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).
Ordinarily when I want to procrastinate, I cook something — anything, just something so I can avoid doing what I’m supposed to be doing while tricking myself into believing that I’m still doing something productive.
Sure, I’m putting off writing an article for work, but I made roasted Parmesan potatoes so that’s something, right?
This tactic usually works for me, but this week I was avoiding baking.
I was really dreading making this week’s showstopper challenge – 36 miniature English classic cakes.
But I couldn’t put off this task my normal way, because putting off baking by cooking was a bit too ridiculous even for me.
So instead I wrote my article for work early (for possibly the first time ever). (Side note: If you don’t know, I write bar reviews for the Omaha World-Herald. You can check them out here.)
Then after I did that, I cleaned everything in the house. I vacuumed. I dusted. I mopped. I laundered. Then I considered doing a bunch of ironing that I had been putting off.
And that’s when I realized things had gotten a bit out of hand.
I didn’t want to iron. Sheesh.
My procrastination had to be stopped.
It was time to make these damn cakes.
I had decided to make miniature coffee and walnut cakes. Which are apparently a classic English cake. I had no idea what a “classic English cake” was going in, so I decided to go official and use a recipe from the show – specifically, the contestant Richard‘s recipe. The recipe is available on the GBBS website here.
But, recipe decided, I still didn’t want to make these damn cakes.
Because it looked like so much work. There were multiple cakes. There were three layers. There were too many words in the recipe.
It seemed like there were too many steps, too many opportunities for me to mess things up.
So to hedge my bets and because previous attempts have taught me that “winging it” is not a good idea (see here for an example), I got really anal retentive about it.
Then came the actual baking, which took approximately forever. I made the dough and then had to separate it into three pans which would be for the three cakes that would make up my three layers.
I could have baked all the cakes at once obviously, but I didn’t because, frankly, my oven and I have trust issues. We haven’t worked together long and we’re still feeling each other out. (Yes, I know my oven is not a person. I’m just saying, we’ve got to work out a few kinks in our relationship before I trust it. I’ve been burnt before. Get it? Burnt by the oven….okay, yeah, not my best pun.)
Anyway, so I baked the cakes one at a time, and they turned out crazy thin. Like Richard really should have warned me in the recipe about how thin these cakes would be. (And don’t worry, I actually think they’re supposed to be like this. I looked at the pictures of his cake.) But still, to reiterate. It was alarmingly thin for a cake. See, look:
Then I had to wait for the cakes to cool and cut them into 54 circles. Fifty-four is a strange number for someone making 36 cakes, huh? I thought so too. That’s when I read the recipe fully for the first time. (Yeah, I realize I should have done this sooner.)
Turns out I was cutting them into 54 circles because I was only making 18 cakes. Eighteen cakes with three layers. Not 36 cakes with three layers.
I felt like the Great British Baking Show had lied to me. After all, I had used Richard’s recipe they had posted on their website for their “36 Mini English Classic Cakes” episode assuming (I now realize, incorrectly) that it would make 36 cakes.
It didn’t. It made 18. And thank God for that.
Thirty six cakes would have been way too many cakes for my family to eat. Eighteen is almost too many, because these cakes aren’t messing around.
These are little sugar and butter bombs that explode in your mouth and go straight to your brain (and, probably, though I really don’t want to think about it right now, your arteries).
If you can eat more than one, I’m just going to say it, there is something seriously wrong with you. You must have developed a superhuman butter and sugar tolerance or something. You’re weird.
I just ate one and I feel like a little kid who just drank an entire bottle of Surge (you guys, remember Surge?) and then drank a shot of melted butter.
And I know what you’re thinking here. “Ashley, that’s probably at least partially because of the caffeine, you dummy. These are coffee and walnut cakes after all.”
Nope. I used decaf.
I’m glad I did, because otherwise I think these things may have been way too much for me to handle. Now they’re just this side of way too much.
I realize that the Surge and melted butter shot comparison made them sound less than appetizing, but really, they’re quite good. (If I do say so myself.) And really, they don’t look so bad either.
They were hard. But it’s the hard that makes it great.
(I did not think of that line myself. I stole it from a Superstore episode I watched yesterday that stole it from a League of Their Own. Both of these things are good. You should watch them.)
But in this case at least, maybe it wasn’t the hard that made it great. Maybe it was just the coffee-flavored buttercream. (It was definitely the buttercream.)
P.S. A special thanks to my husband who was very nice to me even after I very slightly burned myself this week and then acted more than slightly like Michael Scott in the episode of The Office when he accidentally burns his foot on his George Foreman grill.
Forgot that episode? Here’s a recap. Yeah, I acted sort of like that. Yeah, I know, it’s a miracle my husband keeps me around.
P.P.S. Next week, I break into the second episode of the Great British Baking show which focuses on biscuits or as we Yanks call them, cookies, or well, crackers. They kind of make both in this episode so I’ll be honest here – I’m not real clear on their definition of “biscuits.” But hey, there’s plenty of time for me to figure that out. Like, I have until next week.