This year's UK Pastry Team has been announced, as the first step towards the European Pastry Championships in 2014 and the biennial World Pastry Cup (or Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie) in 2015.
The team includes a host of pastry chefs working in the UK today, including team captain Barry Johnson, principal chocolatier for high-end chocolate company Rococo; and Nicolas Belorgey, a teaching chef at prestigious cookery school Le Cordon Bleu London.
The challenging competition, which is often dominated by French and Japanese pastry chefs, will see the team train together to create a variety of displays for the final, which demands a sugar centrepiece, an ice sculpture, three ice-cream desserts, plus 12 dessert dishes from teams' home countries.
The first test for the team will be the European Pastry Championships in Geneva on 26 January.
Team members Barry Johnson and Nicolas Belorgey, with President Martin Chiffers and Chairman Benoit Blin
Martin Chiffers, president of the UK Pastry Team, said that it felt fantastic to have announced this years' team but admitted that the competitions would be tough.
"We've just got to practise, practise, practise," he said. "There are only a few months until Geneva and we have less time to train this year. It's going to be difficult."
He also said that historically, the UK has not recognised the importance of pastry chefs in the past and that catering colleges and employers have a role to play in promoting the industry, with the latter particularly instrumental in pastry chefs' success.
"The [competition] candidates get a chance to learn and practise techniques they normally don't use," he said. "It can only be an advantage to them."
So far, Britain has never won the Cup, yet Benoit Blin, chef patissier at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons and competition Chairman, added that the quality of the team members in the UK Pastry Team showed that patisserie in the UK was improving. He said: "The industry is moving. I would say that the UK team does have an increasingly good chance against France and Japan."
UK Team captain Barry Johnson said that he especially looking forward to seeing the team progress. "It's an honour to be elected as team captain," he said. "We've got to start working straight away, but the satisfaction will come when we see how the pieces develop and how we develop ourselves."
He added: "This is a huge opportunity to learn. You often discover and develop new techniques just by chance, because you want to do something.
Sometimes you can find a household object, something totally not related to cooking, which does the job and works."
All the competitors agreed that Geneva would be the team's first test, and form a positive foundation to help build up to the challenges ahead.
Cordon Bleu chef and team member Nicolas Belorgey explained: "Even if you do something that is done well but has been seen before, that won't give you the edge. But once we pass Geneva, we won't have to start from scratch. These competitions can be extremely stressful, but it's something that we've all been waiting for."
Johnson added: "This really is a fantastic showcase of pastry talent."