Glenda Crawford has judged hundreds of cakes and knows the secret to perfect baking

The trick to an award winning cake is simple but difficult to achieve.

Glenda Crawford, the head steward of the Perth Royal Show cooking competition, says that too much or too little cooking – and sometimes both at the same time – are the most common mistakes she sees.

“The first thing you do as a judge, you look for the overall appearance, if it’s sunk in the middle,” she said.

Too hot, too fast

Cakes should also have a smooth, flat top, not be too tall or cracked in the center, and be evenly baked, not burnt on the surface or raw on the inside.

Glenda Crawford, chief steward of the Perth Royal Show cooking competition, examines the cakes prepared by the staff at ABC Radio Perth.(

ABC Radio Perth: Mandina Oh


Ms Crawford said many problems with the cakes could be attributed to baking them too quickly, in an oven that was too hot.

While most recipes suggest a temperature of around 180 degrees Celsius, she suggests baking between 140 ° C and 150 ° C and leaving the cake in the oven longer.

“We’re not saying you have to bake this cake for 60 minutes – we’re just saying bake it until the skewer comes out clean.

“And we always use wooden skewers.

“If you sometimes use a metal skewer, especially near the end, the crumbs will slip off and you might think your cake is baked when it actually isn’t.”

Avoid the top of the cake volcano

Ms Crawford said the reason the unevenly baked cakes was due to the metal cake pan, which heated the sides first. When baked at 180 ° C, it could lead to a cake that is both burnt and undercooked.

“What you’re going to end up with is a volcano, because the exteriors cook very quickly, and then inside they have nowhere to go, so they go up and out,” he said. she declared.

“People see the outside going brown and they say ‘I’m burning my cake’ and so they take it out, and it’s a little undercooked.”

Composite image of two cakes in bread pans with cracked tops
If the cakes are baked in an oven that is too hot, the outside will bake too quickly and the center will become a “volcano,” says Glenda Crawford.(

Flickr: PenLlawen and PreteMoiParis


In addition to low heat baking, another tip is to use silicone rather than metal cake pans to avoid heating the outside of the cake unevenly.

Ms. Crawford’s next round involves a trip to the hardware store for a clean nail or a thick metal rod.

“You sterilize the nail and just before you put it in the oven, you put it in the center of the cake, vertically,” she said.

“People will often call it a cooking core.”

Tasting cakes until the palate is exhausted

Ms Crawford is a professional cake decorator and started judging at the Perth Royal Show six years ago, after years of competing herself.

Due to COVID-19, the show was canceled last year for the first time since World War II.

She said that, based on the number of entries this year, she believed the pandemic had sparked renewed interest in homemade baking.

Judges review hundreds of nominations received for the Perth Royal Bread and Pastry Awards
The judges assess the entries for the Perth Royal Show Bread and Pastry Awards in 2017.(

ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne


“In the kitchen section alone we had 360 entrees and in the decorated cakes we had 50,” she said.

“We had a section this year called ‘My Favorite COVID Lockdown Cake’ and the banana bread and carrot cake were really popular entrees for that.”

The 16 judges each taste around 40 cakes each, after which their palates simply run out.

While many are of a high standard, there are always a few that the judges know, just by looking at them, won’t taste good.

“But you have to do it unless you think it’s not food safe,” she said.

Enter what you like

For people inspired to see how their homemade baking compares to the best, Ms. Crawford suggests entering the things you love to do.

“If you’re making a really nasty caramel slice, enter the caramel slice.

“Or can you enter the my favorite cakes section so you can choose any cake you want.”

But she cautions that there are certain categories of cakes that beginners should avoid.

“What you don’t enter the first time around is a fruit cake or a chocolate cake, because you get the seasoned competitors who enter those sections.”

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