This week, the bakers stepped out of their comfort zones and swapped traditional British baking for European cakes. Babkas, gugelhupfs and a delicious green domed princess cake…
Week six and the strain is starting to show. Even some of the most consistent bakers are struggling to maintain their own high standards as the pressure really starts to build.
The signature challenge
The bakers were asked to create their own version of a yeast-leavened cake. These cakes rely only on yeast for their rise and are popular all across central and Eastern Europe. They have been made for hundreds of years so this challenge was a nod to some serious baking heritage.
Chetna, Nancy and Martha all made versions of a baba, a very delicate yeasted sponge that is soaked in a light, flavoured sugar syrup – like a rum baba. The pancake-like consistency of the baba mixture needs to be handled with extra special care so that you don’t knock out any of the bubbles after proving. However, Nancy had the opposite problem. Her Caribbean inspired cake deflated in the oven, which was a result of it being over-proved. Chetna also suffered a cake collapse from soaking her cake while the sponge was still warm and fragile. Fortunately, both received praise for the flavour of their cakes. Martha’s chocolate and almond savarin sounded indulgent and delicious while Luis’ artful triple apple bundt was beautiful.
Richard’s traditional German gugelhupf was the only of the yeasted cakes to be under-proved. Though the judges declared it tasted good, the texture was a little dense for their liking.
What would Kimberley do…
Set this challenge, I’d have made a version of Italian baba al limoncello - a citrus sponge, which is soaked in a tangy, boozy limoncello syrup. Then I would eat it. All of it.
The technical challenge
The multi-layered, psychedelic prinsesstårta is probably one of the most eccentric confections to be attempted in the Bake Off tent. With more elements than the periodic table - sponge, jam, custard, crème diplomat, marzipan, chocolate, piped cream and a handmade rose – the bakers were being tested on the breadth of their baking knowledge, skill and time management. Both Kate and Chetna failed to properly foam their sugar and eggs for their sponge and had to start again meaning they had to rush the other stages of the challenge. Martha’s sponge was good, but her crème patisserie was a little loose as she was concerned about it curdling. She needn’t have worried, the flour and corn flour in a crème patisserie stabilises the egg and prevents it from curdling.
When making crème patisserie, wait for bubbles to break the surface and then continue to cook, stirring constantly, for another five minutes to allow the flour to fully cook out.
With perfectly even layers, elegant chocolate piping and a perfect rose, Nancy reversed her fortunes from the signature challenge to come top of the technical, while Kate’s patchwork marzipan put her in last place.
The showstopper *spoiler alert*
The Dobos Torte is one of the national dishes of Hungary. Traditionally it consists of layers of sponge and chocolate buttercream, topped with caramel wedges. The bakers were asked to make a contemporary version with an ‘emphasis on sugar work’ - words that make even trained chefs wilt.
Notoriously difficult and time consuming, sugar work could be a technical challenge all by itself. There is a tiny window of perfect temperature and taste when the molten sugar is the right consistency to be shaped - just before it becomes burnt and bitter.
Before battling sugar, the bakers completed an impressive oven relay as they baked their innumerable cake layers. Kate put additional pressure on herself by choosing to make an extra tier, leaving her little time for her sugar work. Though her finished cake looked impressive, she was criticised for not doing enough. No such reprimands for Luis who made a mini caramel fortress, an edible replica of a National Trust site!
Chetna was the only person to choose to use Victoria sponge mix as the base of her Dobos rather than a fatless sponge. Her decision was met with furrowed brows from the judges but it was clear that she had practiced and was confident with her decision. Richard’s showstopper looked to be in trouble when his 20 layers of peach and raspberry flavoured cakes in white and dark chocolate buttercream were described as looking a bit ‘’sad, dry and poorly presented’’. He was, though, commended for the effort that he had gone to with his sugar work.
What would Kimberley do…
If it wasn’t mandatory to use chocolate, I think a twist on classic cheesecake flavours would be fun. Raspberry flavoured sponges with layers of cream cheese frosting, toasted sesame praline and topped with pulled sugar shards.
Kimberley’s star bakers…
Despite his monumental effort Luis’ flavours missed the mark this week and Chetna was this week’s Star Baker, impressing with her well-thought-out flavours.
Though much was made of the judges’ disagreements and deliberations it was clear after Diana’s unexpected exit from the competition that there would be a week without someone being sent home. So this week’s bottom two, Kate and Richard, have the chance to redeem themselves next week.
Kimberely Wilson was a finalist on the 2013 series of The Great British Bake Off and will be with us every week to reflect on the happenings in this year's kitchen.
Did you watch this week's The Great British Bake Off? We'd love to hear who you're rooting for…