13 November 2023

What makes a good scone? Canberra hosts first 'scone-off' to settle the debate

| James Coleman
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woman holding plate of scones

Uniting Church scone baker Frances Noble. Photo: The Canberra Scone-Off.

Where does the cream go? And is it actually pronounced with a long ‘o’?

“Scones can be very controversial,” says Elias Hallaj, also known as the CBRfoodie on Twitter/X.

“Most Aussies prefer whipped cream, but in the UK, it seems clotted cream is the standard. Many people also argue about the correct method regarding putting either the jam or cream on top.”

According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, the cream on top is the ‘Cornwall’ tradition and jam on top is ‘The Devonian’ or ‘Devonshire’ method – in other words, “split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream, and then add strawberry jam on top”.

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Either way, the debates will be settled once and for all (unless it’s held again) at the Kippax Uniting Church in Belconnen on Saturday, 18 November, for the first ‘Canberra Scone-Off’.

The competition is the brainchild of three local foodies, Elias Hallaj, as well as Serina Bird (author of The Joyful Frugalista) and Andrea Butler, founder of bakesale, an online baker directory and marketplace.

Serina says it was born out of a desire to share the church’s scone-baking tradition with the rest of Canberra.

“For many years, the church’s markets and morning tea sales developed a reputation for great scones, hand-made by a dedicated team of volunteers and led by some of the church’s older and wiser women.”


Note the whipped cream. Photo: The Canberra Scone-Off.

The Scone-Off has been on the cards for several years, inspired by the late Jean Richens, a member of the church and acclaimed scone baker who even received a medal from the Governor-General for her community service. However, COVID put the event on the backburner.

Now finally here, Serina says it will beat the ‘Scones of Scone’ festival held in the NSW town of Scone last year.

“We’re confident our scone competition will be a bit bigger and better, with seven separate baking categories, instead of the four categories they had in Scone.”

There are seven categories – plain scones, savoury scones, date scones, pumpkin scones, gluten-free scones, junior scones (for school-aged bakers), and “other scones” to allow for other varieties.

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Andrea says there are “lots of people in Canberra who make great scones, but this is the first local baking competition that focuses on scones alone”.

“There are many local bakers, both professional and amateur, who will keenly participate and observe who makes the best scones in Canberra.”

The list of guest judges also include ACT Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry.

“You would think that someone with the surname ‘Berry’ would have a firm opinion on jam-related questions about scones,” Elias says.

Ms Berry will also confront Elizabeth Lee from the Canberra Liberals in a scone-themed debate on the day.

plate of scones in front of three women

ABC Canberra presenter Lish Fejer, Uniting Church Kippax member Frances Noble and Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry. Photo: The Canberra Scone-Off.

“Scones with jam and cream are one of Australia’s most iconic and simple dishes, so it’s about time we had a festival to celebrate them,” Ms Berry said.

“But this is not just about scones, it’s a celebration of food, community and fun.”

And yes, there will be scones available for eating. Hot drinks, biscuits and ‘Devonshire Tea’ (tea or coffee with scones, jam and cream) will be served from the Kippax Marketplace kitchen from 10 am to 1 pm.

Raised funds will support UnitingCare Kippax projects in the community.

The Canberra Scone-Off will be held from 10 am to 1 pm on Saturday, 18 November, at the Kippax Uniting Church, on the corners of Hardwick Crescent & Luke Street, Holt. It costs $5 to register. Visit the Canberra Scone-Off Facebook page for more information.

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