Hello, hello! Welcome friends and Great British Bake Off fans alike! I am so excited to get this project up and running.
This is kind of an impromptu idea that’s based on both a New Year resolution and a bit of post-holiday fatigue at work. Baking more often is one thing that I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I was quite an avid baker up until recently, but the past year or so has been absolutely INSANE with work and some big life changes, so I had stopped for a while. I knew that I wanted to bake more in the new year, but I hadn’t made it a concrete goal UNTIL one of my lovely co-workers suggested we put the masterpiece known as GBBO on in the background while we worked last week. I had already been a casual fan of the show, but it had been quite a while since I watched it so I was game. Other than being an incredible source of background noise for working or studying (FYI), it gave me this idea… I am planning on baking EVERY SINGLE technical challenge from the series so far. 8 Seasons and 73 or so episodes. Yikes.
If you aren’t familiar with GBBO, there is one technical challenge per week where all of the contestants bake the same “recipe” and their final bakes are blind tasted by the judges and ranked from worst to best. “Recipe” is in quotations because the instruction that the contestants are given is often… not great. The actual recipe is vague and things like oven temperature and timing are completely omitted so the bakers have to rely on experience and intuition.
I ain’t doing any of that crazy guesswork, BUT when applicable I will be using the exact recipe that their challenges are based on.
That brings me to my very first GBBO inspired bake – Mary Berry’s Victoria Sponge!
I don’t think I had ever heard of a Victoria sponge before watching GBBO, but it seems to be a recurring concept? I guess I’m not British so I don’t know these things. Anyway, I used Mary Berry’s Perfect Victoria Sandwich recipe for this bake.
I am generally really discombobulated and unorganized when I bake/cook, so this is hopefully going to assist in that department as well. As you can see, this is a hella simple cake. The cake batter consists of butter, self-rising flour, eggs, baking powder, and sugar with jam and whipped cream coming along for the ride as the filling. Boom.
The only issue that I came across while shopping for this recipe is that it calls for “caster sugar” or what is known as “superfine sugar” in the U.S. They do not have a good selection of superfine sugar at my local grocery store. After searching for forever I found a tiny bottle of it, so I grabbed that so I could dust the top of the cake. I used plain granulated sugar for the cake batter. I believe that you can make your own superfine sugar in the food processor, but I ain’t got time for that. I have no clue if it made any difference, but it seemed to work fine.
Another disclaimer – I am no food photographer (see above, and literally any other picture on this website). This is another thing I’m hoping to improve upon as time goes on. My first investment is going to be lighting I think because my mother’s kitchen is sort of cave-like in the lighting department. I can’t cook in my own kitchen unfortunately because my oven is the size of a microwave and I have precisely one sq. foot of counter space. Okay… I’m exaggerating about the oven, but not the counter space.
Back to the bake. Actually making the batter was super freaking easy as well. You just dump everything in a bowl and mix it up until combined. You don’t even need a mixer, but I busted out the KitchenAid before I fully read the instructions and I was too lazy to put it back.
My one concern with the batter was that it was lumpy when it was finished. Since you don’t cream the butter and sugar together first in this recipe, the butter stays in smallish chunks. I was too afraid to overmix it, so I just left ’em and it ended up being fine.
After the batter is mixed, pour it equally into two 9″ round cake pans lined with parchment paper. Lining the cake pans with parchment paper is a step I usually skip because I’m lazy (a recurring theme it seems…). But I did it this time and it literally changed my life. The cakes actually came OUT of the pan. Who knew!
Baking was chill. The only issue was that I thought they miiiiight not have been done after their 25 min of oven time, so I put them in for another 3. Bad call, because the edges just got slightly overdone and a bit crumbly.
After cooling, assembly was a breeze. I kind of suck at cake decorating, so this was in my comfort zone. Slap on some jam, whip some cream and spread it over the top of the jam, slap those cakes together, and you’re done. Be fancy and sprinkle caster sugar over top. A cake is born.
The taste was really good! Better than it looks I think. It’s not super sweet due to the lack of frosting. If you prefer sweeter desserts, you could always add more sugar to the whipped cream. I only very lightly sweetened it and it was perfect IMO.
Difficulty – 3/10 Easy peasy. Few ingredients. No decorating skills needed.
Presentation – 8/10 Negative points for crumbly sides and probably too much whipped cream. Can you really ever have too much whipped cream though? After the fact, I also decided it might have looked cuter with powdered sugar over the top so I may have been able to avoid buying the weird bottle of castor sugar. Lesson learned.
Taste – 9.5/10 Three out of three taste-testers agreed that it was “really, really good.”
Cocktail/Beer/Wine Pairing – New Glarus Two Women What else would I drink while hanging out with my girl Victoria?
Thanks for reading, my dudes. I hope you enjoy following my struggles as much as I enjoy struggling! Judging from the upcoming recipes, all I can say is that it’s about to get weird.
Until next week!
Next week: English Scones