Arts&Life reclaim The National’s Bake Off Championship

Editor-in-chief, Mohammed Al Otaiba presents winner food writer Stacie Overton Johnson with a rolling pin and apron.
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The office crackled with anticipation throughout the day in the lead up to The National's third annual Bake Off competition.

Excitement mounted as the contestants’ entries were laid out on the central meeting table in the newsroom. This year, the contest rules stipulated that the dishes must contain caramel.

After staff members had tasted all of the offerings, the winner was decided by the highly scientific method of the clap-o-meter elimination. Two dishes went head-to-head and whichever dish got the loudest round of applause and cheers moved on to compete with the next dish on the table.

The competition was over in minutes, with Stacie Overton Johnson, The National's food writer, and her Caramel Pecan Cream Cake the clear favourite.

A pure Southern delight, the multilayered cake was light, fluffy and sweet, with home-made cream-cheese frosting. Suffice to say, there was not a crumb left. This whopper of a cake took three and a half hours to make, consisted of 18 ingredients and encompassed three complete recipes - the cake batter, the icing and the caramel pecan filling between the layers - combined to make one.

Editor-in-chief Mohammed Al Otaiba said that this year’s competition was another great effort by staff and he felt proud of all the entrants. He was thought to have been heard commenting that the sweetness of the dishes reflected how sweet his staff were, but this could not be verified directly.

Before the competition started there was fighting talk from assistant editor Ross Anderson, who felt sure of a victory with his offering of Salted Caramel Profiteroles. They were pure fluffy joy and oozed deliciously before melting in the mouth.

Pondering a possible victory, he said his only regret would be that he wouldn’t be able to gloat to last year’s winner, Justin Sanak, who was on holiday.

Despite this, Sanak, a production journalist in The National's business section, couldn't bear not to defend his title and prepared a dish called Mystery Caramel Surprise in advance, which turned out to be a sort of salted-caramel fudge.

Arts&Life Editor Ann Marie McQueen panicked unnecessarily about the quality of her creation, as she felt her Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie hadn’t turned out quite as firm as she would have liked. She needn’t have worried as it received plenty of appreciative compliments.

Juman Jarallah, one of our online editors, was overcome with shyness over her Chocolate and Caramel Eclairs, and hid for most of the competition. Her eclairs were a delight. With a hint of vanilla, swiss chocolate and, of course caramel, they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Social Media Editor Sarah Khamis produced beautiful Golden Oreos beautifully presented in little individual dishes. Consisting of an Oreo cookie encased in caramel and kerry cheese, her creation was hugely popular and only narrowly missed out on winning, securing a clear second place.

One person who should have entered but didn’t because he finished work too late last night, and “couldn’t be bothered as well as having a messy kitchen” was Economics Correspondent Adam Bouyamourn. He also questioned the voting method of the clap-o-meter, saying it was a ranked pair system of voting – and says he will only enter next year if the clap-o-meter is investigated and replaced.

Roll of Honour

2013 – Chocolate

James Gabrillo

Arts&Life deputy editor

2014 – Blueberry

Justin Sanak

Production journalist (business section)

2015 – Caramel

Stacie Overton Johnson

Food writer