Another First



dried rose petalsSlim Paley photo

There’s a first time for everything right? Some people try sky-diving when they turn 50 (insane people) Others might take up sailing or learn a second language. I started a blog.  Last week I added another FIRST to my list.  I participated in an Annual End of Summer BAKE OFF.

Now this isn’t just any Bake Off.  Absolument pas!  This competitive tour de force, hosted annually by three talented Wonder Women here in Santa Barbara, is a no holds barred, recipe poachin’, oven mitts off  THROW DOWN.  Votes can be bought and recipe histories embellished. ‘Embellished’ being a polite euphemism for telling ‘porky pies’ (Stick with me here)

“Suck-up/lobbying time will be provided during the tasting.  While we would not dream of speaking for the other participants, it should be known that hostess votes are for sale or barter.”  (taken from the invitation)

BTW; One of the hostesses and my dear friend, also pens the blog “The Silver Pen” .  She’s truly an inspiration in innumerable ways; my daily dose of  sunshine, wisdom and reality check,  which you’ll find out yourself when you read her blog.

OK, back to the competition.

So my choice of dessert, “Eaton Mess” was partially inspired by the method for candied rose petals I spied in Vogue Australia Living last month and also by the fact that it’s pretty easy and if it slid in the car on the way over, no one would be the wiser.


Slim Paley photo

First, roses were gathered from the garden




 I brushed the petals with frothy egg whites and dipped them in baker’s sugar.

In the beginning they kept coming out clumpy and my fingers were so covered in sugar and egg they were as fat as corn dogs (FYI-did you know that cornstarch is referred to as ‘cornflour’ in the UK? ) and then I remembered my flour sifter-which is the ticket. Brush the egg whites on the petals, then sift the sugar over them all at once.


drying rose petalsSlim Paley photo

First batch of petals coming out of my Excalibur food hydrator

and yes, the kitchen was smelling mighty good



fluffy meringueSlim Paley photo

With my petals drying, I proceeded to whip up one hell of a meringue…


no fail meringue recipeSlim Paley photo

Even if I do say so myself



It was a little sad to squish it down to bake, but bake it I did at 200 degrees for 1 hour, 45 minutes, then turned the oven off and left the meringue sitting in there overnight.  The perfect pavlova/meringue is crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside so I don’t like to moosh it down too much or it will crisp all the way through.


Next, the incredibly tangy and delicious flavour of passion fruit was scooped out and saved for garnish.

passion fruitSlim Paley photo

These came straight from my friend’s garden. Can you believe how big and GORGEOUS they are?!  I can’t wait to plant my own vines now.


I also couldn’t wait to get down to the kitchen the next morning to see if my confectional cloud of gooey goodness had collapsed or stayed buoyant.  

We had total success!

Eaton MessSlim Paley photo

I broke the pavlova into big chunks, dispersed it liberally within firm, yet pliant mounds of whipped cream ( a little vanilla, a smidgeon of sugar), added fresh red fruits, lashings of passion fruit dribblings, & sprinkled with the petals and mint from my garden.



meringue & summer berriesSlim Paley photo

I totally fricking lost.



But it’s OK.  I’m not bitter.

 Not all Americans get Eaton Mess.

I’m OK with that.

 After about 50+ desserts & lots of pink champagne I was a Happy LOSER.



Slim Paley photo

I’ll admit (complain) there was some seriously stiff competition.  I don’t think I need to mention the contestant who worked for a certain super famous woman who is world renown for her baking ( TV shows, books, dvds, websites, houses)  whose initials are M.S.  Yes, that M.S.


baking contestSlim Paley photo

Or this incredible handmade cake by who just happens to be one of the most sought after event planners in Montecito and is one class short of her “Professional Cake Baker” certificate.


S'more cupcakesSlim Paley photo

I’ll admit the “S’Mores cupcakes” were cute. Very cute. Loved the presentation on the burlap sack



Slim Paley photo

and would you believe an Avocado pie?  It was delicious! Seriously!



perfect chocolate cakeSlim Paley photo

Still suspicious this icing was home made- get the heck outta here with those perfect little waves.



Heath Bar cakeSlim Paley photo

I believe this was made with Heath bars.  It tasted as decadent as it looks.

And who knew a very well known Los Angeles based event planner who just happens to have a brand new BOOK about entertaining would be throwing her spatula into the mix??  Her initials are L.P.

(note to self- next year put calls into Thomas Keller & Grant Achatz by June )


Alas, when all the votes were cast and forks lay strewn upon the grass in glucosian gloated surrender…  



‘Twas the simple chocolate cake with extra thick icing and a sprinkling of fleur de sel that took the Grand Prize.

Got Milk?



Did I mention I made the rose petals??! 

Nigella Lawson’s Recipe for Pavlova HERE

(*I modified it to 5 egg whites)

I’m surprised Nigella wasn’t at the Bake Off.


Have A Sweet Week!



