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).
Cake number two on my baking journey through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS) was a cherry cake. But not just any cherry cake – Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake.
For you GBBS newbies who may not be in the know, Mary Berry is one of the two judges on the show (and the best one). She is basically Britain’s Queen of Cakes, which isn’t a bad title if you can get it.
Also, because it has to be said, every time I type her name I feel like it is something out of a bad, old nursery rhyme. “Mary Berry, quite contrary, baked a cake, made of cherry…” or you know, something like that. You get the idea.
Anyway, I’m getting off track. Back to the cherry cake.
For this attempt, I went really official with it. I got very British. Or, at least as British as a life-long Midwesterner who has never been to Europe can get.
And by this, I mean I used a recipe with metric measurements, guys. I got all gram-y with it.
To do that, I first had to buy a digital scale. Which, admittedly, I probably should have had already, but I didn’t.
I’m more of a cook than a baker. And I’m also more of the kind of cook who just throws random stuff together, sans measurements (metric or otherwise) and simply hopes for the best. Things usually turn out okay.
But baking is a harsher mistress. She requires precision.
So I got a scale. It was pretty cheap, so I figure it’s a small sacrifice to pay for some Mary Berry cake.
But then the shopping got a bit more complicated. It turns out that some of what I assume are standard baking ingredients in jolly ole England are a bit harder to find in Nebraska. Like, way harder.
First of all, the recipe called for 200 grams (look, at me using grams like it’s no big deal) of red glace cherries.
Don’t know what red glace cherries are? Good. I didn’t either. Turns out they’re also called candied cherries and they’re frequently used in stuff like fruit cakes. (Cakes that are not frequently made in Nebraska in April, apparently.)
So I looked for these cherries in tons of stores and by tons of stores, I mean three, and one of them was a home improvement store because I was already there for something else and I figured, eh, what the heck? But yeah, none of these stores had candied cherries.
No biggie. I figured I’d just straight-up substitute maraschino cherries. That’d work, right? They’re the same, right?
No. They’re not. They’re different. Don’t do this.
I didn’t do this. I used a recipe I found online to turn maraschino cherries into candied cherries.
It worked. I think. Again, I have no actual experience with glace cherries or candied cherries or whatever the heck you’re supposed to call them so really I don’t know if it worked.
I’m just going to assume it did because the cherries tasted candied or “glaced” to me. (Again, not that I know what those cherries are supposed to taste like.)
The recipe also called for caster sugar, which I also could not find anywhere (and by anywhere I mean just those three stores). So I used magic to turn granulated sugar into caster sugar and by magic I mean I used a blender. I pulsed it a few times. Supposedly this is all you need to do. But again, I have no real idea if it worked. I’m just gonna assume it did.
Then once the ingredients were corralled (or the make-shift ingredients, at least), came the hardest part — actually making the cake.
Just kidding. That part was actually way easier than the ingredients search.
For one thing the cake is a normal cake-shape. Unlike the cake I attempted last week, a Swiss Cake Roll, which seems to defy the very laws of nature. Seriously? Who decided we needed to roll cakes up? I’m fine with flat ones. I’ll just take the fillings in layers.
This cake though was just poured into a handy dandy bundt pan. There was nothing tricky a-bundt it. (Horrible pan pun.)
This time, I didn’t go off book, or off recipe like I did last time (mostly to bad results). This time, I followed the recipe exactly and I didn’t mess around with the recipe either, I used Mary Berry’s recipe from the official GBBS website.
And since I followed the recipe exactly, that means I did every little thing Mary Berry asked me to do which meant the recipe was time-consuming. Though this cake was technically easier than last week’s, it still took awhile. I’ve never in my life spent so much time drying cherries with paper towels, and I hope I will never spend that much time doing it again.
But apparently it’s important because that’s what helps ensure that the cherries are evenly distributed throughout the cake. At least that’s what one of the GBBS contestants said as she was baking her cake. Then she won that challenge.
I, however, would not have won.
My cake isn’t bad and it tastes really good, but Mary Berry (in her infinite generosity) would still have had to dock me some points.
For one, my cake cracked again, probably because I over-baked it a bit, again.
A little something about me — I’m an over-baker. Nine times out of ten, I will over-bake rather than under-bake things. Food safety, yo.
Unfortunately, that led to my cake being a bit dry. Fortunately, the icing helps.
The icing was just a mixture of lemon juice from one lemon and some powdered sugar. I don’t know what kind of wimpy lemons they have in Britain, but my lemon must have been too juicy because my icing was so runny it ran down the sides to form a little lemon icing sea in the middle of my cake. A gosh darn delicious lemon icing sea. (I really like lemon.)
Anyway, here’s a picture of my Mary Berry Cherry Cake where I just realized you totally cannot see the lemon sea. If I wouldn’t have told you about it, you never would have known. Oh well. My bad.
Anyway, there’s probably some sort of lesson here about how when life hands you lemons, you should make lemon icing with it, provided your lemons aren’t too juicy. But I’m too lazy to look for that lesson now. I’m tired from hand-drying seemingly a million cherries.
Next week, I’ll attempt to make classic British cakes. 36 of them. In miniature. (Yeah, I’m not sure how I’m going to do that either.)
P.S. A special thanks to Mattie who helped me on the ingredients search.
P.P.S. I just realized it’s my second post and I still haven’t talked about GBBS much. Here are my favorite contestants in the first episode of the first season: Richard (a builder who always keeps a pencil tucked behind his ear like any good carpenter), Kate (who I want to move to Nebraska so she can be my British best friend. You know, if she felt like it. No pressure.) and Iain’s beard. (Yeah, beard not bread. That was not a typo. I know what I said, what I typed, and what I meant.)
P.P.P.S. I won’t apologize for my possible overuse of post scripts. I love post scripts almost as much as I love lemon icing. So, yeah, a lot.