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Here's What Happens When You Try To Bake Along To “The Great British Bake Off"

A piece of cake, it wasn't.

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The technical challenge is often the hardest part of Bake Off.

BBC / Love Productions

The bakers have to follow a recipe, chosen by Mary and Paul, with very minimal instructions. The aim of the challenge is to match their cake as much as possible to Mary and Paul's recipe, and the standards they expect are very high indeed.


So we thought we'd try to bake along.


The technical challenge this week is Mary Berry's Frosted Walnut Layer Cake. For accuracy, we used the recipe from Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book.

Ailbhe is BuzzFeed UK's lifestyle editor and a rusty baker.


"I baked a lot at school, but don't really bother any more. I find baking a bit of a faff to be honest, and there is just SO MUCH WASHING UP."

Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News, American, and completely in over his head.


"I have never made a cake before and most of what I actually cook involves barbecue sauce."

Scott is BuzzFeed UK's entertainment editor and is scared.


"I've watched every single episode of Bake Off in the last three years and yet I don't know a single thing about baking. I only concentrate on the sexual innuendo."


Here are the rules:

1. Everyone has an hour and 45 minutes to complete the technical challenge – the same amount of time as the contestants in the show.

2. No do-overs. If you lose an egg, you lose an egg.

3. You must spend some time "talking to the camera" about your baking journey.

Ailbhe begins by reading the recipe diligently.


"From watching a lot of TV cookery shows, I knew that all contestants spend the first few minutes reading the recipe. I played along, but was very keen to get baking."

But it isn't long before disaster strikes.


"I weighed out all my ingredients and was making good time, until I realised I hadn't set the scale! As the scales weren't balanced, I had been adding endless margarine, and had to take everything out of the bowl and weigh it all again. What a rookie error."

She presses on, making a bit of a mess.

"I have no idea how the contestants manage to keep their stations so clean. At this point, there was flour everywhere, empty margarine packets on the floor, and I had already used three different spoons. I hadn't even begun to beat the mixture!"

There is a technical hitch.

"We didn't have an electrical mixer. Or even a wooden spoon. The only piece of equipment was this silicone spoon, which was not particularly effective. I used all my upper body strength, but as you can see, there were some big blobs of marge left in the mixture."


Finally, the cakes go in the pans.


"If Mary Berry had chatted to me at this point, I would have shouted at her. 'Mary Berry actually isn't present during the technical challenge,' Scott added helpfully. I threw an eggshell at him."

The next challenge is making the frosting.


"The frosting was a million-step jobby – you have to beat egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar over a bowl of hot water for 12 minutes. Yikes."

Once more, there is a technical hitch.

"I cannot quantify how much I whinged during this section. I complained that we didn't have an electrical whisk. I exaggerated, saying that trying to whisk this icing with a balloon whisk was like trying to dry clothes with a mangle. 'Look at all the Industrial Revolution did for us,' I proclaimed. 'We don't have to live like this any more'.

"Despite my whinging, and some truly sweaty egg-beating, my icing did not form Mary's 'soft peaks'. Ryan quipped: 'The cakes aren't the only thing getting hot in this kitchen.' I was unimpressed. How do they drink tea on the show when it's so hot?"


And here's the end result.


In a blind taste test, here's what our independent judge had to say:

"It's really walnutty. The icing is a bit gritty, but not too bad. I'd give it a 6."

And here's what the contestants thought.


Ailbhe: "So I think it looks really appealing, it looks certainly homemade, it doesn't look like a shop-bought cake. There's a buttload of walnuts. They are pretty well distributed, the top doesn't have too much but the middle and the bottom does. The icing is a bit gritty but, to be frank, I just gave up on it. I would give it a solid 7."

Ryan: "It smells pretty good. Like, really good. It looks like a Bake Off cake, sort of. It tastes like walnut, very sweet. I would buy this at a farmers' market, but I would go to a pound fifty. I don't think I can do much better so I will give this a 7."

