This week saw the bakers minus one return to the tent to face the tricky challenges posed by Cake Week.

In some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the tent, they were tasked with creating a tray bake signature, a complex technical with a fairly unusual ingredient and a two-or-more tiered cake decorated with tempered chocolate wraps.

Chocolate can be a difficult customer at the best of times, but in the extreme heat of the tent, it did not want to play ball at all.

When it came to this week’s technical, the challenge was set by Prue Leith, who told Paul it’s a favourite of hers as Claude Monet used to enjoy one every year on his birthday. This seems a fairly illogical reason for enjoying a cake to me, but who am I to judge?

The French impressionist painter, who died in 1926, was well-known for his love of food and he is reported to have grown his own fruits and vegetables and kept his own brood of chickens – long before being organic became trendy.

He was also a fan of Something Sweet (a little bit of self-promotion there) and recorded many of his own recipes in his journals, which have since been collated into the volume, Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet.

This tome does contain a recipe for Le Gâteau Vert, but the Bake Off recipe is actually an homage created by GBBO judge, Prue Leith.

Her Gâteau Vert (which literally translates as Green Cake) uses all-natural ingredients to achieve its eponymous colouring – including the somewhat eyebrow-raising addition of spinach to colour the fondant glaze that is used give the cake its final covering.

Naturally all of my social media channels went into meltdown at this revelation, but I was not to be swayed. I pledged to attempt all of the technical bakes, so the spinach cake it is…

Le Gâteau Vert is a complex beast, made up of a genoise sponge (the downfall of many a GBBO baker), a crème au beurre filling and a layer of pistachio marzipan to cover the cake, before the whole thing is covered in a green fondant glaze and decorated with fresh edible flowers and ground pistachios.

Interestingly, during the judging of the tent baker’s technical bakes, much was made of achieving a bright green colour for the fondant glaze, but I noticed that the one presented as Prue’s at the start of the challenge was much paler in colour – as is the one on the Bake Off recipe page. As such, I decided that I would also go for the far more appealing pale green – I think the darker green just doesn’t scream ‘dessert’ to me…

Oh, and while I’m on the subject, they also were quite damning about the ‘roundedness’ of Luke’s bake during judging too, but have another look at the above image from the Bake Off website – looks pretty rounded to me, right? But anyway, I digress.

As I explained in my last #bakealongwithGBBO post, because of some of the more unusual ingredients required for this bake, I needed to head to Ocado, the delivery arm of Waitrose to track these down. If you’re struggling to find fresh edible flowers in a hurry, Waitrose can usually be relied upon to have these in stock – at least in the larger stores. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to track down any pistachio essence though, so I had to leave this ingredient out – although I did substitute it with vanilla extract for the fondant glaze.

The time allowed for this challenge was a measly two-and-a-quarter hours and there was a huge amount of work to fit in within the time. It really was a tough challenge – I’m wondering if GBBO is starting to fall down the rabbit hole of more and more complex bakes, like we’ve seen before. But enough about that for now – let’s get to it…

Like the bakers in the tent, I decided to start with the genoise sponge, so that I could be getting on with the other elements while it was in the oven. There really wasn’t any time to waste during this challenge, so organisation and speed were essential.

A genoise sponge is a very light and delicate sponge, unique in that it contains very little fat – only 25g of butter in this recipe – and no raising agent. To achieve a good rise in a genoise, one must whip as much air into the eggs as possible and then be careful not to knock any of this out as you continue to work with it.

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to achieving the essential aeration of the eggs, including gently heating them over a pan of simmering water as you whip them or beating the egg whites separately before recombining them with the rest of the mix. However, I’m a bit of a classicist and tend to just whisk my eggs for up to ten minutes, gradually adding the sugar until the eggs have tripled in size.

You can tell that your eggs are ready when the ribbon of mix from the whisk attachment remains on the surface for over ten seconds. Mine was then combined with ground pistachios, flour, melted butter and lemon zest, before being carefully poured into my cake pan and placed in the oven for 30 minutes.

Once my cake was in the oven, I turned my attention to the pistachio marzipan. I have made fresh marzipan many times before, but never with pistachios. It behaved very much in the same way though, so I think that this was this week’s ‘easy’ bit.

The crème au beurre however was not so obliging. This was where the spinach came into play and I started by sweating off the vast pile of leaves in the largest pan I have. Once it had reduced down to the tiny little clump that you always end up with when cooking spinach, it was time to blitz it in the blender before passing it through some muslin to catch all of the bright green liquid required for today’s bake. I had a bit of a disaster here – I wasn’t holding my muslin as securely as I should and proceeded to spray puréed spinach all over the kitchen! It genuinely looked like I had murdered Shrek or similar!

