress code of tea dresses and lounge suits.
Six flawless finger sandwiches included a magnificent Grated Egg, Crème Fraiche and Cress Brioche and a wonderfully spiced Smoked Chicken – Coronation Style with Watercress on white bread. Apple and Raisin and Plain Scones were served with thick clotted cream and tasty homemade preserves, while apricot and raspberry jams appeared almost neon alongside the pale yellow hue of a delicious – if slightly runny – Orange and Passion Fruit Curd.
A Raspberry Cheesecake Choux Bun had a creamy filling, including plenty of fresh fruit, and an overly-sweet Strawberry and Elderflower Jelly White Chocolate Panacotta and Roasted Peach was speckled with gold leaf, and looked like a jewelled trifle. Carrot Cake and Vanilla Crème Brulee Fruit Tartlet were both scrumptious and a dainty Chocolate, Rum and Caramel Slice had a glorious praline flavour, enriched with hints of coffee – sublime!
The ceremony that followed was incredibly speedy, maintaining the lively, upbeat mood enjoyed throughout tea, and the event’s biggest victor proved to be The Bakery Dunbar. Its Dome Chocolat et au Praline Feuilleté earned accolades for Bakery Shop Cake and Cake of the Year, but the visually tantalising creation was not available to sample – the only gripe about an otherwise decadent and fun event that deserves to become a prominent fixture in the food industry’s annual calendar.
As we left the grandeur of the ballroom to join a celebratory drinks party to toast the winners, it felt satisfying to have witnessed a long overdue homage to one of the nation’s favourite treats. As co-founder, Caroline Jackson-Levy, perfectly surmised in her opening speech: “No-one celebrates with a five-tier wedding biscuit.” Indeed, they would probably receive far fewer RSVPs if they did.
For further information about the Cake Awards and a full list of winners visit here.
To book Afternoon Tea at the Park Lane Hotel, call 020 7499 6321 or visit here.