Showstopper: 36 Mini British Cakes
DRUM ROLL, PLEASE! Anyone? Bueller?
I started this crazy journey with an announcement on Thanksgiving 2018 and the actual "baking off" began on December 1, 2018. I had a vague idea of the perils of the journey and these past few weeks have been filled with anxiety and worry. Mostly, a mantra of " I. Do. Not. Know. What. I. Am. Doing." But, despite a few #bakefails or, maybe, #bakemistakes - all has been fairly well in Bake-Land. And maybe this is how the bakers in the tent feel after they make it through week one (Please...just let me get through week one, everyone prays). Relief, mixed with a little exhaustion, mixed in with a little, "where has the rum gone?!" (which in my case would be whiskey, if anybody is asking).
Somehow I do feel a better after completing my first #showstopper and as I sit here reflecting upon my experience, while listening to GBBO soundtrack by Tom Howe (no joke), I feel little more confident. So, let me start this off by saying I did not "practice" my initial showstopper and, honestly, I don't know how many of the showstoppers I can practice-- I mean how many hundreds of mini British cakes can I store in my house ...not to mention give to people... Please, sir, eat some more cake. EAT IT!
What I DID know was WHAT I was going to bake. I figured that I have limited knowledge of British cakes, so I should go with what I know... or what I kind of know. I chose a Victoria Sandwich sponge, since my practice bake with that cake turned out well and I genuinely enjoyed the texture, flavor, etc. I rewatched Season 1, episode 1 - the Showstopper portion just to get my creative juices flowing and to see if there was any new ideas that came to my mind. I solidified my choice of baking a twist of the Victoria Sandwich cake. I debated between a 2 or 3 tiered cake but just for my own sanity as well as keeping to the brief, I decided to go with 2 tiers. Paul is a stickler about the brief.
Decoration. Ahhh. The decoration. Ok. So the 36 British cakes have to be Mini. They have to be identical and they have to look pretty and taste yummy. Well, you know by now that my achilles heel is decoration. I decided that instead of piping buttercream in between the mini tiers that I would put the buttercream on the top with an extra flourish. I flavored the buttercream with lemon. Fresh as well as extra for an extra zip. I felt that it would complement the raspberry jam and sponge well. Why stop there... bake big or go home! Wait, I am at home... never mind. I decided to add a filling of almond cream, simply, because I love almond cream and it's delicious and it's almondy and yeah. I figured that I should try to do that fancy filling in the cake thing so when you cut through it, the middle looks cool. Again, bake big or ...
So I have my flavors: Raspberry, Lemon and Almond. Now I have to figure how to make it all. Cue: flop sweat.
The sponge. I figured since the recipe worked so well last time, I would use Mary Berry's recipe again. I mean you can't go wrong, right? I decided to use my jelly roll tins in order to get some good height, but not too tall since these are mini.
Since I have 2 jelly roll tins that are different... I did get a little discrepancy on the colors of the bakes, but I did what I could in the moment. I had to double up the recipe and then double it up again. All in all, I baked 5 (!), count 'em 5 sponges. I baked 2 out of the 5 sponges together and then 3 separately... since I only have 2 jelly roll tins I had to improvise with some cooling and transferring and I focused on getting an even bake as much as possible across all 5 sponges. That probably ate up a lot of time... but when Paul Hollywood comes to my house to judge me then I will be more worried about the time. Do you hear me, Mr. Hollywood???
I baked the sponges for about 10-12 min depending. Honestly, I kind of did it by eye and feel. Good golden color, slightly pulling away from the edges, and springy to the touch, and clean "toothpick" insert. And if I am being double honest, this bakes feels like such a blur, even though it was just the other day. #bakerissues
I learned from my #swissroll bake and made my fillings first. Raspberry jam (with added lemon juice) and almond cream and then they went into the fridge to set. I will say I had a very beautiful set jam afterwards. Success! Oh wait, I still need to put these things together. *WORK*
I debated about serving square or round cakes. Round cakes or square cakes. Round or square?! Round is more "traditional," and I felt that square might add some extra aesthetic. Plus, my husband said "square," so I went with my gut. Square like that sponge-guy-pants-thing!