After cleaning that up, I continued with the bake, using the spinach water to create a syrup which was then combined with whipped egg yolks and butter – and a pistachio paste that I had created in the food processor – to create my crème au beurre.

In fact, this bake used more gadgets than any GBBO bake I have ever attempted: my coffee grinder was used to powder the pistachios for the cake, my food processor was needed for the marzipan and the pistachio paste, the blender came out for the spinach and, of course, my trusty Kenwood stand mixer was earning its keep, being responsible for the cake mix and the crème au beurre. I will be interested to see how Colin’s Time to Bake manages with this challenge, with half of his baking gear still en route to his new home.

By the time I had finished playing with complex cake fillings, my cake had been removed from the oven and was pretty much cool enough for me to start thinking about assembly. Usually, if I am working with genoise sponge, I would bake it the day before I need it as it’s much easier to work with once it has had a chance to relax, but time was ticking on and needs must.

On the show, we saw the bakers struggling to torte their cakes with bread knives and Prue telling Paul that the bakers really needed to achieve a cake of at least an inch-and-a-half to be able to do this effectively. My cake was about two inches tall, but even so, I wasn’t prepared to take any risks with a knife and instead reached for one of my favourite bits of cake kit – the Agbay cake leveller. It has a razor-sharp blade that makes easy work of levelling any cake.

After that, it was time to fill the cake with the crème au beurre and stack it up. Unfortunately, I was so short on time by this point that I simply didn’t have the luxury of being able to take photographs, so apologies for the lack of images from here onwards. Next, I covered the cake with a crumb coat of the remaining crème au beurre and then covered it in my marzipan (keeping the trimmings to munch on later – it really is good!).

Then I popped it all in the fridge, while I turned my attention to the fondant glaze. I have had a bag of Squires Kitchen Fondant Icing languishing in my cake room for a while now, so it was great to be able to use it finally. The recipe instructs us to use the remaining spinach water to colour it green and the amount of this one uses dictates how vivid the green colour is in the final result.

As I mentioned above, I decided to go for a paler colour – in the interests of making it more appetising – so I used a blend of both spinach water and cooled, boiled water to make my glaze. This was then poured over the final cake before I transferred it to the cake stand and added my edible flowers and crushed pistachios.

I had hoped to recreate the crushed pistachios around the base that we had seen on Prue’s bake during the episode, but I managed to confuse myself while writing my shopping list and didn’t quite have enough (you need a LOT of pistachios for the Green Cake). Instead, I focussed my efforts on making the top look nice and pretty and I think it looks… alright?

When it comes to the taste, I really REALLY like the pistachio marzipan, and the cake is nice enough – I’m not so sure about the crème au beurre though. I have asked some of the tent bakers what they thought of it, but none of them can remember tasting it. I don’t know if I have made a mistake along the way or if it is simply a matter of personal taste, but sadly, my regular taste tester won’t even try it – he’s put off by the spinach – so you will have to purely rely on my opinion. Regardless of this, I don’t think that I will be adding Le Gâteau Vert to my regular repertoire.

Next week, bread week returns to the tent and, from the previews, it looks like we will be tackling naan bread during the technical challenge. If you have any top tips to achieving the perfect naan between now and then, then please feel free to send them my way. Based on how this series has gone so far, it’s beginning to look like I will need all the help that I can get.

If you want to follow my ongoing #bakealongwithGBBO adventures, then don’t forget to hit the subscribe button (on the right if on desktop or at the bottom of the page if on mobile) before you go – you will also need to hit confirm in the email that I send you.

Oh, and if you fancy having a go at Prue’s Le Gâteau Vert (DON’T DO IT!), I have added the recipe link to my recipes page – click the tab above. Don’t forget to let me know how you get on…

Happy Baking!



As you know, for a fair few years now, I have been baking along with The Great British Bake Off and I absolutely love it. It has probably had the single biggest impact on the quality of my baking than anything else I do, because, each year, it pushes me to try new and unusual bakes that I would never even think about trying otherwise.

Obviously, I’m a bit behind with the latest series of GBBO, because the first episode screened while I was away on my UK tour (see Mr Baker’s Blog on Tour to read more about that), so I have somewhat ambitiously decided to try and crack out both last week and this week’s technical bakes this weekend to get me back up to speed.

Yes, you read that correctly: although on my first couple of attempts I allowed myself to cherry-pick which challenges I would attempt (out of the signature, the technical OR the showstopper), two years ago, I found myself being repeatedly drawn to the technical challenges and so, last year, I made the decision to limit myself to just the technical bakes.

As with last year, throughout this series, I will be attempting the same bake as the bakers in the tent each week, following the same rules and timings as the contestants and I will post the result of my efforts, regardless of how successful I may or may not have been.