Scott: "I'm surprised that there aren't more walnuts! I expected more of a distribution. The texture could be softer. The icing, there just wasn't enough. I would expect quite a heavy amount of icing, quite a heavy load. There are pockets of sugar, which I think could be fixed by whisking the icing more. I think it's a solid 6 and half."


And jumps into the challenge!


"I threw all the stuff in the bowl. Have you ever seen what 225g of caster sugar looks like in a pile? It is absolutely frightening to think a cake has that much sugar in it. Also, the stupid plastic spoon broke."

Remember, a chef's most important skill isn't cooking, it's improvising!


"So I just started mashing the mixture with my hands while stabbing at the bowl with a piece of the spoon like a lunatic."

It's not over yet – up next we have the frosting.


"I didn't take a break after popping my cakes in the oven because I was dreading the frosting. And rightfully so, because I totally screwed it up."

Oh my, looks like we've had a bit of a hiccup.

"The recipe called for two egg whites and I only managed to keep one of the egg yolks out of the frosting. So, in Great British Bake Off style, I decided to panic, have a meltdown, and then just say 'fuck it' and crack on."

And voila, our "cake" is finished!


In a blind taste test, here’s what our independent judge had to say:

"That's pretty dry. I'd give it a 4. I don't want another bite."

And here's what the contestants thought.


Ryan: "Well, I really like it. It's really moist, really sugary. It's light and airy. It looks strange, but it tastes like cake. I'm proud of it. It's the first cake I've ever cooked. For me, it's a 9 out of 10."

Ailbhe: "It's so sticky. The cake itself is pretty good. The sugar syrup has become part of the cake and that's working for me. It's a big glazed donut. I mean, honestly it's not bad. It's not what the recipe said, but I'm going to eat it some more. I'll give a solid 5."

Scott: "It's very moist. I can't break it apart. My god, it's basically sticky toffee pudding. I don't know what page of the recipe you read, but you must be the first person in the world to have made one cake and ended up with another. I think the nuts are well distributed. Visually, it looks like an error. Taste-wise, I give this a 4."

Scott checks the recipe 5,764,578,587 times.


"I was so terrified about getting it wrong that I literally did nothing for the first five minutes. I just read everything over and over. It was like A-level results day where you just don't believe what is written out in paper in front of you."

And he starts freaking out about the ingredients.


"There was 225g of caster sugar in the cake and 350g of caster sugar in the frosting! That is your whole life expectancy for sugar for not only you but all of your friends and everybody who has ever cared for you. I'll stick to the healthier cans of Coke, thanks."

But before we know it, these things are in the oven.


"Mary's recipe totally, totally didn't specify whether I should have left the greaseproof paper on or off, so I was totally paranoid about whether they would stick to the cake."

And finally, the cakes are cooling.


"You can't see it in this photo but the layer on the right is at a 45-degree angle. I have absolutely no idea why that was the case and neither do I care."

Scott has "absolutely no titting clue what an 'egg white' is".


"It's only when I cracked the egg open and I saw the yellow thing inside that I went, 'Oooooooh, that is not needed in my mixture.' I was contemplating using a sieve at this point."

Here's what our contestants thought.


Scott: "The thing i'm most pleased with is the frosting, it's really glowy. I think that's what you get from whipping it for a long time. It's not too crumby. The walnuts are less distributed than I would have thought. For a home bake for the first time, I'm very smug. For Bake Off, the presentation could be better and one of the cakes wouldn't have a ski slope. 7/10."

Ryan: "There's a good texture. There's maybe a gritty taste in my mouth, but it doesn't taste bad. It's the crispier of the three. It's a little less sweet than the other ones. I'd give it a 7/10."

Ailbhe: "It's very crispy. I just got into a giant walnut. The icing is brilliant, the nicest icing we've had so far. It's also quite gritty. It is not as sweet as the other ones, but if I was at another friend's house and they made it, I would say 'well done'. I will give this a 6/10."

And lastly, here are our cakes compared to top three winners from Wednesday night's episode.

Scott: "Nearly every single contestant had a grainy cake, which comforted me because my cake was grainy. But there's no answer about how to get rid of the graininess! I want to know!"


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