I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).
You know when you watch something on television and think:
Instead, I felt a bit like this:
I felt like there was no way in the world I could make this cake. And it turns out I was right to feel that way.
At least for the most part.
I couldn’t make a Prinsesstarta.
I could make parts of it though and I’m taking that as a win, because this was by far the hardest thing I’ve had to bake in my GBBS challenge. I mean, come on, just look at this recipe.
There are two dozen ingredients and just as many steps.
I had to make a sponge cake, vanilla custard, raspberry jam, whipped cream, a fondant rose and marzipan.
But…I didn’t actually end up making all of those things.
We’ll get to that later.
First, let’s start with what went well – the custard. It was amazing custard. It was beautiful. And it made me feel like this:
I didn’t technically follow the custard directions though. I was supposed to make the custard with milk, egg yolks, caster sugar, cornstarch, butter and 1 vanilla pod.
But,because the grocery store I visited only had one crazy-expensive vanilla pod for like $15, I swapped out the vanilla pod for the three teaspoons of vanilla extract instead. I found the conversions here.
Otherwise, I did what the recipe said. This involved a lot of cooking over low heat and a whole lot more whisking. I whisked and whisked and whisked it until the mixture thickened (and my arm hurt a lot).
It was a lot of work, but it was worth it because in the end it looked and tasted like custard.
And, just in case I haven’t made this clear yet, it was:
It was so good, guys.
The jam on the other hand, wasn’t quite as good. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the custard, which, again, was amazing. (Sorry, I’m really jazzed about the custard.)
Anyway, back to the jam, I was supposed to make it using raspberries and jam sugar. But I couldn’t find jam sugar in my grocery store, so instead I swapped in caster sugar.
It seemed to work okay, but, again, I have no real frame of reference since I’ve never made jam before. It tasted slightly worse than what I’ve bought in a jar though.
This is because I overcooked the jam a bit, even though I very diligently used my sugar thermometer.
Okay, okay, you got me. I may have walked away from the pot (and the thermometer) for a bit.
But rather than holding my head down in shame and walking away, I decided to just use the jam anyway. This is mainly because I only had one container of raspberries and I wasn’t about to go out and buy another. Again with the cheap thing. This seems to be a recurring theme.
Anyway, on to the cake. I didn’t mess up the cake (that much).
The cake was just a simple sponge cake. It was just eggs, caster sugar, cornstarch, flour and baking powder. The only hard part about it was I had to cut it in thirds, horizontally.
Why is Mary Berry constantly making people cut cakes in halves and thirds? Just make multiple, separate cakes, Mary. It’s easier. Sheesh.
Anyway, I was excited I was even able to cut my cake into three layers.
I wasn’t excited that you could see some bits of flour in some of them though. If you look closely at the second pic you can see the offensive flour spots. But, shhh….we don’t need to talk about that. Let’s just focus on the fact that, otherwise, the cakes were a massive success.
The marzipan on the other hand. Well, there’s only one way to describe the marzipan:
It was a complete and total disaster.
Just for comparison sake, let’s look at what the marzipan is supposed to look like. See that nice, smooth green cover on top of the cake on the left? That’s the marzipan. See that mess that looks like green ricotta cheese on the right? That’s my marzipan.
It looks, disgusting, right? Here are two appropriate reactions to my marzipan. These are the only appropriate responses to my marzipan.
It was nasty.
I was supposed to make the marzipan by mixing ground almonds, caster sugar and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Then I was supposed to add eggs and almond extract.
From there I was supposed to knead it until it formed a stiff dough, turn it out onto a surface dusted with icing sugar and add a tiny bit of food coloring to it.
I went wrong right from the beginning though with my ground almonds. I tried to grind the almonds myself just using a food processor. This didn’t break them up into small enough pieces though, so instead of being like flour, my ground almonds were more like almond chunks or chunky peanut butter.
This was a mistake. A big one.
This made it impossible for me to do the next step of my marzipan process. I was supposed to roll the marzipan dough into a circle large enough to cover the cake and then gently set it on top and smooth down the sides.
But I couldn’t roll my marzipan, because, just a reminder, it was like chunky peanut butter.
I threw it away. Then I proceeded with my cake sans marzipan. (A girl only has so many almonds.)
Besides, it was the same cake, basically. It was just naked.
So I started the layering. There was a lot of layering.
I spooned a quarter of the custard into a piping bag and piped a border of it around the first sponge. Then I spread the jam between the custard border.
Then I whipped some cream and folded half of it into the remaining custard and spread this over the jam. I put on the second sponge on top of that and spread over the rest of the custard cream and put the third sponge on top.
You get it. There were a lot of cream, cake and custard layers going on. Here’s what the process looked like in action:
Even after all of this layering there was still more custard and cream. So that got slathered on the sides and piled on top. So in the end, it looked like this:
It looks decidedly less impressive without its marzipan cover and the accompanying fondant rose and chocolate swirls, but, you know what, it still tasted good.
It tasted really good, like a very fancy cream puff that took a whole heck of a lot of time to make.
But considering how scared I was to even attempt this in the first place, I’m taking the whole thing as a win. Besides, next time, I might even do better. You never know, it’s possible.
Okay, okay, it’s doubtful. But possible, all the same. At least next time there is no marzipan. I’ve got that going for me.
Next time I am attempting to make a contemporary version of the Hungarian Dobos torte though and these things look pretty scary:
But who knows, maybe next time, I will actually do all the steps. That’d be cool.
So, yeah, check in next time to hopefully see me do better, or you know, fail spectacularly again. Whichever.
P.P.S. Please don’t judge me for how few followers I have on Twitter…I know it’s embarrassing.