RELAY OF LOVE: Kerrie Stratford is hoping to take her cake creations to this year's Ekka.
RELAY OF LOVE: Kerrie Stratford is hoping to take her cake creations to this year's Ekka. Matthew Purcell

Baker to represent Stanthorpe at regional comp

IT'S been baked by a prize-winning local baker, but this fruit cake is traveling to its competition alone.

Stanthorpe's chief cake maker has baked her most recent masterpiece, but she won't be able to travel to her next competition at Crow's Nest because of illness. So her rich fruit cake will go "by relay”.

Winner of the Stanthorpe Show cake competition's Rich Fruit Class, Kerrie Stratford will now vie for the Darling Downs title on May 18.

If she wins that, she'll represent the region at the Ekka (Royal Queensland Show) in August, competing for the statewide cake queen title.

A series of friends and show cookery enthusiasts between Stanthorpe and Crow's Nest will take her cake to its destination.

Mrs Stratford has been baking cakes since she can remember and was taught by her mother.

When her mum passed away just before her 12th birthday, the role of family chef fell to her and she cooked for a family of five including her three siblings and father.

But pain relief is the unlikely effect of baking that brings Mrs Stratford most joy.

A sufferer of the extremely rare Dercum's disease as well as Hashimoto's disease, Mrs Stratford lives in "constant pain”. No painkillers have an effect, she said.

"I do the cakes because it gives me something to focus on,” she said.

One of her entries at this year's Stanthorpe Show was an iced "grand piano cake”.

"I'd be up at one or two o'clock in the morning and do some icing work,” she said.

"It causes me to focus, and I'm not focusing on my pain as much.”

It took Mrs Stratford eight hours to cut about two kilograms of dried mixed fruit for her most recent rich fruit cake, as each piece needs to meet precise dimensions requirements.

After being taken from the oven at precisely the right time on Monday, the cake will mature for more than four weeks before the Darling Downs competition at Crow's Nest.

It's a labour of love, and the Stanthorpe resident freely admits to "babying” her cakes.

The hardest thing about baking is not opening the oven door to peek, she said.

"You've got a baby in the oven...you watch them and time them, write everything down,” she said.

You can't just "slap it together” and hope for the best, she said.

It's a recipe she knows off by heart but she still checks it "so many times” each time she bakes it, and watches the cake baking through the glass.

"I'm a bit pedantic, I'll tell you I'm a bit pedantic, but everything's got to be right when you're doing show cooking.

Mrs Stratford said the Stanthorpe community had been hugely supportive. A gift voucher for cake ingredients from 'Santa' had even turned up in her letter box.

"I would like to thank the Stanthorpe show committee, especially Dee Booth, Lynn Gilmour, Wendy Maitland and Santa for all their help and support in getting the cake this far,” she said.

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