Great British Bake Off 2012, Week One - Cake Week

Great British Bake Off 2012, Week One - Cake Week

by Urvashi Roe 15 August 2012

The third series of The Great British Bake Off started last night and the nation tuned in to see amateur bakers from across the country compete in the infamous baking tent. We're delighted that a former contestant Urvashi Roe aka The Botanical Kitchen will be watching each week's bake-offs and giving her views on the series from the other side of the screen. Let's see what she thought of week one.

View more from this series:

Urvashi finds food, baking, cooking and eating a therapeutic relief from every day work and family life.

Urvashi finds food, baking, cooking and eating a therapeutic relief from every day work and family life.

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!

Paul and Mary judging
Paul and Mary size up Stuart's offering
Pear cake from GBBO
Pear and chocolate upside-down cake

The first technical challenge

The format of the show is unchanged in that the contestants have to prepare a recipe from Paul or Mary’s repertoire. 1970s style Rum Babas were the order of the day – a yeasted cake filled with Chantilly cream and topped with fruit. It’s a “batter slash soft dough” which is proved to double in size and then baked in moulds.

The recipes that the contestants are given in the technical challenges don’t have clear instructions. This one simply said the babas should be baked in a ‘hot oven’ so the skill of each baker will really come into play with the more experienced ones succeeding. So of course there were lots of lots of confused looks, lots of praying and pleading.

Needless to say they all varied in shape and size. When the judges came back with their comments, Stuart’s was overcooked and hard. Natasha’s just fell apart. Many were over proved and so rose above the mould. Fat bottoms instead of soggy bottoms.

And poor John made the same mistake as Jason last year as he accidentally used salt instead of sugar and Paul had to spit out his mouthful!

A final chance to avoid an exit – the showstopping cake

Paul’s favourite part is the last bake. It’s where the contestants start to get competitive. Panic more like from what I remember!

The challenge was to create a hidden design cake. I thought that was really tough for the first week. Not only did the contestants need to create perfect and great tasting sponge, but also assemble various layers to do the reveal.

As expected there were a couple of Union Jack cakes. Peter’s was so brilliant that Stuart’s paled into an insignificant and disorganised looking mess.

The contestants have a long time to prepare this bake and so we saw lots of shots of Paul peering into bowls and commenting on techniques.

There were hidden flowers, cupcakes, crowns and hearts. But I think I can safely say that Victoria’s Blackbird Pie Cake was my absolute favourite. So clever, so meticulously constructed and so well deserving of the Star Baker title.

The first goodbye

As entertaining as all that was, someone had to go. As Sue put it “Would it be boiled babas or ketchup cake?”. Paul and Mary seemed for once to agree and poor Natasha was the first to go.

I felt bad for her because the first really is the worst. She’ll have gone through thousands of applications, auditions upon auditions, practicing the same recipes to perfection every night between midwifery shifts only to be booted out at the first show. That’s what comes back into perspective as her final interview showed the tears and anxiety.

For those who made it through, there will be cheers of joy, enormous sighs of relief and a restful sleep as they go through to bagels and breads.

Roll on episode two! Can’t wait!!