  1. Yours looks gorgeous. They all look gorgeous. All winners. Very funny that the chocolate cake won. Hey .. if it aint broken .. good try Slim !! xoL

  2. Fabulous, I would totally give you the blue ribbon. I can’t believe the passion fruit came from your friends garden! I make a version of one of Nigella’s pavlova’s too. Did you add rose water? I add orange blossom water….delicious!

  3. Yummy and so beautifully shot.
    Bet you don’t believe me, but I made Eton Mess. It was delicious. A note to those of you who don’t want to make it from scratch, I bought the meringue at Trader Joes. Yes I did.
    My company loved it. Wishing all a very happy week. ox

  4. Oh Slim, your creation is gorgeous and must have tasted wonderful. I can imagine the chocolate cake was good though since my current, favorite guilty pleasure is Almonds & Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate by Chocolate XOXOX (available at Whole Foods). The event looked like a lot of fun – thanks for sharing the beautiful photos.

  5. Euh,I took 3 kilos of weight just watching your suggestive pictures….We might go back to California earlier this year!!!!!!……Everything looks yummy!!!!!….Miam,miam….Please,carry on!!!!!…..

  6. YAY!!!! SLIM!!! You made me so proud of you! It’s so great you’re always trying something new and interesting! You’re really an inspiration and yes, the petals are so “you”! I can’t imagine “senorita Slim Paley” w/out her roses! 🙂

    Just one complain…. I’m craving everything now!

    Have a very blessed week and congratulations for trying something new!


    Luciane at

  7. They were all beautiful Slim. I loved at the end of your blog there was an ad for diabetes help! I almost needed it after just reading!

  8. There should have been a prize for best pre-baked meringue. Yours looks incredible. The finished “mess” looks amazing, too.

  9. You did fabulous!! Your sweetness within your person takes the “cake” anytime! Thanks for being you and loving the same things I do!!

  10. I think your “mess” looks beautiful and I am certain it was delicious as well. The other contestants probably bribed more people. Thanks for the visual feast.. (and Nigela’s recipe).

  11. I was NOT aware there were ads inserted at the bottom of my posts and I’m not happy about it. As an administrator on the WordPress account, they are not visible to me. Looking into it now and thank you for the heads-up. Are they always there, or just on this post?

  12. Yours looked absolutely wonderful, bright, colorful and yummy. If your friend and my friend BJ was there to enter, I’m sure she would also have been in the top 3.

    I just love how you can take a common event such as a bake off, and make it into a wonderful, descriptive story. You are so talented.

  13. Slim, I love making the Eton Mess, so easy and yummy and yours looked fantastic. Since you got to eat all those yummy things it helps ease the pain of not winning….

    by the way, I’ve never seen an ad at the bottom of the blog.

  14. WAY TO GO SLIM. I AM SOOOO PROUD OF YOU. Your dessert looked amazing, would have received my vote for sure. I am sure your next entry will be right up there with all the entrants who only need to use intials. I can see it now…… and the winner is S. P . Have a great week, you have given us all a sweet start to the week.

    B J

  15. Slim, love your blog. Can’t believe someone else likes Eton Mess too! It looked amazing! can’t believe you didn’t get some kind of ribbon for prettiest presentation. I have made Nigella’s chocolate raspberry pavlova from her Forever Summer cookbook and my boys hound me for it. Thanks for another fun read!

  16. Way to go, Slim!!!! Your creation lokked beautiful and sounds DELISH! Plain old chocolate cake, huh! EVERYTHING looked so good I think I am gaining weight just looking at the photos! XO, Pinky

  17. Dear LORD! This is ALL incredibly delectable! Although, since you didn’t even place, I would definitely say the contest was thrown. That said, I love that Toujours magazine’s Entertaining Editor “L.P.” made a dazzling showing!

  18. your eton mess is … was a work of art!
    yet minimalist that i am, i can’t help thinking the very plain, lowly, but rich common chocolate cake won!!!??? somehow makes the world make sense.
    kind of like the professor whose only question on the test was “why?”
    every student but one wrote reams and reams of papers answering the deeply probing question with equally deeply reasoned answers. they all failed the test. the one who got an
    … A …wrote only one word. “because.”
    therefore the little old plain lowly chocolate cake who merely boasted double frosting won?
    your pictures are to die for.
    as they always are.
    tammy j

  19. I can’t believe you didn’t win! All that work and so beautiful too. You wuz robbed. 🙂

    Slim, I have seen ads at the end of WordPress posts on my iPhone, but not on the computer. I was pretty annoyed when I first saw them on my blog, since we’re not allowed to run ads ourselves. (Only on

  20. Loved your Post, but upset, you should have won! Gorgeous, just beautiful. My deceased Mother in Law used to make an elaborate Christmas and Thanksgiving Dinner, I mean she did everything, including the fabulous oyster stuffing. She sent the order for the “floating meringues” off to some British woman she found. She said, over and over, that “getting the right consistency took an expert”. She would have “swooned” over your gorgeous Eaton Mess. Apparently the judges made a mistake! Sugared rose petals from your own garden, what were they thinking?:)