So let’s get to it…


In a rather dramatic shift away from all of the previous series, week one of The Great British Bake Off 2018 saw the bakers attempt not cakes, but rather biscuits in the first episode.

The first technical, which was set by ‘the male judge’, challenged our newest band of bakers to recreate Wagon Wheel biscuits, the childhood favourite first introduced to the UK 70 years ago by Burton Foods. Paul explained that he had chosen the classic confection due to the many different elements that go into it, in the hope that it would really test the bakers’ abilities to create multiple elements under pressure.

The bakers were given two-and-a-quarter hours to create eight individual Wagon Wheels, each made up of two crunchy biscuits, a light and fluffy layer of marshmallow, a seedless raspberry jam and, of course, the all-important chocolate coating.

Cap: All4/Channel 4/Love Productions

The recipe that the bakers were given was suitably vague, but I think that (as usual) I have noticed an issue with it (check out last year’s posts to explore my conspiracy theories regarding the GBBO Issue of the Week): it seems that the bakers were instructed to use a combination of both milk and plain chocolate to coat their wagon wheels, whereas the published recipe online (which you can find here) only calls for dark chocolate. Hmmm…

I decided to go with the combination for mine, in a ratio of two parts 70% dark chocolate to one part milk chocolate. I find that dark chocolate on its own can be rather overpowering in a multi-flavoured bake, so I hoped that the milk chocolate would offset this somewhat.

Because of some of the more unusual ingredients required for my next challenge (Cake Week’s Le Gâteau Vert), I was forced to order this week’s food shop from Ocado, rather than my usual Sainsbury’s and I was sat on the edge of my seat waiting impatiently for it to arrive when I got home from work. Luckily it finally got here (right at the end of my possible delivery slot, of course), but in all of the panic, I stupidly forgot to arrange all of my ingredients for the all-important ‘gingham alter’ posed shot – gutting! However, with no time to waste, the timer was set for two hours and fifteen minutes and I got cracking on my first #bakealongwithGBBO of 2018.

I started by creating my biscuit dough in my favourite supersized Mason Cash vintage-style mixing bowl. Anything that involves me getting wrist-deep into pastry or dough has to be whipped up in my trusty old-fashioned bowl as it takes me right back to my early days of baking with my grandmother, the original Mrs Baker.

I then popped this into the fridge to cool for 30 minutes, while I turned my attention to the raspberry jam – something we bakealongers have made MANY times now, so no issues there.

The marshmallow however was an entirely different animal, commanding a whole four steps of its own on the official GBBO recipe.

I started by preparing the gelatine, before setting it aside and creating a syrup of sugar, glucose and water – heating it until it reached 120°C on my trusty sugar thermometer (a fortunate gift that I received last Christmas after destroying my last one during 2017’s #bakealongwithGBBO).

This was then combined with the gelatine, before being slowly poured over whipped egg whites until thick and glossy. Finally, I added vanilla extract before spooning it into a piping bag and leaving it to cool.

The piping bag was supposed to be fitted with a 1cm round piping nozzle, but after seeing how many of the bakers struggled with excess marshmallow, I decided to go nozzle-less in the hope that this would avoid me going overboard while piping (isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?).

I also decided that I would slightly change the suggested technique for assembly, by piping a shallow ring of marshmallow on to one of the biscuits (in addition to the layer of marshmallow on the other biscuit), which I could then fill with piped-in jam. I hoped that this would then create a seal and prevent me from having any leakage issues. But I’m rushing ahead…

Once my jam and marshmallow were cooling, it was time return my attention to the biscuits and this is where my first issues arose (#issueoftheweek?). The recipe tells us to roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, until it is 3mm thick. It then instructs us to take a 8cm cutter to cut out the 16 biscuits required to create the Wagon Wheel’s essential sandwich. At 3mm thick, I simply did not have anywhere near enough dough to cut out 16 biscuits! Flicking back to episode one (I always have it queued up ready, just in case), I did notice that the bakers were told to use a 7cm cutter – is this a potential error in the recipe perhaps? Did anyone else have an issue here?

In the end, I decided to roll out my dough even thinner – to around 2mm – and then managed to cut out the required number of biscuits, which the recipe then told us to place on a lined baking tray and place in the freezer. I don’t know about you, but I cannot fit a large baking sheet in my freezer – and I have a huge American beast, so goodness knows how anyone is supposed to do that?! In the end, I had to take them off of the trays and place the baking paper directly onto the shelf. Hence some of the rather more interesting shapes of my biscuits!

After that, it was time to pop them in the oven for quick 12-minute bake, during which, I really did watch them like a hawk. They looked rather sorry for themselves before they even went into the oven and, afterwards, they weren’t looking much better…

Then it was straight into the fridge for a quick chill before the dreaded assembly. As I’ve already mentioned above, I decided to go fairly rogue with this and it seemed to produce a fairly neat finish – at least until I tried to cover them with chocolate.

