Baking Dessert

GBBO Episode 1 - Cake Week: 'Welcome to the Marquee of Madness'


It’s back and it didn’t disappoint. We were glued to the telly last night as a whole new crop of contestants braved the tent and tackled their first challenges. A sunny start and a deceptively simple drizzle cake set the ball rolling, but a clap of thunder and a darkening sky heralded a showstopper challenge that sent many of these bake-off virgins into mirror-glazed meltdown. "Welcome to the marquee of madness" as Sue so pertinently put it.

Drizzle cake – a simple start?

"Sumptuous drizzling" and "maximum moistness" were the aims of the first challenge of 2016. We’ve all made a drizzle cake haven’t we? What could be so hard? Well this is the bake-off of course, and so there is no such thing as an easy bake. “Judging is going to get harder” said Paul sternly and one anxious baker remarked "I was about to give birth the last time I felt this nervous".

The new bakers set off with gusto, launching into experimental flavour combinations and inventive shapes right from the off. Louise, a hairdresser from Cardiff, produced a buxom pair of cakely domes, arranged on the rack like “…the page three of drizzle cakes,” according to an amused Sue. The comely pair were sandwiched together into an orange shape and drenched in orange liquor and lemonade but did not get such favourable comments from Paul in the judging. “My problem is it’s very dense. I could wring it out like a flannel”, he pronounced. Ouch.

Tom set out to win over the judges with a heavily laced gin and tonic cake. When it came to to the judging, Mary, who as Paul informed us, likes her gin, was nearly downed by the amount of spirit in the drizzle. “I can’t feel my face any more,” grinned Sue. Paul was reduced to “Cor...”.

One baker made an impact without really trying. Whilst in previous series of the bake-off, the word “cool” could only really be applied in the context of cake, now, in Series 7, it can finally be applied to a baker. With Selasi gracing the tent, we have a baker who is so cool and so laid back you wouldn’t be surprised if he took forty winks while he waited for his cakes to bake.  Without fuss or making any discernible effort (“are you actually doing anything?” queried Mel in wonder) he produced a triumphant drizzle cake with flavours pronounced as “fantastic” by Paul.

The smiley Jane shone too, with her lemon and poppy seed cake. “The thrill when they like it is unbelievable” she beamed.

Home Chef can help…

  • Wire cooling racks - If you’re going to make a cake you’re going to need wire racks. One of the unsung heroes of cake baking – there is no other effective way to cool your cakes evenly.
  • Mixing bowls - The bakers work their way through a huge number of these as they whisk, beat, fold and sift their way through the challenges. Choose from a range of every shape and size at Home Chef. 

Jaffa cakes – North v South

To dunk or not to dunk – that is the question. Perhaps the highlight of Cake Week came when a horrified Mary ticked Paul off for dunking his jaffa cake in his tea. “We don’t do that in the South you know” she said crisply, her eyebrows raised in astonishment. Paul was rendered speechless and had another bite.

The delightfully dotty Val couldn’t decide which way up her cakes should go, although she knew they were ready because they had told her they were. “Flying saucer of fried egg?” queried Mel as they tried the orange jelly disc on each side of a cake.

The chocolate top and crisscross pattern proved tricky, and we were surprised to be informed by Pastor Lee that “I don’t know what the cross looks like.” Luckily he remembered in time to place his finished works alongside the other creations on the gingham alter.

Andrew’s batch was supersized. “Almost like muffins,” commented Sue. “You could say Juffins”. He also managed to make them upside down resulting in bottom place in the technical challenge. Selasi picked up the top spot “I don’t know how that happened,” he said with a bemused smile. Neither do we Selasi, seeing as you barely seemed to crack an egg during the making of them.

Home Chef can help…

  • Hand Mixer  - Many of the bakers took to hand mixers for making their delicate whisked sponges. Hand mixers are quick and easy to use and give you a tad more control as you are required to watch your creation every second it is beaten – unlike with the larger surface fixed mixers which can be abandoned to their task as you move onto the next job. Control can be crucial so we recommend a hand mixer for delicate jobs, and for smaller ones when you only have a small quantity to whisk.
  • Skewers - Val can hear her cakes telling her when they are ready, but for us mere mortals who are not able to converse with our bakes, a skewer is the best way to test if our cakes are done. The bakers also used theirs for drawing crisscross patterns on their chocolate-topped jaffa cakes. We’ve found a myriad of other uses for ours,  such as making kebabs and spearing into a baked potato to speed up the baking.

Mirror-glaze cake – clearly tricky

The first show-stopper took nearly all the bakers to hell and back. A thunderstorm broke ominously overhead, as they embarked on the Mirror-glaze challenge. By the end of three hours, three bakers had been reduced to tears, no less than seven had abandoned their first efforts and started again, and Benjamina was given a Sue-special team talk as she re-worked both her sponge and her buttercream.

Kate who was dressed for the occasion in head to toe swallow motifs – baked the most extraordinary cake of the episode with a vibrant turquoise sky (sadly devoid of even a glimmer of mirror glaze) bedecked with two chocolate swallows. Unfortunately she had to swallow her pride when Mary remarked with tactful understatement “Blue is not usually a good colour for icing,” and Paul said more bluntly,  “It looks more like two penguins in a blue sea.”

Andrew proved to be the surprise of the day. Having bombed in the technical, he shone in the show-stopper with an “absolutely stunning” ultimate indulgence salted caramel and orange flavoured cake. A nice accolade for the friendly team cheer-leader who had a smile, thumbs up or “well done” for every good judgely comment awarded to his fellow competitors. Infact, in true bake-off style, the whole team seemed pretty supportive of each other. So far.

Next week, its biscuits. Bring on the crunch.

Home Chef can help…

  • Digital thermometers - Many of the bakers used a thermometer to help them reach the desired temperature for their mirror-glaze icing. An invaluable tool when cooking with chocolate or sugar, when making jam or chutney – every serious baker has one of these in their tool cupboard.
  • Palette knife - Trust me – you need at least one of these. The best way to spread your icing with the appropriate clean and smooth finish.

Follow our GBBO blog every week on the website and on our Home Chef Facebook page – @HomeChefUK. Don’t forget to post your ideas and comments on the unfolding Bake-Off story, we’d love to hear from you!

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