Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Four-Layered Caramel Cream Orange Zest Chocolate Mirror Glaze Cake

The Great British Baking Show is on Netflix and months ago Meg was like "you HAVE to watch it because it will change your life" and I ignored her for a while but finally one day in December Skylar, Matt, and I were sitting in front of the TV making a lot of our lives when suddenly Skylar pulled up the show and hit play.

I have never been interested in any kind of cooking show. Usually when someone starts cooking something on TV I immediately change the channel because there is nothing less interesting to me than watching someone on television prepare food.

BUT, the one quality I possess that is even stronger than my dislike for television shows having to do with food is laziness. So I didn't get up and leave.

And that's when I found out that, in fact, there is an exception to my typical rule.

For those unfamiliar, The Great British Baking Show is a program wherein a dozen adorable British people spend their weekends baking in a large and beautiful tent. Their bakes are judged by two judges, who I swear to you are named Mary Berry



 and Paul Hollywood


and each week one person is awarded "star baker" and one person is sent home.

And every time they judge any person's bakes, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are always like, "you did a jolly good job on this one" or "I can see that this didn't quite turn out as you had hoped but you tried and you should be very proud of yourself" or on one occasion when a baker got frustrated and threw his baked Alaska in the garbage, Mary Berry was like "oh dear. I bet that was a moment from your life you wish you didn't remember. We all make mistakes."

AND I CRIED.

If you need any more proof that this show is the sweetest thing that has ever happened to this cold depressing world, go watch this 30-second clip right now of Val right after she found out that she was getting sent home.

CROCODILE tears when I saw that.

Skylar started following Val on Instagram the other day and the next morning he woke up and she had insta-stalked him, liked a dozen of his old pictures, and commented "hi" on one of his photos.

Even though this is a competition show, everyone on it is super supportive of one another, stepping in sometimes to help each other when something goes wrong.

As you can see, I drank the Kool-Aid. It was impossible not to after watching FOUR freaking seasons of this show in just a few weeks.

The problem with consuming that much of The Great British Baking Show that quickly is that it led me to a false sense that I was really good at baking.

When people on TV are doing something that pleasantly, it's easy to think what they are doing is easy.

By the fourth season, I found myself politely talking at the TV, giving tips to the bakers like "oh Michael, you need to chill the butter or it will run."

And I legit thought I had become an expert baker by doing absolutely nothing other than watching Netflix.

Because 2018 is The Year of New for me, last week I was suddenly all like "I'm going to bake a very complicated cake from scratch this weekend and it will look perfect."

So I up and bought The Great British Baking Show cookbook at Barnes & Noble.

A few problems with this cookbook:

1. It is a British cookbook so half the ingredients in it, it turns out, are things you can only find in the UK. I spent the majority of my Saturday googling ingredients and finding out, per the entire internet, that there is no acceptable substitution for, say, "double cream" in the United States but "we guess" you can use heavy whipping cream and then just start prayin' to Jesus that it will work.

I went to SEVEN different stores to try to gather the 25 ingredients I needed for this cake.

2. The recipe required nearly $200 worth of equipment that I (a) did not have and (b) have never before heard of in my life.

I went to FOUR different baking stores to try to find all of this equipment, promising myself with every purchase that I would use that oddly-specific thing of which function I was still completely unsure "like, all the time."

3. All of the ingredient proportions were listed in the metric system and every time I asked Alexa "how many cups is 280 grams of castor sugar" she would scream back at me "GRAMS CANNOT BE CONVERTED TO CUPS YOU IDIOT."

Because a certain amount of grams of one thing is a completely different amount of cups as a certain amount of grams of another thing might be, and because I was dealing with such strange ingredients, the amount of research and math I had to do just to find out the recipe proportions should have earned me a PhD.

FROM CAMBRIDGE.

By the time I had gathered all of the things I needed in all of the right amounts it was literally a whole day later.

And THAT'S when crap got complicated.

The first thing I did was sit down and read the recipe because Mary Berry is always all like "READ THE RECIPE THOROUGHLY."

I kid you not. Reading the recipe took me over an hour.

Why? Is Eli illiterate?

No. Eli is not illiterate.

It took over an hour because every third word in the four-page recipe had a star next to it, which meant that if you didn't understand what that word meant, you could turn to a key at the front of the book and read how to do that thing.

It was like a super unfun Choose Your Own Adventure.

