The Great Australian Bake Off, Season 4 Episode 1: Cake #BakeOffAU

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Annette: I’m secretly trying to get them drunk.
Mel and Claire: You’re a clever girl, Annette.

It’s finally back! The Great Australian Bake Off has been off our screens for so long that Matt Moran, owner of Aria at Circular Quay is now moonlighting as a gardener. As is tradition, it’s cake week (we’ll pretend that British Bake Off didn’t start with biscuits last year)! On with the show!

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Signature: Butter Cakes

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Butter cakes were my favourite growing up. At that time that generally meant a vanilla cake from a packet, but this is Bake Off. A butter cake is a cake with a lot of butter in it. (As of writing this recap, I don’t know what The Washing Up’s drinking game has on it, but even if it only has “butter” as one of the options, you will have been drunk by 10 minutes in. Good to know that the Devondale sponsorship is alive and well.)

Our first baker is Don, a superannuation consultant with a passion for baking and cars. He may just be Matt Moran’s new best friend. He made a lime and coconut butter cake with a lime curd filling, meringue butter cream icing and decorated with marzipan limes. Maggie and Matt commented that the presentation could be better as the marzipan didn’t look like limes, but the cake had good flavours and was moist.

Annette is Scottish and lives on a farm with her husband and children. She likes pink, so she decided to make a matcha and strawberry cake. The cake is matcha, filled and iced with strawberry buttercream, and topped with strawberries and fresh flowers. Matt says the cake is really buttery and too greasy, but Maggie likes the buttery denseness. Our first disagreement for the season!

Laura is the youngest baker for the season and she manages a cafe in Tweed Heads. She made a chocolate and orange cake and put some strange ingredients in there. The batter had mayonnaise and stout (I’ve heard of stout and chocolate as a combination before, that at least makes sense), and the filling had cauliflower and avocado. I remember Barb using avocado in Free From week last season to make a chocolate tart, so that’s not new either. The cauliflower is. Anyway, it was topped with fresh berries and edible flowers. Matt and Maggie were wary, but the cake was moist and good to eat. Maggie said it was like a mud cake, but without the heaviness.

Wynn is a disability services manager and father of four. He also made a lime and coconut butter cake, with a lime curd filling and Italian meringue buttercream. He torched the meringue and topped the cake with candied lime and spun sugar. Matt and Maggie loved the meringue, saying it was light and fluffy, and Matt called the cake a “knockout”.

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Zee is a marriage celebrant who has met Claire – she married Claire’s best friend. She also started the show with a bold statement, saying that she wasn’t creaming the butter and sugar like everyone else. Zee moved to Australia from London for love and her son is adorable. Zee made a vanilla butter cake with a salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream (can an icing have too many adjectives?) and decorated with dark chocolate shards. While the cake seemed dense to touch, the texture was light and fluffy, but Maggie and Matt said the flavour was too rich.

Dennis is a retired teacher and children’s book author. He reminds me of my old choirmaster, Roger. Because he’s a legend, Dennis brought his own oven mitts with him. He got them from the 2 dollar shop but they were $15. How the world has changed. Dennis made a rhubarb and ginger bundt cake, topped with fresh raspberries and lime zest, with columns of custard piped up the side. The presentation was lacking as the custard was too warm and lost shape, but it tasted great and the rhubarb came through.

Subha will henceforth be known as Sunny. She grew up in Pakistan and taught herself how to bake because her mum didn’t know how. She said her mum used the oven as storage, which is also how my grandma uses her oven. It does seem like a good place to keep baking dishes when you’re not using them. Sunny is a research scientist working on her PhD. She made a lemon-scented butter cake filled with sudachi curd. Sudachi is a tart, Japanese citrus that’s in the same family as yuzu. Will it become the new yuzu? The cake was iced with swiss meringe, topped with matcha crumb, raspberries and edible gold paint. The cake was moist, and Maggie said the citrus finished it off beautifully, and Matt loved the flavour.

Anston is vegan, but is happy to cook non-vegan meals for his friends. He’s also a criminal justice tutor. He made an Arabic spiced butter cake to reflect his heritage, topping it with date puree, pomegranate seeds, edible flowers and gold leaf. He imported dates from Dubai because he loves the flavour. Matt and Maggie said that the cake was very crusty, and the spices were fantastic.

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Sue is a retired bank manager who loves to cook and bake for her large Lebanese family. The things she made in the background package looked really good too, I’m coming over. She made a carrot butter cake with pineapple and Middle Eastern spices, filled with a lemon cream cheese and topped with caramelised carrots and blanched almonds. Matt and Maggie said that the cake was soft, moist and buttery with beautiful flavours and textures.