  21. I am so blown away by the baking and the photo’s and the freaking Rose Petals
    What was that machine???? I can’t wait to taste that messy thing someday
    What a brave Slim you are 🙂
    That bake off made we want to leave Gotham
    All we have are shout offs or cab throw downs
    Have you ever taken a cooking class??
    I love the colors in passion fruit and the photos were delicious

  22. Ha! I most certainly did not make my gorgeous cake! I am indeed one class shy of my baking certification and am pretty good with fondant too, but I have not had one free minute to do anything but plan events, so I hired the amazing Robyn Loves Cake to make that fabulous cake and I had to keep the charade going until I told my story to the ladies in hopes of winning the best story prize! I thought I told one hell of a good tale 😉 Oh well…..I am already plotting for next year!!

  23. Not that you sound bitter, girlfriend, Slim-ster, but you were robbed! Doesn’t everyone know that your eyes taste the intended prior to the taste on the tongue? Hands-down… yours ‘takes the cake’ for Masterful Visual Presentation, yes the MVP!

  24. Your dessert was by far the most beautiful and appetizing! I am sure the all judges couldn’t wait to finish their judging and dive their forks into your Eton Mess! You have taken the original Eton mess recipe to a whole new level with the sugared rose petals and passion fruit. Those Eton College boys will be demanding a new standard if they see your photos!

  25. I don’t know about the taste, but you certainly should have won for the beauty..the sugared rose petals are gorgeous!! As a certified chocoholic, I would love to be eating a slice of the winner with a big glass of milk right now!!

  26. Splendid Market; I didn’t use rose or orange water but that’s a great idea- I have the most amazing rose water too, now I’m mad I didn’t use it because that’s probably why I LOST!!

    Recipes were not really shared Marsha C., just stories. I didn’t share a story though because I’m horrendous at speaking in front of more than 3 people. Hmmm…maybe that’s why I LOST?!

    BBB- Ya gotta love that Trader Joe!! Best Man on the Side EVer

    B.J.- T.Y. You are so sweet 🙂

    Dear PSM- Yes, the Bake Off definitely harkens back to a more civilized time…when we didn’t engage in taxi throw-downs. That’s why I loved the idea of it. The machine is a honking big dehydrator called “The Excalibur”. And yes, I have taken cooking classes before.

    Merryl Brown- OK Girl- you DID tell one helluva convincing story. I totally believed you!

    Soozles- Thank you. Love the name

    Thanks everyone for ALL your sweet comments. As always, I’m very appreciate 🙂

    PS. I got to the bottom of the “Advertising Mystery” and would you believe you actually have to PAY to NOT have WordPress run ads on your blog. How cheeky is that?!

    “If you would like to completely eliminate ads from appearing on your blog, we offer the No-Ads Upgrade:
    No Ads is a paid upgrade that costs $29.97 per blog, per year.”

    No Eaton Mess for them.

  27. So, do you think those us who DON’T see the ads have a premium subscription to you blog?…….I think you could look at it as flattery….i bet they only add ads to the popular blogs….?……fyi, I receive it through email….
    Am headed to Hong Kong, months in Melbourne whilst DH does work on solar energy, then Vietnam and Cambodia…my goal was to do a blog of our adventures with WordPress (my fantasy being it will look 1/2 as good as yours…..was it hard to learn how to use the program?
    Amazing that you are phobic of public speaking since you are so quick witted, pithy, creative, gorgeous and obviously talented…..oh! I guess there is no correlation to those attributes and the other…..
    Well, WE love you!

    • Hi Marsha
      I’m pretty sure the “occasional” advertising WordPress puts on my blog is random and based on subject matter rather than popularity (as much as I’d like to believe your theory-and btw, are you sure you’re not my Mom?!)
      I will say that WordPress is very simple to set up and fairly easy to use, but then again, I haven’t any experience with any other blog hosting sites.
      Sounds like you are about to embark on such a wonderful adventure- congratulations!

  28. Loved it! I am going to do the rose petal thing with my daughters wedding bouquet from last weekend!!!! Fun for their return from honeymoon!
    Thank you for great idea….keep it up!!! Better than M. S.!
    M. Hammerstein

  29. I was looking for the cake in the meryrylbrownevents pic, then realized the whole thing was a cake! Duh, me! Anyway, they all look scrumptious, but the pavlova…a true original…like you! Thanks for the fun and funny post.

  30. Loved your comments about the contest and loved all the delicious pixs of the entries…. made me want to find the recipes for all of them…. I had to agree with one of the readers – did you get the recipes? If so, would you be willing to share?????? 🙂 I’m sorry to hear you’ve lost – but your entry is to die for!

  31. yum! loved all the pics!!! yours was a visual feast!!! good for you for getting in the dessert fray…i need to be more adventuresome…you are an inspiration, sweet slim!

Would love to hear from you!