Tuesday, 22 September 2015

My GBBO Challenge #7: Tennis Cake

I had to think long and hard about my bake this week.  The Victorian theme for GBBO meant that I had to choose between a game pie (when my OCD control is nowhere near good enough to cope with that), a tennis cake (which involves artistic skills), and a posh dessert I'd never even heard of.

In all honesty, I came very close to making the pie.  After all, the meat only has to be put into the pastry case raw and cooked in the oven, so it doesn't involve a massive amount of faffing with it.  But I just couldn't do it.  I have been so focused on making sweet yummy things recently that I don't feel prepared for taking on a meat challenge of such epic proportions just yet.  I will return to 'proper' cooking soon, probably as soon as GBBO finishes.

It was a pretty good GBBO episode, thinking of.  Tamal got star baker, which was popular with all of his adoring fans on Twitter.  I'm not a big eater of game but his spiced pie did look incredible.  Considering how fiddly the technical challenge was, I was impressed by how good most of the tennis cakes ended up looking.  Matt's neon green icing was a thing of beauty.  Had to laugh at David Baddiel's attempt at the same thing:

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Although, knowing how my own cake turned out, I probably shouldn't have laughed...

I took the recipe from Mary Berry herself.  Unlike a technical challenge, it came with all the necessary instructions but, as you'll see, I don't think even Mary herself could have rescued this.

OCD Panic Rating: 4/5.  The only saving grace was that I was pretty sure it wouldn't poison me.
Handwashes: not an excessive number.  

I don't even know where to start.  It was a nightmare.  I knew that the cake tin I had was going to be too small – I knew! - but I just carried on regardless.  There was a slightly larger cake tin that I could have used, but it seems to have rusted a bit on the inside and I just couldn't bring myself to use it.  Even knowing that it would be lined with paper, I couldn't use it.  OCD 1, cake 0.

So, like an idiot, I lined this clearly-too-small, clearly-not-tennis-court-shaped tin with paper, preheated the oven, and got into cutting up the dried fruit.  A lot of dried fruit.  Enough to almost fill my biggest bowl.

There is a theme emerging here.

In a separate, not-quite-as-large bowl, I creamed the sugar and butter, then mixed in some eggs and flour.  Incorporating the fruit into this mixture was fun, as there was physically not enough space in either bowl for all the ingredients.

Again, I ploughed on regardless, managing to mix the ingredients liberally in the two bowls, on the work surface, and on the kitchen floor.

It all went into the tin.  Just.  

Time to bake.

This is what happens when you try to cook a cake in a too-small tin:

Total cooking time was meant to be two hours.  I finally took my cake out of the oven after almost four.  Four hours! It just wouldn't cook.  After Googling how to get the centre to cook through, I lowered the oven temperature and covered the top of the cake with foil to stop it burning.  I had to keep checking the internal temperature with a thermometer but it rose depressingly slowly.  As a desperate final measure, I even scooped a chunk of cake out of the middle, leaving the 'finished' bake looking like this:

I won't make any grand claims about it looking good, but it certainly came out looking something like a fruit cake.  A fruit cake with a hole in the middle, granted.  The middle was as cooked as it was going to be, with enough of a cakey texture to avoid it being fruit gloop.

At this point, it was meant to be cooled, then covered in almond paste, icing, and decorated to look attractively tennisy.  Yeah, fuck that.  I had spent five hours of my life just trying to get it to cook through and I was done with the whole thing.  More done than the cake would ever be.  So I threw in the towel and decided to move on with my life.

I did eat some, mind.  Once sliced, there were some things to admire about it:

The fruit is reasonably well spread throughout the mixture and it has that pleasant Christmassy flavour.  It's a very nice fruit cake, full to the brim with cherries, sultanas, apricots and other loveliness.  It even has, almost, the texture of a proper cake.  The centre is a little too gooey, but not enough to give away just how difficult the baking process was.  Hilariously, I would use this recipe again.  Just with the right tin next time.

Key Points:

  • There is a reason why baking recipes specify the size of tin.  Disregard at your peril.
  • Don't laugh at David Baddiel's rubbish cake until you've done better.

Win Rating: 3/5.  It's a really delicious fruit cake but it is not a tennis cake.

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