David is a project manager and has a cute daughter. I hope we’ll learn more about him soon. He made an apple butter cake filled with caramelised apple and creme patissiere, topped with white chocolate buttercream and toasted coconut. Maggie and Matt were impressed with the presentation – Maggie said it looked fulsome and wholesome, and there was a good balance of flavours. Maggie also said that the apple through the centre helped the spice flavours come through.

Angela lives in Adelaide with her husband and children, but is originally from California. She made a spiced apple pie cake, filled with apple pie filling and iced with cinnamon buttercream. She decorated it with puff pastry and a crumble. Maggie said it was exactly like an apple pie in a cake, and Matt said it was perfectly balanced. He also asked for a piece to take home later.

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Dan is a social media influencer, originally from Italy. He likes to bake for his partner and his family. He made a Sicilian cassata cake, filled with a chocolate and candied peel ricotta cream. It was iced with marzipan and topped with royal icing and candied fruits. Matt and Maggie said that the marzipan was too thick and took away from the cake, which had a good texture.

Technical: Raffa Cakes

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Matt made the first technical of the season. His cryptic clues are: “use time wisely, precision is key, and [he] loves a firm set”. I think that’s our second innuendo of the series so far. I’m sure there will be many more. Meanwhile, Sunny is trying to see if she can get a glimpse of anything from under the cloths and that is probably what I would do too. So, Matt has set Raffa Cakes as the first challenge, which are of course like Jaffa cakes but with raspberry instead of orange and nothing to do with Rafael Nadal. They have a genoise sponge base, a layer of jelly and topped with a chocolate coating.

In the background, we can see that it’s getting dark. The first day is always long in Bake Off, but hopefully not as long as the first night cocktail party on The Bachelor. Will it be dawn when the judging is over? Some of the bakers have remarked on having to make jelly in the first week, which is fair. Laura and Don have separated their eggs, which Matt has told Maggie is what they shouldn’t do. When they’re cutting out their jelly, Annette is offering everyone jelly shots.

Here’s a time lapse GIF!

401 time lapse

From last to first, the order is Don, Laura, Annette, Dennis, Sue, Dan, Anston, Angela, Dee, David, Wynn and Sunny. Those top ones were very close, but Sunny’s looked almost perfect. Okay it was still dark when they got to go home.

Showstopper: The Ultimate Illusion Cake

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Ahead of the showstopper, Maggie says that she’s really impressed with Angela, Sunny and David. Don, Zee and Dennis are in trouble, but it also seems like it’s pretty close.

The showstopper this week is “The Ultimate Illusion Cake,” and I really want to know what that means. Oh so it’s a cake that doesn’t look like a cake. It was popular on instagram when the show was filmed.

Angela made a pancake stack that looked so realistic I’m not sure if I’d be happy or disappointed upon finding out it’s a regular cake. It was made from a cream cheese and lemon pound cake that was layered with blueberry jam and maple syrup butter cream. Mel asks what a pound cake is:

401 pound cake

It was decorated with butter pats and blueberries made of fondant and drizzled with syrup. Matt did a double take when he saw the blueberries because they looked so realistic. Matt and Maggie said that the cake was beautiful, they loved the blueberry and the cream cheese wasn’t over rich.

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Dennis made a banana and apricot cake to look like a wheel of cheese, complete with a family of fondant mice (RIP Boris). After praising the detail, Matt cuts right through Boris as Maggie says “Death to the mice!” It’s not quite her excitement at the destruction of a village when Marcus’ volcano erupted last year, but still quite vengeful. Matt and Maggie asked how much banana was in there, and Dennis admitted that he cut back because he thought the cake was too moist when he practised it. As Maggie points out, moist is what they want in cakes.

Sue told the judges she was making a chicken. Matt asks what kind of chicken, she says a live one. I’ve decided it looks like an isa brown. Sue’s chicken (let’s call her Wanda after one of my sister’s old chickens) was made from orange sponge with lemon custard filling. It had a buttercream coating and fondant feathers. This led to my favourite exchange of the episode:

Mel: Whatever you do, Sue, don’t pluck it up.
Sue: If I don’t finish, I’ll be half-plucked.

Thankfully Sue is pluck free, as the cake is light and fluffy, and the lemon custard stops it from being too sweet.

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Laura made a vegan coconut cake, which led to anexchange between her and Matt that could’ve been from an Ibsen play:

Matt: No eggs.
Laura: No eggs.
Matt: No dairy.
Laura: No dairy.
Matt: No butter.
Laura: No butter. There’s butter in the icing.