So there could be a sentence that says "After brazing* the water-cooled* chocolate, temper* it using the German Method*, but be careful not to grain* the leftovers after the sieving* process."

And because I don't know WTF any of those starred words are trying to tell me, I have to go look in the key SIX times just to understand ONE sentence in this FOUR-PAGE single-spaced recipe.

AND, every single one of those things in the key has at least FOUR long paragraphs of explanation, and sometimes the freaking explanation has starred words so I would have to flip through the key to understand the stared word in the stared word explanation and at one point I got so deep down this rabbit hole that I actually forgot what recipe I was supposed to be making altogether.

But I REFUSED to let this recipe beat me.

Every time I got overwhelmed I shouted, in a polite British voice, "Eli. This recipe is not better than you."

I had decided to make a four-layered caramel cream orange zest chocolate mirror glaze cake.

It was supposed to look like this:


See how shiny it is? And smooth? And totally covered in chocolate? And see how beautiful all of those candy decorations are on top.

LOWER your expectations.

After NINE FREAKING HOURS.


Every single dish in my entire house was dirty.

There was chocolate EVERYWHERE.

You guys. I don't know what happened.

The chocolate did not "simply pour" from the bowl like the recipe predicted.

It was so lopsided that you all need plastic surgery just for having seen it.

Skylar walked in at that point and saw my masterpiece.

He was laughing so hard that he actually couldn't breathe.

I had run out of time to candy the hazelnuts and so I gave up on those last few steps and with Skylar's help I cleaned it up as much as I could.


I was slightly proud of myself for the chocolate work on top.


Which looks ok as long as you don't compare it to the model picture.

I fed this cake to my family, who upon looking at it made a handful of comments about whether or not it was going to taste like Robitussin.

At the end of the night I still had half a cake left and I didn't know what the hell to do with it so I decided to put it on a paper plate and walk it over to The Perfects's's's house and see if they wanted it because they already know I'm a garbage person so at least they wouldn't be surprised.

The entire family came to the door because they are perfect humans and every one of them is so adorable that it should be illegal for me to even see them.

Eli: I spent the entire day making this cake and it was supposed to look beautiful and you were supposed to be able to see yourself in it but instead it looks like this and I have to burn my kitchen to the ground but it tastes fine so do you want it?

Mrs. Perfect: The chocolate work on top looks very--

Eli: Let's not do this, lady.

This is a moment from my life I wish I didn't remember.

~It Just Gets Stranger

44 comments:

  1. Ah. Thank you for answering my Instagram questions!

    But, this post only inspired more. Namely - the recipe makes a brown chocolate cake. How / why did the frosting* turn yellow??

    *or whatever the sugary outer coating would be called on this kind of cake

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    1. I would also like to know why the outside is not chocolate ... and WE LOVE THIS SHOW!!!

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    2. Lemme explain. So what you're seeing on the sides is the caramel cream, which was actually the bomb. It was easily the most successful part of my cake. But then I was supposed to pour the chocolate glaze over the cake and it was supposed to run down the sides and cover over the caramel cream. But when I poured it onto the cake, it just plopped onto the top and hardened.

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    3. thank you. My life is now complete. I watched last night with my daughter. They were trying to make the meringues (which google helped me spell). Looked easy peasy. Maybe try that next.

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  2. Also, because I'm a fellow cake-baking-watching-observer nerd, do you have a picture of the inside of the cake? That's important, too.

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    1. I don't. It looked ok, but the layers were not super defined, or even.

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  3. I am SO not surprised that you love this show, as all decent human beings do. After discovering its wonder, I spent actual time out of my life fact-checking the internet to confirm Mary's and Paul's last names because they just couldn't be real, but of course they are.

    As one who also feels like a proficient baker after putting in my hours with this show, I appreciate the time and money you saved me with this reality check. Guaranteed Mary would still have found something about your cake to compliment!

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  4. Eli - stick to Pinterest (I totally had to look up the correct spelling) for your future baking needs - and if the ingredients aren't something you'll use for other things don't lie to yourself - skip the recipe

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  5. When you were out buying a lot of useless kitchen equipment you didn't get a kitchen scale for accurately measuring ingredients by weight instead of portion? Oh, honey.

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    1. I did—but I forgot to mention. When I stared baking I found out that it didn’t work so I was stuck with calculus. I still need to return it.