As you can see in the pics above, the different colors are from the bakes of the 2 different pans... but I ended flipping over the extra pale ones and the colors matched up a bit better. To keep to the brief- I made sure that these would be a good couple of bites. I used a 5"x5" square cutter and a 2"x2" cutter to core out the middle. I am not that cool as some of the bakers in the tent, who have their own "cake guillotine." If I get a couple points docked from my scoresheet because I used store bought tools... so be it. I just wanted some semblance of evenness and uniformity.
I "cored" out the middles, then slathered my beautiful raspberry jam in between the sponges and then piped almond cream into the center. I made some traditional buttercream and flavored it with lemon juice and lemon extract and mixed in a yellow food coloring to give a pop of color... And then! I used my new Russian Piping tips from K&S Artisan. (I ordered mine from the Amazon, like my whole life). And then I piped lemon buttercream flowers on 36 mini cakes. Here's what your kitchen looks like afterwards:
WHAT DID DANA LEARN?
This bake clocked in at 4 hours and 52 minutes. I would have not made it in the tent. This bake was supposed to clock in at 3.5 hours. I think about a couple of hours in I knew I wasn't going to make it at the "tent" time but I decided to enjoy the process, instead of getting even more stressed out. Thank goodness for my Wellness mat to keep me from cramping up. This is like baking olympics.
So, hmmmm, what did Dana learn? (In no particular order)
Having a plan. I generally have a plan when I bake but I can see how much more important it will be for this challenge. Especially, on these long bakes. I need to work on my preparation a little more... just a technical thing. I distinctly remember during my bake, I thought about how much this reminded me of acting and being in rehearsal for a show (apparently #actorbrain), but just having a script is like having a recipe and adjusting for whatever may come up during a live stage show is like having a bake not rise or collapse. Also, I need another damn mixing bowl for my stand up mixer... (update: ordered today).
The practice bakes did help me! Just knowing what to expect from the cake and the batter and all that goodness. So even if practice doesn't make perfect...it makes for less screw ups.
The more techniques I know or learn about, are only going to serve me as I travel through this journey. So I guess, I have keep doing food research (ie. eating). :)
I am still figuring out how my oven bakes. There seems to be a big discrepancy between the middle and bottom racks. But I feel like I am navigating it well.
I should have divided the almond cream in the pastry bags so I could have kept part of it cool in the fridge -- so when I cut into the cake, it would have help better.
Some of my bake time is cut into by capturing content and cleaning in between... Kudos to all of those PAs on the set of GBBO that help cart of dirty bowls. I mean, I wouldn't have been able to do this all in 3.5 hours, regardless but I am sure it would help to have some cleaning fairies. Also, WHERE DO THE CONTESTANTS PEE during a baking challenge???? Thoughts?
Ok until #biscuitweek (Yeah- I am not sure exactly what an English biscuit is either)-
Reach out with thoughts, opinions, or help right here. Follow me on IG for more behind the scenes things @dana.does.things -- Until then...
Happy Baking. Happy Eating. Happy Repeating.
RECIPE FOR ALMOND CREAM:
RECIPE for MARY BERRY'S VICTORIA SANDWICH:
Baking & Spices
Getting Technical: Classic Cherry Cake
Ok, I am going to be real with you. I have had some serious doubts about doing this WHOLE challenge this week. Part of the time, I doubt my own abilities to be good enough to do any of these bakes and the other part of the time, I am thinking...who is crazy enough to self-inflict these many man hours in their kitchen, not to mention writing and documenting this...face palm... But then I see new recipes and make like 23 pounds of different cookie dough for fun, So I guess, I am just a crazy B.
Ok so this technical. Again, I will say it I am not a Brit and I hope that I am not doing these cakes a disservice. I have taken it upon my find some Brits in the #atx area to be voluntary taste testers... or maybe I just shove baked goods down their mouth hole... either way, I want to make sure that I am doing these cakes right.
