I was a bit excited when the other day my friend told me The Great British bake-off was restarting on BBC. Not only does it time perfectly with my Cake Friday Challenge month but also I had already baked a Mary Berry recipe ready to be put forward as one of my efforts to learn the art of cakes (Mary Berry is one of the judges and quite rightly “The Queen of Cakes”).
For those of you who may not know about this show here is a little summary. Twelve amateur bakers all compete each week to be crowned The UK’s Best Amateur Baker, each week focuses on a different theme such as cakes, bakes, pies, bread etc. For each theme they have to do three challenges, a signature bake which gives them a chance to show off individual skills. Then a technical challenge where they all follow the same recipe (usually with quite varying results) and finally the show stopper round where they are allowed to be as creative as possible. This final round includes things like Celebration cakes.
I watched the first episode this week and guess what they were making…cakes! Although I have to say they were FAR beyond my capabilities so I don’t think you’ll be seeing me as a contestant in the near future. They began with a signature dish challenge where they had to make “upside down” cakes. I found this hugely inspiring and helpful because I had actually been thinking of doing something like this as my own recipe and I feel very stupid because in my head I was going to put the cake batter into a cake tin and then pile the fruit on top and put it in the oven. What a mess I would have made!
Next they had to cook Paul Hollywood’s recipe for Rum Baba’s, a doughnut shaped cake with cream in the middle and fruit around the edges. This round is always brilliant because the recipe they are asked to follow is often vague and it is left down to the contestant’s intuition. I felt so sorry for poor Natasha last night when she decided to take a risk and cook the cake in a Bain- Marie where as everyone else baked theirs. They also have to guess how it will be presented!
Finally there is the show stopper round and this week’s challenge was a “Hidden Design” cake. So when you cut the cake in half there is a design hidden within the actual sponge. Some of the creativity and ideas blew me away! One woman Victoria (My current favourite so far) made a cake which looked like a pie with black birds coming out of the top, when you cut into it there was a picture black bird holding on to a coin within the sponge, it was truly fantastic. Unfortunately I can’t find a picture of it but here is a link to her recipe on the BBC.
So on to my own experimentation with cake – Mary Berry’s First Rate Chocolate cake from her book Fast Cakes.
This recipe was so easy compared to the Victoria Sponge I made last week, and had a lot less sugar and butter. It is literally a case of mixing ingredients in a large bowl, pour into cake tin and bake in the oven. The sponge is flavoured with cocoa powder so is quite light in colour but it made a lovely fluffy cake. I loved the icing on the top too it was very rich and gooey!
My mum always makes notes in her cook books (something I have taken to doing too!) and so when I saw this I knew this was going to be my next cake..
I actually made this cake twice in the same weekend because I decided it was so easy I could quickly knock it up to take around to my dads for his birthday dinner. Over the two times I made it I made a few mistakes -
1. On my first attempt I thought my icing wasn’t thick enough so I poured in some more icing sugar, however this clumped and made it lumpy and speckled with icing sugar clumps instead of smooth and glossy.
2. On my second time making it I was sifting my flour into the bowl and soon realised my scales hadn’t registered the weight so I had to guess. This meant the cake for my dad was a bit drier than my first one which was a shame.
3. I decided to decorate my dads cake with chocolate buttons so made the icing on the hob then let it cool slightly, then I started to ice and decorate the cake. I have no idea why I did this but I very quickly realised that everything was melting and sliding off the cake and then it hit me – I’ve put the cake plate onto the top of the oven over the warm hob! The chocolate buttons were melting quickly! I had to just stick it in the fridge and hope for the best!
This is the sort of recipe I feel I could have fun playing around with, using different flavours of cocoa powder such as orange and layering caramelised oranges on top or mixing in chocolate chips! For this one I used Green and Blacks Organic Cocoa powder it was delicious!
What I have learnt about Cakes:
Getting the quantity of flour right is crucial as adding even slightly too much can result in a dry cake! Also make sure to sift the ingredients, especially in the icing, because other wise it could be lumpy. I think it’s pretty clear that I also learnt that when decorating the cake it should be kept cold and not placed over a direct heat source……..
I really liked just having the one layer of cake, the victoria sponge looked impressive but was soo big it almost felt like having a whole meal with each slice. This chocolate cake was rich but just a small slice would satisfy. I think I will carry on making one layer cakes but we’ll see!