The Great British (student) bake off.

The bake off TV crew

I’m pretty obsessed with the surprise hit BBC show The Great British Bake Off.  Each and every week I sit down, watch and salivate over all the delicious things being made. If I was in the cooking tent I’m 100% sure that I would eat everything in sight.

Then it hit me, instead of sitting on the sofa dreaming of jam tarts, marshmallows and fresh bread. I could make anything on this show – of course not in the short 3 hours that the contestants are given.

How hard can it be? For years my birthday cakes and cupcakes have always been well received, and once in food tech I got the top mark in class for my bread.

The only real challenge, I saw, was that I was a student and student kitchens don’t have fancy things like electric whisks, cake tins and ovens that properly work. I mean we just about have enough cutlery for four people!

With odds against me I plucked for the Mary Berry masterpiece the Fraisier Cake. Look at the picture below; doesn’t it look like the most delicious thing?

The final professional bake

Top-class French patisserie being made, by an overconfident rookie student, in a kitchen in Lincoln. Yes I do cut corners, and yes it does take 6 hours, but it’s worth it as it was defiantly the tastiest thing I have ever made.

Below is the official recipe, with a couple of changes made by me in bold italics. Happy Baking.

Fraisier Cake

(Recipe by Mary Berry)

Ingredients – yes it looks like a lot but it didn’t cost me too much.

For the geneose sponge
125g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 lemons, zest only, finely grated
125g self-raising flour, plus extra for flouring the tin
50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for
greasing the tin

For the crème pâtissière
600ml oz milk
vanilla pod I cut corners and used the cheaper vanilla essence
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
180g caster sugar
100g cornflour
150g butter, cut into cubes and kept at room temperature

For the lemon syrup
75g caster sugar
2 lemons, juice only

To finish the cake
200g marzipan
200g dark chocolate, for decoration
500-600g medium sized strawberries. The most important ingredient don’t forget to buy these, like I did, and then have to send your housemates out to run around a supermarket to get them!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Grease, flour and line the base of a 23cm/9in spring-form or round loose bottom cake tin. I made my housemates do this while I did the next step.
  3. Place the sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water.Whisk the mixture
  4. Using an electric hand whisk, whisk the mixture over a medium heat until doubled in volume and pale in colour. The mixture is at the right stage when it forms a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted out of the mixture. It took about 10 minutes of whisking for me to get to this stage. Remove from the heat.
  5. Sift in two-thirds of the flour and gently fold into the whisked mixture with a metal spoon or spatula. Add the remaining flour and fold again. Try to keep in as much of the air as possible. Make sure all the flour is incorporated into the mixture.Gently fold in the butter
  6. Gently fold in the melted butter.
  7. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sides of the cake begin to come away from the tin and it is pale golden-brown. 
  8. When cooked, allow the sponge to cool a little bit in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Be careful as this sponge is quite delicate. It should be just under 5cm/2in in height. At this stage the cake should smell amazing. It was so difficult for me not to eat it!

To make the crème pâtissière:

  1. pour the milk into a wide based pan, split the vanilla pod (Tip some vanilla essence in) along its length using a sharp knife, and add it to the milk along with the vanilla seeds. Bring the milk up to the boil, then take it off the heat.Measure out the milk
  2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornflour in a medium sized bowl until blended.
  3. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour the hot milk through a sieve into the egg mixture. Whisk to combine.
  4. Pour the custard back into a clean saucepan and set over a medium heat. Don’t boil or you will end up with lumpy custard Heat the mixture, but do not boil
  5. Stir the custard constantly until the mixture thickens. The mixture will take about four minutes to thicken, but when it does it happens very quickly, so you need to really keep stirring to prevent lumps. Whisk until smooth. I recommend relaxing, maybe watching TV while you do this as it takes quite a while if you don’t have an electric whisk!Stir the mixture until thick- this can take a while!
  6. Cook the mixture until the crème is very thick, so that it can be piped and it will hold its shape. Stir in the butter until thoroughly melted and combined.
  7. Allow to cool slightly, pour into a shallow dish and chill in the fridge for about an hour until really cold and set firm. This chills it faster as it cools over a larger surface area – alternatively you could fill the piping bags with it at this stage and leave overnight to chill. Keep an eye out for hungry housemates who might want to have a early sample.

For the lemon syrup:

  1. Place the ingredients for the lemon syrup in a small saucepan with 70ml/4½ tbsp water. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then boil rapidly for two minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Be careful, this mixture is extremely hot!

To assemble the cake:

  1. Meanwhile, roll out a thin disc of marzipan to fit a 23cm/9in circumference circle. It is best if you draw around the 23cm/9in base of another loose bottomed tin for the perfect circle. For best results and a perfectly flat surface, chill it in the fridge until it is needed. If you don’t have a rolling-pin a can work. If you don't have a rolling pin, you can always use a tin!
  2. Slice the sponge in half horizontally, creating two slim discs of cake. The cut must be as level as possible as it will be visible in the finished cake. On the show they used rulers, I wasn’t as precise.
  3. Place a strip of acetate plastic baking paper around the inside of the springform tin. Or line the base and sides with cling film or parchment lined foil.
  4. Place one layer of sponge cake in the bottom of the cake tin. Then liberally brush the sponge with half the syrup. With the back of a spoon, gently squash the edges of the cake down so that they are pushed directly against the sides of the tin, creating the defined edges necessary for the Fraisier cake. This really makes the cake, the lemon works really well with the strawberry’s.Fit the strawberry's around the base
  5. Rinse, hull and halve about 12 strawberries, try and make sure they are all the same height.
  6. Place the cut sides of the strawberries against the plastic on the inside of the tin. The strawberry halves should be sitting snugly beside each other, so it looks like a little crown inside the tin. It’s amazing when all the strawberry’s fit in perfectly.
  7. Take the chilled crème pâtissière out of the fridge and spoon two thirds of the crème into a piping bag, fitted with a 1cm/½in nozzle.
  8. Pipe a swirl covering the exposed sponge completely in the bottom of the tin.Fill the strawberry gaps with crème pâtissière
  9. Then pipe between each of the strawberries so the gaps are filled right to the top with the crème pâtissière.Swirl and cover the whole cake base
  10. Set about 3-5 strawberries to one side for decoration, then hull and quarter the rest of them and place on top of the crème, so it raises the inside of the cake by about an inch.
  11. Pipe another swirl of crème pâtissière on top of the cut strawberries to cover the whole surface. Then smooth with a palette knife. I went and bought a piping bag and it worked really well.
  12. Place the other disc of sponge on top of this, with the cut side uppermost, so it has a completely flat top. Brush with the remaining syrup.
  13. Gently press the top down quite firmly, so that the cake and filling push against the acetate to create the distinctive smooth and defined sides of the Fraisier cake.
  14. Lay the chilled marzipan circle on top of the cake and put the whole thing back in the fridge to set. This is a good time to do some of the massive pile of washing up you’ll have.There will be a massive pile of washing up to do!
  15. Make some pretty decorations of your choice with melted dark chocolate. Do not put chocolate in the microwave,  my kitchen quickly filled with smoke!
  16. When ready to serve, remove the cake from fridge.A side view of the cake
  17. Very carefully release the spring tin/loose bottom and remove the cake from the tin and from the acetate or cling film.
  18. Place onto a serving plate and decorate with reserved strawberries, chocolate decoration and a dusting of icing sugar. Serve chilled.The finished version

YUM A view of the cake from the top


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