AN AWARD-WINNING Helensburgh baker is back on the lookout for the country's best cakes, scones and other sweet treats.

Melanie Andrews, who was made an MBE in 2017 for her services to baking and the local community, has announced the launch of the 2020 Scottish Baking Awards as she continues her mission to give the country's best bakers official recognition.

And she already has the support of some of the biggest and best names in the business, including hotelier and novelist Lady Claire Macdonald, Phil Jensen from Extreme Cakemakers, award-winning chocolatier Shona Sutherland, and cake artist Anna Taylor Dillon.

There will be seven categories in the awards: specialist baking (itself including vegan, dairy-free, sugar-free and gluten-free categories), home baking, patisserie, sugarcraft, cake artistry and novelty cakes, chocolate, and bread.

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Melanie, who owns Craigard Tearoom in Sinclair Street, said she was driven to launch the awards 10 years ago by a realisation that there was nothing to officially confirm that the 'delicious home baking' sold in the country's tearooms and coffee shops actually was as good as was claimed.

Entries are open now, and the winners will be presented with their prizes at a gala ceremony at Mar Hall in Bishopton in September next year.

The competition is making a return after being absent from the country's food events calendar this year.

Melanie said: "I started doing these awards since 2009. They haven't happened since 2016-17, but so many people have contacted me over the last two years asking me to bring them back that I decided I'd do it again.

"I travel all over Scotland, and I love my cakes – but there are so many out there that are advertised as brilliant, but are actually pretty awful.

"More than a decade ago I said to my husband 'wouldn't it be great to have an awards scheme so people know what really is brilliant?'.

"So I started the awards myself, and they snowballed."

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Entries are open to anyone across the whole of the UK and can be submitted by teams from Scotland's universities, colleges and schools as well as from individuals.

"Baking is my passion," Melanie continued.

"Anything you think about as soon as you wake up, and you're still thinking about when you go to bed, is a passion.

"I started baking when I was seven years old, and it's still in my blood.

"Scotland has some amazing baking talent. Look at Gary MacLean, who has just won Masterchef: The Professionals.

"And he's just one example. There are so many multi-talented chefs and bakers out there and it's important to provide a platform for them in Scotland."

See the Scottish Baking Awards website for more information and to enter online. Entries will close in early July of next year.