The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 2 Episode 1: Cake

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James: I would imagine that Maggie Beer smells like cookies and kindness.

Welcome to another year of The Great Australian Bake Off and my recaps. I have been blessed with #screenerprivilege for at least the first three episodes, so I can schedule these to go up as soon as the episode finishes. This week we have to fit in meeting the contestants, three challenges and one person going home. We’ve only just met them, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. On your marks, get set, bake!

The Contestants

The first thing we hear from Monica is that she’s susceptible to Matt’s blue eyes. Just putting that here for posterity. She’s from New South Wales and has two children.

Fiona is a Queensland based copyright lawyer, so she’s definitely used to dealing with stress. Her bulldog’s name is Franklin.

Bojan runs a tow truck company in the ACT and he learned how to bake from YouTube videos. Based on US Survivor’s current theme, it would blow Jeff Probst’s mind that Bojan is not a ‘millennial’.

Olivia is from Queensland and she bakes using recipes passed down from her nana.

Jeremy is a welding inspector from South Australia, and his apron has a wolf on it. These kinds of details are important. He made a very fancy cake for his daughter’s birthday. He really wants to ‘prove himself’ in the first bake.

Liesel is a uni student from WA. She lives on a farm and bakes with home grown produce. She’s studying conservation (I studied that!) and biological science. I don’t think Jeff Probst would be able to work her out either.

Diana is a full time model. She’s from Sweden with Slovakian heritage and somehow manages to bake and stay thin. Her cat is adorable.

James works in IT and likes to play video games with his partner.

Antonio is 16 and has entered the competition to get out of school. That or he really likes baking. He was taught by his nonna. Despite his age, he’s not afraid to put alcohol in his bakes.

Noel is a retired teacher who runs a garden nursery in Tasmania. He’s won baking prizes in shows, so he’s definitely one to watch.

Cheryl trains race horses with her vet husband in New South Wales. Forget the baking, they should have their own show.

Janette is a grandmother, and she bakes cakes for all occasions, including weddings and baptisms.

Signature bake: Lamingtons

When I learned that the first signature bake was lamingtons, I immediately wondered if the reason I’m not on this show* is that I don’t have a signature lamington. I’ve never even baked a lamington! I’ll have to work on that, because lamingtons are the perfect signature bake for this week. They’re definitely not a showstopper. So what have our contestants done to reinvent the humble lamington?

Monica has tested 14 different types of lamingtons on her children and is frankly getting a bit sick of them. She made tiramisu lamingtons filled with crème pâtissiere (or in the local dialect, crem pat) and sprayed on some coffee liqueur, which Antonio immediately tried (“Your mother will kill me!”) The sponge is a bit too dense, but both Maggie and Matt love the flavours.

Fiona made a pandan infused sponge for her lamington with a white chocolate filling. Matt says that the pandan leaves she has on the stove smell like fish stock, which isn’t the best start. The lamingtons are so good that Maggie Beer takes a second bite.

Bojan made lime lamingtons, filled with a lime curd and covered in lime icing and coconut. These are the ones I most want to eat, aside from the radioactive colour. Matt and Maggie love the flavours, but there’s not enough lime curd in the filling.

Olivia made ‘Pretty in Pink’ lamingtons which would be VERY SWEET. She’s melted down redskins for her filling and has put raspberry jelly crystals in the icing. Matt: ‘I just love that everything you’re doing is so natural,’ which means ‘Why aren’t you using real raspberries?’ They’re too sweet for Maggie, who thinks it tastes like chewing gum. Matt loves it, and thinks it’s funny that the butch guy likes pink lamingtons because he believes very strongly in gender norms. Also colour doesn’t equal flavour, but whatever.

Jeremy made choc-cherry lamingtons with a chocolate sponge, filled with cherry jam and cream, which sounds delicious. There were only eight, so Matt asked if he ate the other four. The flavour is good, but Maggie says they’re too big and Matt says the sponge is a bit dry.

Liesel made ginger and honey lamingtons, with a ginger sponge and honey flavouring the icing and creamy filling. Maggie and Matt love it, and like that the honey isn’t too sweet.

Diana made mocha and cherry lamingtons with a maple sponge, cherry filling and a mocha icing. Maggie is worried that there are too many flavours. This turns out to be true, as Matt says the sponge is delicious, but there are too many flavours.

James baked a white chocolate sponge with green tea icing for his lamingtons. Matt questions whether this will be enough, immediately sowing doubt in James’ mind. He decides to add a grean tea infused cream to his filling. That turns out to be a mistake as the tannins in the tea dominate the other flavours.

Antonio made choc-cherry lamingtons. The chocolate sponge is soaked in a cherry liqueur, filled with cherry jam, and coated in crushed pistachios instead of the traditional coconut. He overdid it with the cherry liqueur, and Maggie suggested that the pistachios could be crushed smaller and added to the coconut. She’s so generous with her tips.

Noel has gone for a traditional chocolate covered lamington, but with a citrus curd rather than raspberry jam. He froze his sponges so the icing doesn’t seep into the cake. This is how you win baking prizes at the Melbourne Show. Matt joked that he’d tweet that tip later. Noel has made a great lamington, and Matt is very impressed to have learned something from a contestant.

Cheryl‘s lamingtons are made from a brown butter sponge and filled with marmalade. Matt likes the marmalade, but doesn’t understand the dollop of cream on top of the lamingtons. Apparently they need a bit more oomph.

Janette‘s lamingtons are covered in chocolate, filled with raspberry and orange jam, and topped with jam and cream. Her presentation is disappointing, but they taste delicious, and Maggie and Matt love her jam.