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  6. You are much more ambitious than me. I've only attempted Paul's biscuits and am aiming to make Mary's Lemon Drizzle Cake soon because it has less than ten ingredients, one unknown ingredient and is classified as "easy peasy" on the website.

    On a side note, The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass is amazing as well, but may fall into the category of a normal cooking show with the exception that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are not your typical food network stars.

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  7. I suffer from the same complaint; I watch these shows, and they make it look so logically easy, that I think I can do them too. But, I've NEVER had my chocolate turn out in that "mirror" finish. The cream I used to melt the chocolate is either too cool, or too warm, so the chocolate either seized or was lumpy. BUT.... I give you 1,000 points and your own "Star Baker" title for even TRYING.

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  8. I looooove that show!!

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  9. I feel like I could have written most this post. I put off watching this show even though many people raved about it. Finally started watching it and me and my girls are hooked. My husband and son are getting hooked too in season 3. We've started baking a lot more than usual now. If it turns out good we say that we are Star Bakers. If it doesn't we say things like "shame about the color (or crumbling)" "They aren't uniform enough" "It's baked, but just." I've started watching Masterclass from them on Netflix and love it. It shows how to make some of the stuff they've made on the show. I'm a visual learner, so I it helps me know what they are talking about. I've really wanted to buy the book. With your review I'm not sure if I don't want it or if I want it even more now. There is just a pull to have it anyway. I made Povitica bread from the show. It was pretty easy to figure out. I'm starting with the easy stuff first. (Plus I found a non-metric recipe which helped.) But I kind of like the idea of weighing ingredients after watching this show.

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  10. We recently finished season 4, and I was making lemon bars for a Christmas Eve party, and I said to myself, "I should sift in the dry ingredients like they do on The Great British Bakeoff. Then maybe it won't have lumps in it." So I did. And it worked. And it was glorious.

    Also, my husband now declares things are "scrummy" and likes to say he's "over the moon" about things.

    If you liked that show, you might enjoy The Great Family Cooking Show (something like that) on Netflix. Not quite as good, and no one is as delightful as Mary Berry, but one of the hosts is Nadia, one of the winners of The Great British Bakeoff, and we love her.

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    1. Ha! Scrummy came into our lexicon too!! It is my favorite every time they say that on the show. (Amy Rose)

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  11. The Great British Baking Show is the bomb. Glad you found it. Just as a side note, the contestants on that show get to practice many of their bakes multiple times before doing it on the show (they know ahead of time what they get to make). So, I think your effort is valiant for just doing it once. Especially if it tasted good. :) (Never give up, never surrender!) Studio C did a fun spoof on TGBBS, enjoy: https://youtu.be/PIrRpgWfY4M

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    1. True! Think of all the cake the Perfects can eat if you practiced every week until our unplanned Stranger reunion!

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  12. I actually laughed at the title before reading your post thinking that was a made-up cake name—that no way could there be a cake that matched that description. Turns out there is!! (And yours *almost* matched the description.)

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    1. Sometimes titles and descriptions of foods are better than the foods tbrmsemves. (Menus in Indonesia, anyone?!)

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    2. Oh my goodness. Those menus were the best.

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  13. This post legitimately made my day.

    Also, you are a walking contradiction, Eli; you were too lazy to move off the couch, but then you went to all that work, just to buy all the crap you needed to bake it, that I'm left flummoxed. But I'm so happy you made it. And that you shared it with your Strangers!

    So...are you off baking now?

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    1. I adore the fact that you used "flummoxed" in your post . . . .

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  14. I’m not sure where you live but in Northern California you can get organic heavy cream from clover with 40% butterfat and that’s a great substitute for double cream. And your mirror glaze just got too cold too quickly. But don’t be dissuaded it looked bomb as fuck for your first time. Not everyone can be Francis. My bakes are always a little messy like Ruby’s.

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    1. Oh Francis! She is adorable. Ruby is bit mellow dramatic for me, but she did grow on me a little bit. Richard will always by my favorite although Nancy is wonderful.

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    2. Richard will always be my favorite too!! But i did also love the Nancy, and the woman who won the last season, can’t think of her name right now. (Amy Rose)

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  15. I found after a bread challenge by Paul, I immediately ordered his bread book and a scale. It took 4 weeks for the book to come from the UK. The scale will change your life. Love this show.

