The Great British Bake Off returned to BBC 2 last night with promise of baking delight. This time last year I was in that infamous tent, dreading those soggy bottoms, staring nervously at the oven and wearing the carpet thin with all the pacing and waiting. I cannot tell you how lovely it was to watch this time!
The first episode kicked off with cake. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? I was excited to see which challenges the judges would come up with.
First up was upside down cake
A brilliant challenge. As Mary said “the fruit must hold its shape and not become mushy”. For Paul, it’s always about the ‘bake’. “It’s crucial” he said, “adding liquid to a batter and baking it so the top roasts and the sponge bakes properly is a real challenge”.
I thought the contestants showed great creativity in their choices. Some played it safe with traditional ingredients. Cathryn chose Apple, Hazelnut and Calvados which sounded amazing and looked just perfect. Sarah Jane and Peter opted for a classic combination of Pear and Chocolate
Ryan was the only one not to use a sponge mixture but rather one using polenta. It didn’t crumble as Paul thought it might but it was a little dry. Personally I loved the kumquat topping and I think a polenta sponge works well as Ryan explained to give it a different texture. My tip would be to line the tin with paper and add a little extra syrup to seep well into the cake base.
Manisha used golden syrup instead of caramel for her Vanilla, Peach and Raspberry Cake. It dribbled down the sides as Paul’s knowing stare and smile should have told her it would!
My favourites were Victoria’s Pear, Pecan and Ginger with perfect rounds of different shaped pears, and Natasha’s Pineapple and Passion Fruit. Amazing! I was salivating at that point.
Mary and Paul were both very surprised at Stuart’s choice of tomatoes for his cake topping. I think it was a great idea but would not have teamed it with a ginger sponge. I also think James and his parsnips should also not have been given such doubting looks. He did eventually get good feedback on the flavours so I was very relived. (He’s my favourite!).
A historical interlude
The lovely Sue Perkins then took us through the trials and tribulations of mediaeval bakers who baked sub standard bread. Dragged through the city by a horse and a stretcher or being pelted with all sorts in the stocks and having your oven smashed! Wow! Harsh punishment. I'd rather have Mary Berry’s icy stare any day!