Technical challenge: Pear and amaretto upside-down cake

I wonder if Matt Moran knew Stranger Things would be a hit when he set this challenge. Once again, 16 year old Antonio is baking with liqueur. Antonio asks Claire not to tell his mum, before taking his caramel too far. It is night time outside when they’re about halfway through the challenge. Liesel promised herself that she wouldn’t be one of the crazy people staring inside her oven, which she’s broken on the second challenge. Diana doesn’t want to turn her cake over, so Claire offers to do it and becomes immediately nervous. Someone says the proof is in the pudding, so we’re off to a good start with wordplay. When judging, Maggie Beer says that she’s a “bitter person,” which is of course in reference to her palate, not her delightful personality.

I’m not going to go through individual comments for the signature bakes, just list the order from last to first: Bojan, Antonio, Fiona, Diana, Olivia, Monica, Cheryl, Janette, Liesel, James, Noel, and Jeremy in first place.

Showstopper: Ombre cake

The judges are looking for a layer cake with the gradation of the same colour. Maggie points out that even if the ombre effect is great, it needs to taste good as well. Antonio appears to be making a purple cake. Bojan is doing something blue, and Monica thinks it’s unnatural how much she loves baking.

Fiona’s Bel Air Ombre Cake has four layers of lemon sponge, filled with lemon curd and covered in raspberry Italian butter ceam, which she has piped in rosettes. The judges love the texture, flavour and decoration, so she could be up for Star Baker.

James has changed the idea for his showstopper based on a dream he had the previous night. His Haut et Bas Gateaux (up and down cake) has six layers of vanilla sponge with lemon butter cream. He’s going for a reverse gradation: the inside will be going light to dark, and the outside will be going dark to light. He says he needs to level up his cakes. Unfortunately Maggie prefers the icing to the cake.

Cheryl isn’t a cake person, so her Nectar of the Gods cake is inspired by the flavours of red wine. One of the fillings is sour cherries and licorice. This would be my mum’s favourite cake. It’s not quite how she wanted it to look. Her cakes came out rubbery, but they smell good and the flavours are okay. She’s probably in trouble. Maggie says that the cake isn’t a cake.

It’s autumn (when this was filmed), so Noel‘s making a Shades of Autumn cake with mocha, chocolate and hazelnut flavours, frangelico liqueur (hide it from Antonio). Matt Moran likes his Frangelico with a dash of lime juice. He listens to his cakes to see if they’re ready, which sounds familiar. All positives! Matt’s favourite cake was the chocolate one. Noel’s chocolate leaf decoration is fantastic.

Janette is doing a rose ombre cake. Three layers of rose flavoured sponge, and some rose buttercream. Hopefully it fares better than Norman’s lavender meringue. The rose is overpowering, and she appears to be in trouble.

Olivia is going with all natural flavours for this challenge, with a two-tiered Lemon Delight Ombre Cake. The sponge is lemon and sour cream with Swiss meringue butter cream for the icing. It was so good that Maggie was nudging Matt while he was still eating!

Diana is also going for citrus, with grapefruit, orange and lemon in her sponges. The cake will be decorated with buttercream and white chocolate butterflies. The cake was much smaller than the judges were expecting. Unfortunately the icing is overpowering the cake.

Jeremy bakes a pina colada cake, with designs on styling it as a pineapple. Claire says “Of all the cakes in the room, this is the one I would wear as a hat.” He has trouble with his fondant leaves, so he repurposes the top of his pineapple for decoration. The choice of flavours works in his favour, and the sponge is well baked.

Monica has collaborated with her children for this challenge, so her cake is strawberry and raspberry flavoured. It has seven layers and is covered in marshmallow fondant. Maggie asks if it will be too sweet, and Claire suggests there should be a child judge. Make that happen immediately. There is enough lemon there for Maggie, and she goes back for a second forkful.

Liesel makes a fairy ombre cake with coconut sponges, fresh raspberries and a marshmallow fairy garden. She’s interested in the chemistry of making marshmallows and jam thanks to her science background. Maggie nudged Matt again, which means she loves it.

Bojan‘s cake is blue! Thankfully it’s vanilla flavoured rather than bubblegum. He’s making cream cheese frosting as well, which is delicious. He did well with the gradation! The sponge is good, but Matt would have preferred some tang in there, it’s a bit too sweet.

Antonio is also making a vanilla sponge, but there are eight layers (EIGHT!) and they’re purple instead of blue. He’s making sugar shards as part of his decoration. He decided to go with six layers in the end. The cakes are all different colours, but not necessarily a gradation. Maggie doesn’t care, because they taste fantastic.

Star Baker: Monica! It could just as easily have gone to Fiona or Noel, but they’re back next week, so let’s see what they can do!

Janette is going home, and Cheryl is lucky to have survived. What happens when your cake is not a cake?

Other Thoughts:

  • This is where you can find this week’s recipes.
  • #wildlifewatch: A flock of birds, a magpie, bees!, kelpie on a walk, a small bird, kookaburra, rabbit, an ibis, cockatoo!,
  • I like the Australian twist on the opening credits
  • Once again, the opportunity for the bakers to show their personalities through their aprons is an A+ choice.
  • Mel and Claire are on a cake-out. I’ve missed them so. I would also like to watch this spin-0ff, get on it Foxtel!
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Mel Buttle and Claire Hooper star in The Cake-Out

  • Matt expects damn fine cake, so he’s obviously been catching up on Twin Peaks.
  • The windvane is topped with magpie silhouettes.
  • All images courtesy of Foxtel and Fremantle Media.
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