Anyway, the cake was designed like a planterbox, with a spiced rum buttercream filling and Swiss meringue buttercream flowers. Laura was in the gardening club at school and Mel calls her a nerd. Matt said that the barrel was mindblowing and Maggie praised the detail. The cake was heavy, but very impressive to make a cake that moist without dairy or eggs. The rum flavour went well with the coconut and Matt said it was spectacular.

David made an “Over the Moon” cake. A white chocolate mudcake with raspberry jam and covered with buttercream. It had a fondant planet and spaceship and a honeycomb asteroid. David said taht his dad was in the astronomical society and built telescopes. When the cake is brought to the front, Mel makes a Uranus joke. That’s not the interesting part – Maggie smiled and maybe laughed a bit, but did she find it funny or was she just being polite? Matt and Maggie say that the jam is beautiful, they love the creativity and the cake stands out.

Dan made a tree stump with fondant bark and mushrooms and a chocolate matcha moss. The cake itself was a chocolate butter cake with a peanut butter buttercream. Maggie says that the cake looks just like a piece of timber and Matt says that it looks incredible. The peanut butter flavour is amazing and the judges say that the bark adds an additional texture to the cake.

Anston made a weight set (his instagram handle used to be vegan gym junkie) for his illusion. He told the judges that he weighed 180 kg in 2008 and then adopted weights as part of his lifestyle. His dumbbell and weight plate were made from a raspberry and vanilla sponge, while the kettlebell was made from chocolate chip and passionfruit. It was covered in metallic fondant. The judges said that it was nice to cut and they loved the fresh raspberries.

Annette made a sea turtle, which she decorated with hand-painted fondant for the shell and fondant eggs. The cake was chocolate mud, accompanied by a chocolate whiskey ganache. Annette may be our boozy baker for the season since she’s using the solid strategy of getting the judges drunk. Matt and Maggie said that the concept and narrative were spot on, but the whiskey was overpowering.

We get a nice interstitial where they comment that it’s a cool day, so the fondant is difficult to work with. Dan helps Angela with her fondant. Meanwhile, David and Wynn have hit it off, which makes me immediately worried that one of them is going home. I watch a lot of television, okay? That’s a very Joss Whedon move.

When I learn that Wynn is making a pterodactyl, my notes read “That’s what we’re talking about. Jurassic Park! Where’s the velociraptor?” The egg was a coffee and chocolate mud cake with dark chocolate ganace, topped with a baby pterodactyl made from fondant. I missed exactly what Wynn said, but he did something fancy and the fondant melted onto the rod. Matt and Maggie praised the detail on the pterodactyl and said it was too good to cut. Poor Boris (and Robert’s Dolly Varden from last season). The cake itself was moist and rich, and surpassed Matt and Maggie’s expectations.

Don made an antique porcelain vase from caramel cake and dark chocolate ganache. The vase decoration was fondant, as were the handmade roses. Maggie said that the cake was moreish and moist, and Matt told Don he was back in the game.

Zee made a beach scene with a bucket and sandcastle. The sandcastle was made from chocolate sponge and dark chocolate ganache and the bucket was vanilla sponge with strawberry and white chocolate ganache. The sand was made from crushed lemon and poppyseed biscuit. Matt said he loved the bucket of sand, but there wasn’t enough definition in the sandcastle. The cake was really good and not too sweet, but it was let down by the visual.

Sunny made a concrete succulent pot that was visually stunning. She made a tiramisu sponge, mascarpone buttercream and a chocolate shortbread crumb. She iced the cake with buttercream and topped it with a wattleseed shortbread and piped buttercream succulents. Maggie and Matt praised the presentation and Maggie said that the succulents were the right colours. They loved the flavours of the buttercream and the wattleseed. They said it was an illusion and a beautiful cake to eat.

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Angela won Star Baker for week one, but it was pretty close with Sunny. Zee went home, which surprised me a little, I thought it was going to be Dennis.

Other thoughts:

  • In addition to being Bake Off premiere day, today is also my one year anniversary of moving to Sydney. It’s not something I’ve written a lot about publicly, and more of that story will be revealed throughout the season.
  • I’m not going to be live-tweeting most of the episodes, because I have dance class on Thursday nights. I’m going to miss you, #BakeOffAU fam!
  • Robert Harwood is probably disappointed that no one used modelling chocolate for that showstopper challenge.
  • Robert also did some promotional work for the new season at the Royal Perth Show with Mel Buttle. I’ve seen some of it, it’s pretty hilarious.
  • Week one trends: gold leaf/edible gold. It’s like an episode of The Great Canadian Baking Show.
  • If you have any requests for GIFs, let me know on Twitter and I’ll get it done.

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