Now, this is my first technical bake and it's kind of tricky because the contestants don't know what they are baking ahead of time AND they get a stripped down version of the recipe. It's going to be the exact opposite for me. But for this I did not read through the whole recipe ahead of time and concentrated on just the ingredients and a wing and a prayer (where did that saying come from anyway???), Since this is a Mary Berry's recipe and I did find "her" recipe from bbc.com (recipe below), I decided to start off with what I know and did her infamous "all-in-one-method." Meaning, I didn't start by creaming the sugar and butter and whisk together the dry ingredients separately. Nope. I just put all that goodness together from the start.
Let's talk about those little things called glace´ cherries. Well, first off I could not find any at my local supermarkets. Cut to my aggravated to my face. Granted, I did not go to every single grocery store in the Austin area and, hopefully, I will stumble upon an awesome British goods store around here soon (fingers crossed). This is where you are asking if I know about the interwebs. Yes, I know about technology....sometimes. But I honestly didn't want to have to wait for shipping or pay extra (yes, I have Prime) for goods to be shipped across the pond. Then, through all the Google research I did... I kept running across candied cherries, which many websites listed them the same as glace´ cherries. I then found a recipe to make my own (below) which is essentially just taking maraschino cherries and simmering them in their juice cocktail with sugar for awhile. Does this make a good fake glace´ cherry? I do not know. But they looked similar to the cherries that I have seen on the show and "candied" feel to them. I stored them in an airtight container until I was ready to use them.
Ok, lady... just tell us about the bake already.
I'm getting there! All in all, I felt like it was pretty straight forward bake. Now, would I have thought this about 5 years ago, before I was consistently pre-heating my oven? I might not have. But if you make cakes... you will be able to tackle this one. And I can see why the Brits call this a classic, because when I first bit into it... I thought it tasted yummy and would be extra DELICIOUS with a good cup of tea. Cutting through my cake I felt that texture was good and springy to the touch. There was nice color due to the butter greased in my tin (a new one! I ordered just for this challenge). And... the greatest part is that my cherries were evenly disbursed (yay! #bakewin). Full disclosure, I accidentally saw that part of the directions as I was making sure I had all my ingredients: RINSE AND FLOUR THE CHERRIES... not gonna lie, I would have totally forgotten to do that and who knows what my cake would have looked like. I have a feeling I am going to get good at baking cakes with fruit in it during this #bakeoff! I will be vigilant about the size of my fruit and to make sure that it is not too wet, large, small, and properly floured to get that disbursement juuuuuuust right.
Alright, I do have one (another) confession. I forgot to buy SLICED ALMONDS! The garnish.... But I did have whole almonds...so I improvised (as one should), I rough chopped them up, toasted them for a few minutes and added them in for my garnish. Still had a great crunch. I'm glad I got that off my chest though. Whew.
The entire bake took about 1:35 to 1:40 min -- IRL, I had to leave and do adult life things while the cake was cooling but otherwise I timed the bake from start to finish (weighing the ingredients to finishing the last drizzle). You be the judge on how my technical challenge turned out, below.
If...a big IF...if there is one thing that I might change from this recipe- Don't look at me like that! I know it's a Mary Berry recipe... Stop. Looking. At. Me. Like. That.
I would add a little bit more lemon juice to the icing to give it a tad more tartness and acidity... I think it would punch it beautifully. (See, that wasn't that bad... Mary Berry still likes me.... sigh... I wish). That's it for now... I have been planning my showstopper in my brain all day. My 36 mini-cake showstopper. Yikes. If you listen very closely, you can hear my heart pounding (and maybe some nervous farting).
Until then... Happy baking. Happy eating. Happy repeating.
(yes, that's me trying to record a drizzle and hold my phone....yes, that's the Gilmore Guys podcast playing in the background...#gilmoregirls for life, baby!)
The Recipes, like I promised.
If you want to see all the recipes I am interested in...follow me on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/danadoesthings/
Make your own GLACÉ CHERRY INGREDIENTS:
All you need for this is a 16 oz jar of maraschino cherries and 3/4 cup of sugar. And about 20-30 min of your time. Seriously.
