Catherine has the icing on the cake for Moree on a Plate

ADORNED with extravagant toffee shards and luxurious Swiss meringue butter cream, baking creations by Catherine Madden are masterpieces – genuine works of art.

This Moree home cook has fast gained a reputation as one of the region’s most talented cake creators, and come May 11, Catherine will share some of her skills at Moree on a Plate.

She is the third local cook to be demonstrating at this year’s food and wine festival as part of its Look Local theme – showcasing local talent as well as local produce.

Catherine, Daisy Nguyen and Di Haddad – three accomplished creators – will deliver interactive demonstrations, sharing some of their skills.

And when it comes to baking, Catherine has a treasure trove of tips and tricks she will generously share.

“I had two grandmothers who were both excellent cooks, so baking was something I was taught very early in life,” Catherine said.

Catherine and husband Matthew have raised three children – Cate, Charlotte and Alexander – on the family farm Fairfield, giving Catherine further cause to bake.

“It was much easier to bake their morning tea and lunch box treats; it’s all my children ever knew,” she said.

For Catherine, the process is just as rewarding as the outcome.

“I love the preciseness of baking, it is like a science,” she says.

Catherine Madden and two of her incredible creations.

“I make sure I read the recipe two to three times before I begin, and have all my ingredients out and ready to go. If you’re not prepared, that’s when you make mistakes.”

But even the queen of baking isn’t immune to cake fails.

“I had a big shocker one Easter. We were entertaining 30 people for a sit-down lunch and somehow I totally forgot to include sugar – it was so bad no-one could even feign politeness,” she laughed.

“It’s become the running joke every Easter.”

Catherine bakes weekly and laughs that husband Mathew and son Alexander frequently hover around the kitchen looking for smoko.

However, Matthew is quick to contest he sees more cakes walk out the door than he ever gets to eat.

“Often my friends ask me to bake a cake for birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. It’s a huge privilege and it gives me great pleasure making a cake and contributing to someone’s special occasion,” Catherine smiles.

Not afraid to experiment, Catherine has mastered some of baking’s most challenging techniques and processes including frosting, isomalt, Italian meringue and anything toffee-related.

Swiss Meringue buttercream is one of Catherine’s favourites, but she admits it was a process almost doomed to her.

“The buttercream actually curdles during the process, and I almost gave up, but a quick Google search revealed this was actually very normal – thank goodness for Google,” she said.

Her ‘go-to’ cakes are lamington cake, orange cake and chocolate cake, and while she could no doubt whip these up with her eyes closed, she always has a quick glance of the recipe, “just in case”.

“It’s so easy to forget something. I do always rely on a recipe, even if it’s a deviation of a recipe,” she said.

From how to re-use the off-cuts of cake, the best flour to use, the optimal temperature and size of eggs for baking and even making sure your bi-carb and baking soda is within its use-by-date, Catherine is excited that she will share her practical kitchen knowhow at Moree on a Plate.

With Toby Osmond compering her demonstration and local florist Tia Carrigan of The Bespoke Botanical Co including a floral cake arrangement segment, Catherine will hold two demonstrations at Moree on a Plate, primarily focused on getting that perfect frosted finish.

“Baking from scratch really is a lost art. There is no denying a home-made cake tastes better, and is such a pleasure to create, and serve,” she said.

Moree on a Plate is on Saturday, May 11 from 10am to 4pm at The Moree Secondary College Albert Street Campus with a gold coin entry.

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Words and Image: Georgina Poole