We’ve all been there; you’re sitting, watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. You are lulled into a sense of calm by their soothing British accents, low-stakes rivalries, and delicious baked goods when the Technical Challenge hits, and the demure panic of the competitors skyrockets. “How hard could it be?” you think to yourself, “Surely I could do that!!” and then you go off on an unrealistic daydream about how incredibly gifted you are in the kitchen. Well, I finally decided to put that daydream to the test, and test out each technical challenge one by one.
Now, I am not completely unrealistic in my ambitions – I decided to give myself the full recipe and not completely limit myself in terms of time. Especially in my first test, I wasn’t going to go full throttle – if it was easy enough to make it with the recipe and without a time limit, then I could take steps to make it more challenging. So, I used this recipe (found through the PBS website).
The first challenge was Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake – an almond-y, lemon-y cherry deliciousness in a Bundt cake. One of the main differences between British bakers and US bakers is how we measure – across the pond, they measure using weight, rather than volume; i.e. ounces instead of cups. The solution is a simple food scale – small, lightweight, and super useful (just make sure that you zero out the scale based on whatever vessel you’re using to hold you measurement). If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend picking one up (or, you can look up a converter). Secondly, I used maraschino cherries instead of glace cherries, simply because they were easier to find. They may have dyed my fingers red, but I didn’t see a difference otherwise (especially after rinsing and coating them in flour so they wouldn’t sink to the bottom).
Overall, making and baking the cake was easy enough – there was nothing that particularly challenged me. That is, until we got to the icing. Now, I knew this was one of the biggest challenges on the show, and I knew I was supposed to wait until the cake was completely cooled to pour any of it on – however, I decided to at least attempt to stick to the time constraint of two hours, which meant that I was sitting, staring at the cake, willing it to cool down. I kept pouring a little bit of icing, praying it would not soak into the cake, and when it did, continuing to stare until 3 minutes later when I tried again.
Needless to say, I didn’t make my time constraint – it took me about 30 minutes longer than the two-hour limit. My level of respect for the bakers has definitely gone up, especially when I consider that I had the full recipe and this was the first technical challenge (as we all know, they continue to get more and more difficult as the series continues). From now on, if you’re ever feeling disheartened by the lack of new seasons on Netflix, take a peak back and see if I could fare it up there with Britain’s best bakers (chances are, I couldn’t), and maybe one day I’ll show up, begging for a Paul Hollywood handshake (chances are, I won’t, but I’ll have fun anyway!).