Welcome, bakers, to the last of the cake weeks. Or, as I prefer to call it, cake-mageddon.
Would I have liked to go out of the cake chapter with a phenomenal, show-stopping success? Yes. Is that what happened? Not even remotely.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to bid farewell to cakes and move on to the next section. But before we can say a fond farewell, let’s talk about what went wrong.
This Week’s Recipe: Praline and White Chocolate Mirror Glaze Cake
It began innocently enough. I drove down to Fresh Market, feeling particularly cheerful about returning to my happy place, for some reason.
Upon entering, I grabbed a bouquet of flowers on a whim, hoping to bring a little spring inside the imaginary tent while I baked.
From there, a quick trip round the now familiar aisles got me most everything I needed. Hazelnuts I already had in plenty thanks to the caramel dipped ones in the previous recipe.
On the way home from Fresh Market, I stopped at Dunkies for a little caramel craze latte goodness to really fuel up for the final showstopper cake.
I lay out my ingredients and set to work per usual. There were no clear indications of disaster at first, and my Genoese came together about as well as it always does. Which is to say, not great, but not necessarily worse than usual, either.
The cakes went into the oven and I set to work on praline redemption. The last praline attempt ended poorly, a sad gritty mess atop the cake. The instructions for this rendition were entirely different, and I hoped I’d have better success with it.
The toasted hazelnuts lay in waiting while I set to work with the caramel. I’ve made caramel a few times throughout this challenge, and it’s generally gone quite well. For no discernable reason, this time it decided to crystallize.
Ah, I thought, I’m a true baker now! Who doesn’t remember a contestant on GBBO muttering over crystallized sugar at some point?
A quick Google basically gave me the shrug emoji in response to my inquires as to what causes sugar to crystallize. Could be a stray speck of something else getting in, could be too much stirring (you don’t stir caramel, but you do stir the water and sugar mix while the sugar dissolves), or could be “bad luck.”
Thankfully, water and sugar are in good supply here in the Oaks-Christman residence, so I simply made my caramel over again. It came out beautifully golden brown and drizzled brilliantly over the hazelnuts.
Crisis averted. Or so I thought.
Next step was a Swiss meringue buttercream. I’ve made this before and it turned out swimmingly, so I wasn’t particularly concerned as I set about getting to work. Except that my egg whites didn’t seem to really feel like becoming a meringue?
Probably, I should’ve started over at this point, but I thought perhaps it would thicken up all right once the butter went in.
What followed was a horror, a strange liquidy grey mess that somehow became of my buttercream. No amount of my usual trickery could bring it back from the brink, and so I had to remake a second component.
The second go definitely was more of a meringue than the first, but it did split a bit at the end. I could feel it going soupy again, so I was afraid to try the melting technique I’ve used for split buttercream in the past. It also seemed pointless to make it again, as I suspected temperature to be the culprit. The imaginary tent, like the real one, is not air conditioned.
I assembled my cake without much hope, drizzling the syrup over it and sighing to myself. At this point, hours had gone by, and without much to show for it. Still, I carried on. The idea is to bake all the cakes, not abandon them halfway through.
Assembly time arrived, and I managed to spread my sad excuse for buttercream over the cake, chill it, and do a second layer.
I knew my mirror glaze would come out less than perfect since it would be going over less than smooth icing. I did not expect that it would also be too thin and runny, coming off the cake and dragging clumps of buttercream with it.
Alas, the cake was a sorry sight when she was finished. But hope remained–she might yet taste good!
The cake did not taste good. Andy and I diligently ate our slices and sought something positive to say, but nothing much came to mind. A disaster through and through, I binned the rest of my 6-hour labor.
And so, the cake chapter of the Great British Blog Off goes out not with a bang, but with a whimper. This is how the cake ends, this is how the cake ends…
I can’t wait to get cracking on the change of pace that Biscuits & Tea Time treats will bring. And one of these days I’ll get back around to non-Genoese cakes, which I assure you I can make just fine.