CLASSIC CHERRY CAKE INGREDIENTS:
Baking & Spices
Nuts & Seeds
Ok let’s be real… I wasn’t too happy with the first swiss roll that I made. So, I decided that I needed to bake one more in order to really call it my “Signature” bake. Even though, I did get so many good ideas for swiss roll flavor combos, I decided to stick to my first inclination which was to make #snickerdoodle. Don’t worry your flavor combos won’t go to waste… I will definitely be using those suggestions in the future. I tried to time this bake - but in the process of doing this, I realized that I will try to keep to time as much as possible but because I am trying to snap pics and video...it’s a little tricky. But this particular bake clocked in at 1:14:26:02. The bakers in the tent at 2.5 hours soooo... I must have done something terribly wrong.
My last blog post, I took you through the journey of my practice bakes: Victoria Sandwich Cake, Lemon Drizzle, and a Cherry Almond Swiss Roll. I didn’t get to bake a Sticky toffee pudding or a Madeira cake before my first“cake week.” The struggle is real, folks (#bakerproblems). However, I’m doing the best I can. As I cultivate and evolve this site and blog, I hope to bring you inspiration and some insight of this #bakeoff. If you can learn from my mistakes and share a bake with someone- MY JOB IS COMPLETE!
Now: for my first Signature bake. I used the same recipe for the sponge that I used for the cherry sponge (#foodnetwork). This time I was careful not to overbake and I actually took it out about 3 minutes before my cherry sponge… and it did start to pull away from the tin so I know that was the right choice… HOWEVER- remember how I said my cherry sponge was slightly closed textured...this one, unfortunately, was a little gummy in texture. How do you say: stodgy. So that was a bummer. I am not sure if it actually was just slightly underbaked or if it needed a little rising agent. Someone shout it out if you know!
As I learned from my practice swiss roll bake- I made the filling first so I could get that nice and chilled. I decided to go with a cinnamon whipped cream. Making whipped cream is such an easy treat and it literally takes no time at all doing it in my Breville mixer (#weddinggift that I use ALL. THE. TIME. But I feel like it might be time to get an extra stand up mixer :)). I put the metal mixing bowl in the freezer for about 10- 15 minutes beforehand to make sure that it was extra cold for that cream. Instead of 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, I used 3 cups so I could make sure that was extra for piping. Added some sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract as it was whipping ...bing, bang, boom… delicious whipped cream! I stored the bowl in the fridge until I was ready spread onto the sponge.
Because this is a snickerdoodle swiss roll- I wanted that signature tang that comes from a snickerdoodle cookie, so I added that mysterious cream of tartar to the sponge. Perhaps, that cream of tartar also caused some of the gumminess. I will have to research. 2 teaspoons of that. I also added cinnamon. I combined that with the flour, essentially whisking together the dry ingredients. At the very end I folded cinnamon chips- yes, these exist! I believe my baking friend, Lindy, turned me on to these (#lindybakes). I didn’t feel that I needed to add any extra sugar or eggs to this (is this a mistake??) due to the fact that I felt that sponge would have good flavor- I was careful to beat the eggs and sugar together slightly longer to get a nice pale color and fluffier consistency.
So this time I turned the sponge out on sugar AND cinnamon to get that extra snickerdoodle-y flavor up in there… I may have turned the sponge a little too early because it was still extremely warm from the oven and the sugar melted onto the sponge....that may have contributed to the gummy texture. Learning...always learning. I tried to get a tighter roll from the beginning and I slathered on extra whipped cream in the filling to make a more well rounded cake.
Next- the decorating. Aw, crap. I hadn’t given a THOUGHT as to how I was going to decorate this thing. Well, I guess I THOUGHT that I would pipe whipped cream on it...had no thought of design or anything. Sigh. My decorating skills are not up to par and after I spend so much time honing a bake for consistency and flavor… I don’t give much time to the decorating. This is obviously going to be my achilles heel of this #bakeoff. I’d better get on some youTube tutorials real quick… feeling the pressure!
So what you see below is my sub par decorated swiss roll. The damn whipped cream is so delicious that I want to shove a bowl of it in my mouth hole. Can’t dwell on anything too long now because I have a Classic Cherry Cake to think about...that’s Mary Berry’s own recipe. Yikes.
