Yesterday was Toronto's Annual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off. I volunteered at it last year, but this year I was feeling extra inspired, which led me to submit an entry into the competition. There were eight categories that you could enter and over forty participants baking goods to compete. I entered the "Gluten-Free Chocolate" category and submitted my Lady Bites (a peanut-butter-chocolate cookie creation). I had to bake 100 cookies to share with the community at large, who in turned acted as judges, rating each of the sweets in order to select the winner. In addition to the taste-testing aspect of the day, participants were also judged on their presentation skills (I had to create a display for my cookies).
Tony came with me and we had fun setting up my 100 cookies to be tasted, taking many pictures, tasting all the goodies (sugar coma ensued), and viewing all of the different dessert displays (there was so much variety! Everything from pistachio to pineapple desserts were featured). Another fun tid-bit: George Stroumboloupolous was in attendance! He stood about a foot away from me for quite some time too (apparently he recently went veg?!). Oh, and it is interesting that the winning entry last year was a "salted caramel cupcake" while this year's top prize went to a "Dulce-de-leuce (a caramel-like syrup) cupcake". Note to self: caramel is key!
Aside from the fun, I unfortunately have a few complaints about the event. Now, please don't judge me as a sore loser. I had no intention (or hopes) of winning the competition. I was in it for the fun and the opportunity to do some mass baking! Therefore you can take my complaints as sincere and not whiny, why-didn't-I-win complaints.
Complaint #1: Organization for the lose. I thought the event's organization was a mess. I was really disappointed and I didn't feel appreciated as an entry baker. This is my number one reason for not competing next year (I've already decided that this was my first and last time entering the bake-off).
Complaint #2: Businesses for the win. The winners of all the major categories were professional bakers representing real bakeries. I don't find this fair. If my career was to bake everyday, I bet I could create some real fabulous desserts. At least I'd hope so; my bakery's business would depend on it! Amateur bakers should not have to compete with the pros.
Complaint #3: Sugar for the win. My recipe did not contain any refined sugar (I was aiming for a slightly healthier cookie but definitely not bird food). But you know which desserts won? The most ooey-gooey-syrupy-icing&fat-ladened-superrich desserts ones. You know, the chocolate cookie, topped with a layer of cream, dipped in chocolate, then drizzled with more icing, types of cookies one. Or that brownie with the hot fudge, marshmallow fluff, chocolate drizzle, and candy sprinkles adorning its super moist cocoa base. Moral of the story: go big or go home! If you want to win over people's hearts (or votes), you need to seduce them with lots and lots of sugar.
Complaint #4: Sweetness for the win. In hindsight, I don't know how "totally fabulous" it is to host a bake-off in order to promote veganism. Using sweets to convince people that you be vegan and have your cake too. I think Tony summarizes it best: "It is a shame that this event is showcasing the least healthy part of a diet for which a main draw is healthiness. Next year it should be an hors d'oeuvres competition: still bite-sized but real food".
Hmm, since this post is already super long, I'll post my pictures and my submitted recipe tomorrow. See you then!