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).
I am not usually a laid-back person. I’m not a “let’s just wing it” sort of gal.
Most of the time, I’m at the other end of the spectrum. I’m the type of person who actually reads Terms and Conditions documents all the way through. I’m a champion list maker.
Like Leslie Knope, this is one of my favorite hobbies:
You get it. I’m finicky and I really, really hate it when stuff doesn’t go according to plan.
Sort of like this:
But not exactly like that. Sometimes I’m more British with it and it looks a little more like this:
But however I decide to show my emotions, this is what’s usually going on inside my head:
But, if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that most things are beyond your control. Even if you are the most perfectionist, meticulous, persnickety person in the world, it’s still impossible for you to stop all bad things from happening.
Sometimes, stuff just happens. Sometimes that job doesn’t work out, despite your best efforts. Sometimes you get in that car accident. Sometimes you get really sick, for no good reason.
That’s just life. That’s the deal. You get the good with the bad. So instead of focusing on a doomsday, high-alert, stop-everything-bad-from-happening approach, you can try a different track. You can try to shift your focus to the good stuff. You can try to fill your life and your world with good things and appreciate them more when you see them.
Even if the good stuff is just dark chocolate buttercream.
Which leads me back to the bake. I’m now working through GBBS’s Episode 6 “Continental Cakes”. My assignment was to make a Hungarian Dobos Torte, which is a layered sponge cake with chocolate buttercream and caramel topping. It’s famous in, you guessed it, Hungary. (Here I could insert a lame pun about it making you hungry, but I won’t do that to you. Never mind, I already did.)
The GBBS contestants were supposed to make a two-tiered version, but for the sake of my sanity and because I like to avoid food waste, I went with a one-tier version instead.
I chose this recipe because it seemed more manageable than Dobos Torte recipe Mary Berry used on GBBS’s Masterclass. Plus, the caramel work seemed less daunting.
The GBBS contestants were also judged on their caramel work on this cake. It needed to be chockablock full of caramel. (Look how I just casually used British slang there? Chockablock sounds so much better than “a lot”.)
Unfortunately, my caramel work wouldn’t have won me Marys’ praise or one of Paul’s handshakes.
But, more on that later. Back to the cake.
Technically speaking, the cake wasn’t too hard. The ingredients were pretty standard, though it took me some time to find almond flour in my small hometown. The sheer amount of ingredients, though, was surprising. This cake has three sticks of butter and a full dozen eggs. Just. In. The. Cake.
I know, it’s nuts, right?
My first task was to separate the eggs, which I did seamlessly.
From there, it was pretty straightforward. First, I had to beat the butter with half of the sugar until it turned white and fluffy. Then I was supposed to add in the egg yolks into this mixture, individually, beating after each one.
And here’s where I made my first mistake.
Call it distraction or just a moment of not-thinking, but I accidentally added in the egg whites instead of the egg yolks.
I was supposed to add the egg whites later after I had beat them until soft peaks had formed. This would have made them light and fluffy, and in turn, it would have made the cake lighter and fluffier.
But…I did that wrong.
At this point, I could have started over. I didn’t do that though, because I didn’t want to drive into town to get more eggs and because I didn’t want to waste all the eggs I had already used. I’m cheap, even if my mom was the one who bought the cake ingredients this time.
So, cheap and lazy, I forged ahead with my slightly-messed-up cake. I added in the vanilla extract, salt, lemon zest and the rest of the eggs and the sifted flour. It looked like this:
The recipe told me to make six, 9-inch circles with my dough, using about one cup of dough on each circle.
I traced a pie tin on parchment paper and I ended up having enough dough for seven dough circles.
I cooked each dough circle individually in a 425 degree F oven for 8 minutes. Thankfully, I was using my mom’s oven and not my own, so there were no cooking surprises like I often have with my unreliable oven.
Once the layers were cooked and cooled, I trimmed them into neater, 8-inch circles using a smaller, 8-inch pie tin as a guide.
With how thin they were, my cake circles sort of looked like pancakes. Had I added the whipped egg whites like I was supposed to, the cakes would have probably been fluffier and, therefore had more height.
But, oh well.
As the cakes were cooling, I started working on the buttercream. I mixed four egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. I had to whisk it continuously until the sugar dissolved and the mixture reached (about 160 degrees F) which is also warm enough to cook the egg.
Then I removed it from the heat and beat it until it was light and fluffy. This took about six minutes. Then I added the butter, lots of butter and beat it some more and repeated that process again with the melted chocolate.
This process took some time. It was boring and forever-taking.
Once my frosting was ready, it was time for assembly. This was pretty simple. It was just a layer of cake, then a layer of chocolate buttercream until I used up all my layers. I used about a 1/3 cup of buttercream on each layer, like the recipe suggested. I put the rest of the buttercream into a piping bag and decorated the tops and sides of the cake.
I was supposed to use toasted almond slices to decorate the sides of the cake, but I didn’t do that because I don’t like flaked almonds that much (and again, laziness).
The recipe told me to refrigerate the cake overnight and in the morning I was planning on making the top caramel layer. Basically, I was supposed to make a caramel with sugar, butter and heavy cream. Then I was supposed to very quickly use a buttered knife to spread that caramel onto one of the cake layers I had set aside. I would then cut that into eight pieces and artfully decorate my cake with it.
Ideally my cake would have then looked like this:
But, my finished cake did not look like that, because my caramel looked like this:
Obviously, the best time to attempt to make a caramel sauce for my cake was about 10 minutes before I was supposed to head to my family Christmas celebration, right?
Yeah, it wasn’t the best timing. As the photograph of my caramel clearly proves.
I should have seen this coming. If you’ve read this blog before, particularly, my Self-Saucing Pudding attempt in Week 10, you’ll know I have issues with caramel.
I just left my sugar on a few seconds too long and it hardened up on me. It’s possible that I could have done it in my second attempt, but I didn’t have time for a second attempt. So my cake went without its caramel topper.
It was just a chocolate cake which was a little denser than it should have been because of my little egg mistake with the batter.
But, heck, it looked like a cake and it tasted like a cake, so that’s pretty darn good.
And, I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the good I can get.
I hope your life is chockablock full of good things this holiday season and all through 2018! Happy New Year’s!
P.S. Special thanks to my mom who let me take over (and partially destroy) her kitchen on Christmas Eve before she had to host the family Christmas dinner there. Sorry I covered everything in chocolate buttercream and splatters of cake dough.
P.P.S. Like the blog? If so, please consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter or whatever cool social media app kids use these days that I’m not smart enough to understand. Thanks! Love, Ash.