Happy baking. Happy Eating. All with Love.
Drizzling my lemon
This week has been a little crazy. Right off the heels of the Thanksgiving holiday...and traveling… I have half a head cold, trying to figure out my workout schedule since I am baking so much I am puffing up more than a well-laminated puff pastry. I rushed off to auditions, shot a commercial, practiced piano, looked for Waitress the Musical tickets (hoping that they would do the #piebaking contest) and did laundry (it’s the little things, right?). All this to say, even though it gets hectic I am very effing grateful for my life.
After my announcement that I am baking my way through GBBO, I had an outpouring of support from friends and excited acquaintances about my journey. But now it’s finally here. And the preparation beforehand came in handy but now I have to keep up with the journey. Research, baking, preparation and blogging/posting is a little crazy town but hopefully I am up to the challenge...since it is my own personal, self-imposed challenge.
Ok- so my first practice cake for #cakeweek was a Victoria Sandwich Cake. Which I think turned out pretty well, despite some ramen wannabe buttercream piping. I feel like that particular sponge will come in handy for different recipes but for GBBO, different construction of cakes in the future. I couldn’t practice as much as I wanted due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but I was able to get some recipes from my mother-in-law’s Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book and research things for #biscuitweek (I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with Pogwarts).
So next up on the list to practice bake was the infamous Lemon Drizzle Cake. Now, I didn’t really know what to expect. I assumed a lemony piece of cake... but not sure if it was more of a pound cake or like a fluffy, yellow cake consistency. I looked at a bunch of different recipes to compare. And I settled on this one:
Full recipe here: https://www.sainsburysmagazine.co.uk/recipes/cakes/double-lemon-drizzle-cake
Now if you notice, just like in the Victoria Sandwich recipe, this also calls for self raising flour… I don’t know why, but I find that interesting. If anyone has backstory on this, please tell me why. I know that raising agents didn’t really come into fashion because it hadn’t been invented until the early 1900s (am I getting that date wrong?) and it’s pretty easy to make your own self raising flour… I’ve done it once but sometimes it just feels easier to get a bag at the store. The other lemon drizzle recipes that I researched called for 3-4 tablespoons of milk. This one didn’t. Since I had large eggs in my fridge, I changed the recipe to 3 eggs instead of 4. The quantity of batter was less than I thought it should be- I was afraid that it wouldn’t rise…oh and this is after my #bakefail -- I creamed butter and eggs together...NOT butter and sugar … what is this? Amateur hour?! Oh wait…
And my second goof was the lemon puree… which I was excited to learn about making a lemon puree… because I had really thought about it before. I chose to pierce a lemon a few times and then simmer in water on the stove top for about 20 minutes...but this is a reminder to you beginning bakers out there: READ THE FREAKING RECIPE, so I didn’t quarter my hot, boiled lemon afterwards and remove the seeds and the pith...so I put it in the blender whole as is… I got all the seeds out BUT the pith was still there… another #bakefail. I fail so you don’t have to :)
I baked my first lemon drizzle- I noticed a crack or an uneven rise to the cake. A crack is good in a Madeira cake but I don’t know about a lemon drizzle. You be the judge. Pics below of the lemon drizzle.
It had a great lemony flavor, despite my goof of leaving the pith on for the lemon puree, but I found it a little dry and too crumbly. When I make my next lemon drizzle cake I will definitely go with a the recipes that call for milk (about 3-4 tablespoons or so) and perhaps add a little extra lemon puree-- that is done correctly to counteract the dryness of this cake. As a practice bake - I figure that it’s about grade C - I always feel like I can do better and WANT to do better, but I am learning despite all the goofs and not always being able to execute well… and if you don’t try then you will never know.
Do the Swiss Roll (or just a panda rolling)
Ok so if you don’t know Season 1, episode 1 (on the Netflix in America) is the start of Cake Week and the first bake is the swiss roll. I have never made a swiss roll and I have barely thought of attempting it. The swiss rolls on the show look so fluffy and delicious… and it seems easy enough to roll sponge into a shape after slathering it with jelly, cream, or whatever filling you call for. Right? Easy, right?