I’ll be honest, my freezer was my friend during this challenge, with me throwing my Wagon Wheels in there at every opportunity. After filling and sandwiching them, and with only 15 minutes to go, I decided to pop them back in the freezer to chill them down, setting the marshmallow as much as I could, before I subjected them to the chocolate.

This seemed to be the point where many of the tent’s bakers struggled and a number of different strategies for covering were explored. Some chose to pour the chocolate over the biscuits, while others opted to spread the chocolate with a palette knife. We even saw Jon trying to rub it on by hand and Luke resorted to a pastry brush to try and fill the tricky gap around the outside.

I started off intending to use the pouring method, but it quickly became clear that there wasn’t really enough chocolate to allow me to do it properly and, like many of the tent bakers, I ended up reaching for the palette knife. However, while scraping the sides, I realised that I hadn’t been as clever as I thought with my rogue filling technique. Well, either that or my marshmallow was slightly too runny. Adding the chocolate seemed to encourage further marshmallow splurging and they really did end up a bit of a mess.

As I’ve told you before: if a bake ends up looking a bit ‘informal’, hide it as much as possible with a good blur and a ton of text! 😉

I have a lot more sympathy for the bakers now I have been through the drama myself, I can tell you!

In fact, I was really surprised by just how tricky I found this bake. Without the heat issues of the tent and having made most of the constituent parts before, I honestly thought it wouldn’t be too bad. It just goes to show that it can often be the deceptively simple bakes that turn out the most difficult.

I have presented my offerings to the official taste tester and his verdict is that they are yummy, but a little rich – he couldn’t manage more than one. Infinitely better for my dark and milk chocolate combo though…


As I’ve already mentioned, episode two sees the bakers (and me) face a tricky cake technical challenge with one ingredient in particular that raised eyebrows both in the tent and online. I will be getting straight on with that one tomorrow morning, so be sure to pop back and find out how I got on – or of course, you could subscribe using the box on the right (or at the bottom of the page if on mobile) and I will send you an email when the next instalment of my #bakealongwithGBBO2018 is published.

If you fancy having a go at Paul Hollywood’s take on a traditional Wagon Wheel, head to my recipes tab, where I have added the recipe link. If you do give it a whirl, be sure to let me know by messaging my Facebook page or why not join my dedicated Mr Baker’s Blog from Mr Baker’s Cakes Facebook group?

Happy Baking!

All Content, Blog, GBBO

Win with Renshaw: Battle of the Bakes

The Great British Bake Off has returned to our screens, with episode two – Cake Week screening at 8pm tonight on Channel 4.

In celebration of its much-anticipated return, Renshaw have launched The Great Renshaw Bake Off, bringing you plenty of fun new challenges along the way. Just like us, the Renshaw team are so excited to watch the new Bake Off contestants push themselves to their baking limits under the watchful eyes of Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.

During this year’s show, Renshaw will also be hosting the ‘Battle of the Bakes’ – a competition that will run throughout the whole 10 weeks of Bake off! And you’ll never believe who will be judging the results…

That’s right! It’s me!

We want to see your BEST bake, whether it’s an elaborate eclair extravaganza or a sparkling sponge spectacle – and not only that, we want to know how to make it!

To enter, you need to upload your own recipe or cake decorating tutorial, including the all-important photos of the finished decorated bake that you have made. We’re looking for steps on how to decorate at least one element of your cake, cupcakes, biscuits, etc.

I will be choosing one lucky winner and 2 runners-up from my favourite uploaded tutorials to take home some wonderful prizes, including:

The winner’s prize – Two tickets to Cake International (on the day of your choice) between 2-4 November, a night’s stay for two in Birmingham during Cake International, two tickets to Cadbury World in Birmingham, and a Renshaw Baking hamper.

The runner-up prizes – two runners-up will each receive a Renshaw Baking product hamper plus a £50 Hobbycraft voucher.

And in an extra chance to win some goodies, any additional people that submit a recipe or cake decorating tutorial that gets published on the Renshaw website will also receive a Renshaw Baking hamper.

Battle of the Bakes will run until Monday 29th October, and Renshaw will be publishing some of the new recipes and tutorials throughout the competition to the Recipes section of their website.

For an idea of how to get started, take a look at the Renshaw Recipe pages, where you’ll see a variety of pages with the ‘Community Recipe’ logo – these are all of the recipes and tutorials that have been submitted by the wonderful members of the Renshaw baking community.

You can upload your recipe or tutorial here.

Good luck to all who enter – I can’t wait to check out your amazing recipes and tutorials!


PS. Before you enter, be sure to read the terms and conditions over at the Renshaw website.