Due to a sprained ankle, I recently binge watched three seasons of the Great British Baking Show on Netflix in the span of a couple weeks.
In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a baking contest where each week the contestants have three baking challenges and at the end one of the contestants is eliminated. Oddly enough, they bake in a big white tent in the middle of a field of green grass. The soothing scenery goes well with the atmosphere of the show.
Everyone is so nice to each other. I’m used to mean British judges (like Gordon Ramsay) screaming at struggling contestants. But these judges didn’t call the contestants “donkeys” or go red in the face from yelling at them for burning the risotto.
Side note: Why is everyone burning the risotto? The first time I ever made risotto, I feared that it was a complicated dish, but it’s basically like cooking rice.
On the Great British Baking show, the meanest thing they ever say is “That was disappointing.” The two female hosts, Mel and Sue, even help the contestants! I’ve seen them hold a tin so that the contestant can get a cake out without it sticking to the pan. One judge even told a contestant when to take out a bake that looked done to her.
After binge watching 3 seasons, I started to pretend that I was a contestant on the show whenever I cooked at home.
One day, I took some garlic bread out of the oven, flipped it over, tapped the back, and said to my boyfriend, “It’s raw.” This was not true as I bought the bread pre-made. But I had fun imitating the male judge, Paul.
I took my imagination into overdrive for Easter Sunday. We were going to my boyfriend’s cousin’s house for dinner. His cousin asked us to bring Hawaiian rolls and whatever dessert we wanted. Normally, I would buy a cheesecake or cookies from the store, but I was on a Great British Baking Show kick. This was my chance.
The day before Easter, I contemplated my options. I could do sugar cookies shaped like eggs and bunnies, but that seemed too simple. Wait! Bunnies. Bunnies eat carrots. Carrot cake! Yes, I had it. It was perfect for Easter, but not too on the nose.
I took to the internet to find carrot cake recipes and settled on the one with the best pictures. It was perfect. Full of carrots and pecans and iced with cream cheese frosting. I was ready!
And then I spent the rest of my day reading for fun. Crap.
If I wanted to get the cake done right and in time, I needed to make it that night. But I’d spent the day reading and now I didn’t wanna cook.
I started to think about it. Whenever they have a challenge on the show, it’s timed. They’ve made three tiered cakes with chocolate butterflies and frosting shaped into flowers in three hours. Fuck that. And then I had it! I decided to make carrot cupcakes.
Boom! I’d follow the same recipe, but put the batter into cupcake tins, saving baking and cooling time. I could also save time by buying frosting instead of making it, I was a genius.
On Sunday morning, I got to work baking. In my mind I was on the Great British Baking Show. The challenge was to make 30 cupcakes, all the same size and bake.
I made a mess in the kitchen, getting flour and sugar everywhere. When it came time to mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, I grabbed a spatula and carefully folded them together like the recipe said. Normally, I would ignore the recipe and just throw that shit in the mixer. But after watching the show, I learned that folding ingredients in baking is important as you need to keep as much of the air in as possible to make your bake light in texture instead of heavy. At least I think that’s what they were saying…
By the time I gently folded in the carrots and pecans it was looking pretty good. I took the time to spoon out the mixture into even portions in the cupcake tin. When baking in batches, the judges are always looking to see that each piece is the same size. I still managed to end up with 30 different size cupcakes, but fortunately, my judges would be my boyfriend’s family and they wouldn’t care.
Once the cupcakes cooled, I put my store bought icing in a piping bag and did a neat swirl on the top of each one. They looked beautiful. I would have been proud to bring them up to the judges despite the different sizes.
Then I bit into one. It was dry and I could barely taste any of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves that I put in. I could hear the judges in my head:
“I can’t taste anything,” Mary Berry would say.
“When you do something simple like this, it’s all about getting the flavors right and they’re just not there,” Paul Hollywood would say. “It’s just disappointing.”
Ouch. Even though they were just in my head, it was rough. No wonder people fell to pieces on that show even though the judges never yell. It’s like your parents saying that they’re not mad, just disappointed.
The disembodied voices of Paul and Mary in my head stopped me from taking the cupcakes to the party. However, I’d like to think that they didn’t eliminate me that week and that I can still win this thing with my next bake.