So I decided that I would be catch up on the bakes and just bake my first swiss roll without a practice. How hard can sponge be? I did get some new hardware for my swiss journey. I got a jelly roll pan (10”x15”) and read up on some recipes… now to decide on a flavor. I got some GREAT ideas from people on Facebook and such… and even though my friend, Kürt, insisted that I turn my awesome (if I do say so myself) prosciutto and gruyere biscuits into a swiss roll, I decided to go with some different flavors.
I opted for a Cherry sponge and almond cream filling - for my high school friend Liz. She lives in an Iowan town that is heavily influenced by all things Dutch, so cherry and almond has been speaking to her. Plus, since I have to bake a Classic cherry cake next… I might as well get going with those cherries. On my crusade to find glacé cherries to make the #maryberry recipe of Classic Cherry Cake, I found Amarena cherries (at your friendly neighborhood Trader Joe’s). These delicious little cherries hail from Italy and slightly darker and have a bold, bitter taste. They are used in desserts and cocktails and such. I decided that I could incorporate it into my cherry sponge for my inaugural swiss roll. Since, I did not find glacé cherries ANYWHERE except on the internet, I decided to make my own… which I will discuss in a future post- but basically you take maraschino cherries and simmer them in their own juice cocktail and sugar to candy them. I saved the excess maraschino cherry juice and added some to my sponge mixture -- I was hoping that it would give it some extra cherry color as well… it did give it a tinge but NOT a cherry color- next time I will have to bolster it with some food coloring. I chopped up the Amarena cherries and folded them into the batter before spreading it out on the jelly roll pan.
Recipes and pics below.
There is no rising agent in this recipe… so therefore my sponge did stay pretty flat… but I was going into this “Signature” challenge pretty blind, since I have never made a swiss roll before. I was really watching for the sponge to begin to pull away from the sides of the tin before taking it out of the oven… I do think that maybe my sponge was slightly overbaked by 30 sec or so… so I think pulling it out of the oven BEFORE the sides begin pulling away is perfectly fine. I tipped the sponge onto parchment paper dusted with sugar as called for in the recipe… came out easily and was still warm. Now I used my knowledge of the GBBO and tried to pre-roll the sponge so it could more easily roll and retain some of that “muscle memory.” I started getting a small crack as I pre-rolled. So I backed off and did not pre-roll the whole sponge.
I made the almond cream when the sponge was in the oven and during the short cooling time… I realized that to make the filling first probably the way to go - #bakegoof - since the sponge has a short bake time and the cooling time isn’t too terribly long. And this way whatever filling you make has time to “set.” I opted to do a cream filling since I didn’t want to try my hand at getting a jelly set for my first challenge…..
So then I slathered my almond cream onto the sponge - note to self- use more of it next time and began rolling - note to self (notice a pattern here?)- try to do the smallest roll possible to get a tighter roll next time.
All in all- I felt disappointed in the look of this swiss roll. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. But I felt like it looked small and not stately enough to be swiss roll… I had that weird straight roll thing on the inside and not the nice “snail” shape...and there was a gap with the filling. My sponge was a little dry, like I mentioned earlier, and seemed to be slightly closed textured. Ok but...the flavor… the almond cream...ugh! I couldn’t stop licking the bowl or my fingers. So. There’s that… and I felt that sponge had a good flavor and when you got a bit of Amarena cherry in a bite- it really popped. Not overly sweet...and a great combination. Thanks for the suggestion, Liz! But since I am not satisfied and I felt like I was stuck in #amateurhour (again, duh!) I decided that I had to try another one. Guess, I get to my #snickerdoodle flavor anyways.
Until next time, bake on. And bake with love.
RECIPE from Food Network:
4 1/2 ounces caster sugar (superfine), plus 3 tablespoons for sprinkling or use icing sugar (confectioners'), for dusting
2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
For the filling6 tablespoons raspberry or strawberry jam
8 ounces heavy cream, whipped
FULL Recipe and directions:
All the juicy facts will be right here.