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
All the juicy facts will be right here.