All of our bakers fared pretty well with the signature challenge, but now the very first technical challenge is upon us. Mel and Sue shoo away Paul and Mary to explain that the contestants will be baking Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake. As explained in the episode, Paul and Mary are judging the cake on the following criteria: a golden brown sponge, an even distribution of cherries, and a thick coating of lemon icing. Challenge accepted.
I approached this bake a little more confident as this recipe seems rather straight forward and I predicted no issues….until I run into my first issue. Reading through my ingredient list, I see glace cherries. What in the world? A quick google tells me glace cherries are actually candied cherries and a mental scan of my local grocery store left me feeling assured that I was not just going to find these on the shelf. To avoid future frustration of going store to store, I decided to find a recipe to make my own, which I did, and it only required a jar of maraschino cherries and an absurd amount of sugar. You can find the recipe I used here. If you absolutely want to, you can buy glace cherries but I found it was cheaper and really easy to just make your own, although a bit time consuming. After candying, quarter all of your cherries, wash, and set aside. Don't be like Jordan and forget to leave 5 aside for decoration!
But then I read the recipe further. Alas, another issue! The original recipe calls for ground almonds, which you can add to my apparently growing list of "Things I have Never Seen at the Store," so thank goodness again for Google. I added 1/4 cup of sliced almonds and 1/4 cup of sugar to my food processor and with a quick spin, BOOM! Ground almonds! I have since come to realize that you can buy ground almonds in store at Trader Joe's or on Amazon but in a pinch, this process works just as well....I think.
After mixing everything together, I poured the batter into my bundt pan and it was rather thick just as Martha explained it should to avoid the cherries sinking straight to the bottom, so I’m off to a good start! Popped it in the oven and I’m feeling good. But I sat in front of the oven and noticed really large air holes in my baking cake. Should that be happening? I don’t know but there was nothing I could do about it now.
While my cake was baking, I began to put together my icing. The goal was to put together a simple, thick glaze made of only lemon juice and powdered sugar to top the cake and with just to right consistency to spill over the sides, stopping before hitting the bottom. The recipe called for the juice of a lemon and a squeeze of my particular lemon yielded quite a bit of juice. I added the powdered sugar suggested in the recipe...and then added a little more, thanks to my super juicy lemon, mixing until I was sure it was thick enough to replicate Mary’s masterpiece.
My sugar-laden cherry cake came out of the oven truly looking quite like the lady. *Pats myself on the shoulder.* But certainly this bake can't come together this flawlessly! Noooo, we can't have perfection. A flip of my bundt and my cake fell out onto the cooling rack. Oh, you thought I meant my whole cake just slid out of the pan? Oh no no, you see, exactly half of my bake exited while the other half decided to cross it's arms, give a little stomp, and refuse to be persuaded out of the pan like a hot-headed toddler refusing to eat vegetables. In case you're keeping score, that makes me 0/2 on first-attempt-removal-from-pan. Sigh. Luckily, once my lessor half was coaxed out, a little smoosh was all it took to make my halves appear whole.
The contestants do seem to be doing better than me. Most realize you must wash the cherries and coat them in flour to prevent sinking and everyone is able to flip their cake out of the pan with relative ease. The only tense moment comes when Kate burns her almonds that were being toasted for decorating, but in typical GBBO fashion, she smiles while tossing them away saying, "Better do that again, thank you!" Next comes decorating and while a few opt for the drip we see on Mary's cake, other get out the piping bag and adorn their cake with an array of designs. A sprinkle of toasted almonds for the top to accompany a few cherries (except for Jordan, as mentioned) and everyone is done. The ranking on this technical challenge commences with Jordan at the bottom and Nancy claiming victory.
Now for my own judging. I prepared my cake during the day and that evening we planned on having dinner at my in-laws so I brought it along for an honest taste assessment.
The glaze I was convinced was thick enough to gently stream down the side of my cake was a lot thinner than I originally thought and ended up running everywhere as you can see. And it tasted rather dry if I'm being honest. Like, cake caught in the back of your throat kind of dry. It was golden brown, there was a good cherry distribution, and even though it was quite crumbly, so was the cakes on the show, so I'm going to call this a semi-success.
If I'm to pass any wisdom down to those willing to conquer this cake, make sure your butter is truly room temperature, go buy some legit ground almonds, and if you think your icing is thick enough, its not, so add more powdered sugar. Also to note, I am not in possession of a kitchen scale and all of these recipes for the technical that I'm following, I'm doing my best to convert to cups. I'll continue this for a while but I'm beginning to see the potential usefulness of a scale. Below is the recipe I followed with my conversions and creation of candied cherries and ground almonds. You can find the actual recipe at PBS.org.
FOr the candied cherries
- 1 12oz jar stemless maraschino cherries
- 3/4 cups sugar
for the cake
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 3/4 cup softened butter
- 3/4 cup sugar, divided
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 3 large eggs
- prepared candied cherries, quartered (leave 5 aside for decoration)
- 2 tbsp self-rising flour
for the icing
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar (more if needed)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 5 candied cherries, quartered
Prepared the candied cherries using the recipe here by The Lemon Press. Allow to cool, then cut into quarters.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Take 1/4 cup of sugar and the 1/4 cup sliced almonds and add to food processor, pulsing to a fine powder. Add to a mixing bowl with the flour, butter, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest, and eggs. Beat for 2 minutes. Rinse and pat dry the quartered cherries, toss in a bowl with 2 tbsp flour, and fold into the mix. Pour into a prepared bundt or round baking pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer down the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack.
Toast the sliced almonds in a dry pan on medium heat until fragrant. Mix together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until a thick icing forms. If needed, add more sugar until the desired consistency is reached. Pour icing on the completely cooled cake, allowing the icing to drip down the sides. Decorate the top with the toasted almonds and quartered cherries.