A long, long time ago — all the way back in 2008 — I joined an online group called The Daring Bakers. Someone would post a baking challenge every month, and then members would attempt them and share their results. I think the first one I made was a caramel cake, and it was delicious. Others didn’t work out so well. (I’m looking at you, pao de queijo and savarin.) But some of them, like the buche de noel and the Momofuku crack pie, were delightful. And then there was the princessatorte and the
The point is that I was baking weird, challenging things, and it was fun. Most of the time. Sometimes it just felt like a chore, and those chore-times started outnumbering the fun-times so I stopped doing it for awhile. When I wanted to start again, the Daring Bakers had disbanded.
I didn’t stop baking altogether, but I also didn’t push myself to embark upon new baking adventures. I missed the camaraderie — celebrating one another’s beautifully puffed puff pastry; commiserating over burnt caramel.
Then a few months ago something new popped up in my Facebook feed: Someone was starting a group dedicated to making food from “The Great British Baking Show.” I love that program as much as I love a good cake, even with the new hosts.
And so I signed up without hesitation.
Our first challenge was to make a “fruity cake.” Not a fruitcake in the holiday-brick-of-cake sense, but a sponge cake with fruit baked into it. I missed that note the first time around, and I made a chocolate sponge cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries and nary a fruit inside the cake.
It did not go particularly well.
A sponge cake gets all of its lift from air that’s beaten into the eggs, so you’re supposed to sift the flour over the well-beaten eggs and fold, fold, fold just a wee bit at a time. Instead, I decided just to dump it all in and then fold, which resulted in clumps of cocoa in the mix. After that misstep was followed by too much time in the oven, I had myself a very flat sponge.
It was not a good bake.
I cut the burnt edges off as best as I could and sallied forth, because we are not one to waste cake. Rockford and Pete claim it was good despite all.
Not wanting to be defeated by a sponge cake, I regrouped and tried again. This time I used As Easy As Apple Pie’s Italian Sponge Cake, which turned out indeed to be even easier than apple pie, provided you follow the directions. I added blueberries, brushed it thoroughly with lemon syrup and topped it with coconut whipped cream and candied lemon peel, and I was very, very happy with it.
(Even though the coconut whipped cream didn’t whip quite as I wanted it to and the blueberries all sunk to the bottom, which ended up being the top.)
I’m looking forward to seeing what concoction the organizers order up next, and I’m very much hoping it’s not a Tudor Week challenge.