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  17. I'm pretty good at cakes and cookies now, but i wasn't so good when I first started. I think I was 8 when I did my first cake. It was for my own birthday, and was supposed to be a yellow cake with a smiley face. The yellow part was fine, but the smiley face didn't go so well. It ended up looking like a very bruised and misshapen banana. I've improved over the years and have even done a smattering of wedding cakes (which I hate with a firey passion). Non-traditional cakes are easier for me than perfect, smooth round tier cakes. More room for creativity, and more fun. Let me know if you want lessons. ;)

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  18. This is literally the best thing ever.

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  19. as someone who has trained and worked as scaler, this darling show kills me. cakes that complicated take professional in professional kitchens with multiple employees DAYS to make. and they imply you can make it in 1 all day session, or on the show, maybe two half day sessions.

    no, it takes pros a lot of time to prepare all the separate elements and put them together but by bit, with lots of chilling time in between to let things set up.

    all cooking shows set me off about the rushed timing. but baking shows in particular get me shouting. how can that nice Mary berry set up the bakers in this bound to lose fashion?

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  20. Yes! When my husband and I were going through withdrawals because there were no more episodes, we watched Masterclass and it breathed new life into us. Then, that ended. We tried an Australian show with the same basic set up, it was a non starter. There is something so so so magical about the British baking show. Also, my husband actually is a good enough baker that he has made many of their recipes, and actually he is really good at bread and so he frequently criticized Paul for various bread baking things, while also acknowledging that the man is his hero. Also, my husband frequently rewrites recipes for me from cups into weights, honestly, if you want to give it another go send me the recipe you want to work with and I will ask him to translate it for you. He is teaching a baking class this semester, so the man knows it all. (He is a professor of food chemistry, and we will open a bakery when he retires). Ok, anyway! (Publishing as me doesn’t work anymore. Just tried twice. Boo.) Amy Rose, your friendly anonymous commenter.

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    1. Hahahaha I was reading this and slowly starting to think wow this person has a lot in common with my sister. And then it turns out anonymous is my sister. I should have figured out that out sooner. I was actually thinking snooty thoughts like I'm sure my sister's husband is better at any of those things than this person's husband. Ha.

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    2. Ha! I think I was half asleep when I wrote that comment! Ha ha.

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    3. You will open a bakery when Devin retires?! I’m so glad I can read this blog to learn about my sister’s life . . .

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    4. I have many a few random careers that I would like to venture into one day, but Amy Rose, you may have pushed food scientist up to the top with your comment combined with the Paul Hollywood connection.

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    5. Sarah RB, you should look into it! There are so many fun options as a food scientist/chemist, professor being the most boring option, but my husband loves it so it works. And Mimi, you have SURELY heard us talk about opening a bakery. Or a restaurant. Or a running shoe store. Devin has also talked about being an electrician when he retires, that’s a newer one, though. The man has many plans and dreams.

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    6. Dream big, Devin. Since he’s good at everything he tries, I say, dream big! Jeff talks about being a professor when he retires from the Foreign Service (if he can add another degree or two, but industry experience counts for a lot in his field).

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  21. I wish this post was a vlog. I would watch your shows. You're fun.

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  22. The only thing better than the Great British Baking Show is the Great British Sewing Bee, which sadly only ran for three seasons. What that and you will soon be attempting to sew a suit with vest. I love the British.

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  23. I was sold at "there was chocolate EVERYWHERE"

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  24. I, too, suffer from delusions of grandeur after watching baking shows. The Kids Baking Championship is also very sweet. Duff, the cake guy, and Valerie Bertinelli are the judges. They work very hard to find a positive in whatever the kids do. No British accents though, sad to say. The kids are sweet and know way more baking lexicon than I do. They get their assignments, and are just, "I'm going to make a hazelnut eclair, with a lemon zest vanilla filling and macerated raspberry drizzled on top." And they're 12 years old. They will help each other when time is running out, and they all hug when someone goes home. I would have a better chance baking something they've made than a Mary or Paul recipe.

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  25. Oh my gosh. I used to read your blog back in island days and it just popped into my head to find it again. Hahahahahaha thank you so much for being a hilarious writer and always making me laugh out loud. I have a couple of years worth of posts to catch up on.....
    And also yaasssss on GBBS....I spent three days frantically baking French bread thinking I all of a sudden knew things.

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  26. As a British person I am annoyed that Netflix have changed the name of the show. It's called "The Great British Bake Off" over here!

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