The mystery box dessert challenge 2023

A key part of the regional finals is to create a dessert from a mystery box of ingredients given on the day of the competition. The format changed slightly in 2023, and finalists have 30 minutes at the start of the competition to write a recipe using a selection of ingredients. They may use reference books they bring for this preparation, but may not take them into the kitchen. The use of electronic devices, including mobile phones, laptops, computers or iPads is not permitted, at any time, during the regional final cook off.

The 2023 mystery box
The finalists were tasked with making a dessert with as many or as few ingredients from the 22 items as they liked. They were guided towards demonstrating their skills with choux pastry. We appreciate excellent ingredients supplied by some of our sponsors, including Elle & Vire butter and cream, St Ewe Free Range Eggs and a selection of goods from Wellocks.


250g Elle & Vire Professionnel unsalted butter

1ltr Elle & Vire Professionnel whipping cream

1ltr whole milk

500g plain flour

100g corn flour

100g finely ground almonds

20g dried yeast

250g soft light brown sugar

1 vanilla pod

2 leaves of “silver” gelatine

400g fresh strawberries

1ltr sunflower oil

12 St Ewe Rich Yolk free range eggs

20g ground cinnamon

150g fondant patissier

100g almonds flaked

330ml lager beer

2 lemons

150g icing sugar

250g caster sugar

140g Michel Cluizel dark chocolate tablet 72%

75g Callebaut praline hazelnut

Competitors were asked to prepare a dessert for four persons, using only ingredients contained in the Mystery Box (only water and salt are permitted in addition). The dessert had to be served on four plates, either supplied by the college on the day or brought by the finalist. Competitors were permitted to use any techniques and/or styles, for example classic, traditional, modern, molecular, innovative, or personalised.

Many of the regional finalists chose to do a version of Paris-Brest, including the eventual winner April Lily Partridge – who had only ever prepared choux pastry once before several years prior!