I get to do some pretty cool things in my job, but being fed cake by six tasty professional rugby players is up there as one of the top ways to spend an afternoon.
Let me explain. On Tuesday I went to Twickenham to watch three players from Harlequins go head to head against three from the London Irish team in the mother of all competitions – a cake bake off.
The bake off came ahead of the London derby between the two teams this Sunday in the Aviva Premiership match. Now I don’t have much interest in rugby, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to watch players try to make classic Victoria sponges with next to no instructions.
Under the watchful eye of judge and Great British Bake Off finalist Stuart Marston-Smith (who is a keen rugby player), the teams got to work on the pre-weighed ingredients.
Plonking flour, butter, eggs, milk, vanilla extract and caster sugar into bowls, the boys got to mixing. The London Irish boys had a much more cavalier attitude than their Harlequins counterparts, with their cake mixtures ready for the oven in minutes. The more measured Quins boys reminded them it wasn’t a race as they neatly wiped away stray cake mixture from the tins.
The London Irish boys fill their cakes under Stuart’s watchful eye
When I asked them did they think baking was for girls (playing devil’s advocate, of course) they were outraged at my outdated point of view, especially since the Quins have their own baking club. According to Olly Kohn, there’s no teasing in the locker room when the baker boys get their cakes out.
The moment of truth came when the cakes came out of the oven. Surprisingly London Irish had the edge here – their sponges looked perfectly baked. Stuart explained that their speed tactic had paid off. Mixing quickly meant the air in the mixture didn’t escape, so the cakes rose perfectly.
After the cakes cooled, it was time to decorate. There was a hushed silence in the room as the six burley (and pretty hunky) professional rugby players got to grips with their icing bags. Watching large guys in tiny pinnies intricately piping designs on top of sponges was quite a sight to behold. They were taking their Victoria sponges as seriously as I’m sure they’ll take the game on Sunday.
After watching them in action in the kitchen, I’m looking forward to seeing how things go on the pitch on Sunday. The Quins boys have the competitive edge as hooker Rob Buchanan was crowned master baker. Watch out Tom and Henry Herbert, there’s a new set of fabulous baker boys in town.