British Bake Off Frenzy

I totally loved the Great British Bake Off when it appeared last month on PBS. What was not to love? Baking, lots and lots of elaborate baking. Pretty shots of the British countryside. “Brilliant” English accents. Super judges and hosts. Unlike American “cooking” shows these were real people working hard at their “bakes” as the Brits like to call it. Judges weren’t mean, contestants weren’t backbiting to each other. It was a joy to watch.

But best of all it introduced me to a world of British baking I wasn’t too familiar with. Victoria sponges, marzipan, and Battenburg Cakes. I was hooked and bought The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake¬† Cookbook. It’s a super cookbook. The only drawback is that there are no conversions for American measurements. And I’m having quite the time making these conversions. I finally bought a good digital scale, but even then I’m not sure it’s working too well.

Totally yummy Victoria Sponge!

The other issue is ingredients. First thing I made was a Victoria Sponge Cake. Some of the challenges were finding Caster Sugar (I ground my sugar in a food processor).¬† For my second recipe I made a Coffee and Walnut Battenburg cake. For this I needed ground almonds. First time I made this I tried grinding almonds in a food processor. No way. Then I found Ground Almond Meal in the store and it worked like a charm. I also needed white marzipan. Found that, but it wasn’t easy in my neck of the rural woods.

After two attempts I made a successful, and I think quite beautiful, Battenburg Cake. I’d give you the recipe, but at this point, there are so many conversion scribbles in my cookbook, I’m not sure which I used.

The history of the cake is fascinating. There’s some debate as to how it got it’s name, but the story is that when Queen Victoria’s granddaughter (also named Victoria) married Prince Louis Battenberg of Germany, that the cake was designed for their wedding. But other food historians say this is just a myth. Here’s a well-researched post about the origins of the cake, also called a Domino Cake. Plus an amazing photo of the wedding cake baked for one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters.

I must say, making this cake for me – a messy cook – was quite the challenge.

First attempt - following recipe that said to divide pan with waxed paper to get two even cakes - right!


Messy first attempt - not worth putting marzipan around it






As you can see the uneven cakes made it a mess, so I just didn’t bother with the Marzipan on this first attempt.

Much better! Even cakes making a checkerboard pattern with marzipan icing

This is precision baking! Here’s some photos of the results of my second attempt.

Really tasty except for the marzipan. WAY too sweet for my tastes.


Not bad - and it tasted great!

One Response to “British Bake Off Frenzy”

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  1. Bev says:

    Boy, that looks so yummy!

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