We’re back! This show hasn’t aired in over two years, but it’s time to go back to the shed with Mel, Claire, Matt and Maggie, as well as 12 new bakers! And, as is tradition, we start with Cake Week.
Look at those beautiful faces, full of hope, passion for baking, and an unjustified fear of Matt Moran. You can read more about them here.
Mel and Claire can’t seem to find the shed, which is a television show that I would absolutely watch.
Signature: Sponge Cake
The sponge cake is a classic, and a good way to start the new series. As far as I’m aware, my dad’s mum made excellent sponges, but because I was a very picky child, I refused to eat it because of the jam and cream (I am still a slightly picky adult, but I’d eat that now). Let’s see how the bakers did!
Haydn made a square sponge with blueberry coulis, cream and fresh blueberries. He’s currently a stay at home dad, but was previously a scientist, which he feels . His decoration focused on clean lines, because he said “you can make anything look spectacular as long as your lines are good.” The sponge cuts very well and Matt says the texture is exceptional. The judges love the blueberry and the icing, but there’s a little too much vanilla.
Hoda made a Persian love cake with a twist. It has pistachio and rosewater and is decorated with buttercream and edible flowers. It looks stunning and Maggie loves the pistachio on top. The layers are great and the rosewater is just right, but the cake isn’t a sponge, because the pistachio adds so much density to it.
Ashley’s sponge is tropical themed, with a passionfruit cremaux, as well as edible coconuts and passionfruit on top. The judges say it’s nice and fluffy.
Aaron’s sponge combines two of Australia’s greatest desserts, lamingtons and pavlova. It’s a chocolate and coconut covered sponge with meringue, yoghurt and strawberry filling. It’s a light cake and there’s good bitterness in the chocolate, but it needed a crunch in the middle.
It’s to Foxtel’s credit that the cast announcement doesn’t have the word “Nonna” in it, but we appear to have stopped off in MasterChef Australia for a bit. To be fair, Lidia has true Nonna energy. Her cakes are out well before everyone else’s, so she goes and helps the other bakers.
Lidia has lost her senses of taste and smell, so she bakes from memory and gets her grandchildren to taste for her. Claire says, “think of Mel and I as your grandchildren” Lidia makes a strawberry and marsala sponge, which is one of her mother’s recipes. Matt and Maggie say that the piping is very precise, and the cake cuts well. They can also smell the marsala. It tastes great, Lidia’s memory does her well, but it’s a bit plain looking.
Tom made a sponge filled with strawberry syrup and covered in Italian meringue. The Italian meringue is good, but the cake isn’t spongy (it’s underbaked), which Tom knows.
Blessing’s sponge comes with fcream cheese, a berry reduction, mixed berries and fresh pomegranate. Maggie describes it as a cornucopia of fruit. The flavours are very good, but Blessing put the buttercream on when the cake was still warm. Blessing also lets us know that she likes dancing while she bakes because it’s relaxing – if she’s having fun, she won’t be stressing out about the bake! It’s always good to have a dancer in the group.
Nurman made a pandan sponge with Chantilly cream and toasted coconut. It tasted good, but the cream was slightly curdled. The judges also commented that there wasn’t a lot of aeration, but it was still light and moist like a sponge.
Jawin made a sticky rice sponge, inspired by flavours from his Laotian heritage. It also has mango and frangipani flavours. It’s a good light sponge, but a little sweet, and the rice gives another definition of flavour.
Ella forgot to put the sugar in her first batter and kept it as a reminder to add sugar instead of throwing it out. I like Ella a lot, and that only increases as the episode continues. She made a sponge with cream, passionfruit curd and topped with a sugar tiara. It has a good height and it’s very soft and light. Matt described it as pillowy before Maggie made a lot of motions with her arms. Mel tells Ella that it’s a good sign when Maggie’s conducting.
Carmel made a vanilla sponge drizzled with chocolate, fresh berries and decorated with a chocolate bunny – Carmel has bunnies at home. The sponge is a little dense, but the jam, cream and sponge go together very well.
The first thing we hear from Nav is, “My nuts are very warm at the moment.” Thank you, editors. Nav makes a spiced pumpkin sponge with cloves and cinnamon, cream cheese icing and caramelised walnuts. When I first saw Nav decorating his cake, I wondered if it was a bit flat, but there were two tiers. It’s okay, everyone! There are no air bubbles in the cake, and the judges say it tastes great, but isn’t a sponge. I also noticed that he popped the air bubbles before putting the cake in the oven, which I’m taking to mean that he’s more of a bread guy than a cake guy, because knocking the air out of dough is something you do after the first prove.
Overall, this was a really good first challenge. There were some mistakes, but no disasters! Some of the cakes weren’t sponges, but we can manage that. I think it’s good for the bakers to know the difference between a sponge cake and a mud cake. Paul Hollywood would’ve decimated them though.
Technical: Japanese cotton cheesecake
Now it’s time for my favourite challenge, because everyone makes the same thing, and I don’t have to take as many notes. I have time to enjoy it! I also really enjoy a technical because it’s a skills test. This week, the bakers are making Maggie’s Japanese cotton cheesecake, but they don’t know that yet. Her clues are “it’s all about the fold, don’t crack up,” and “jiggle it just a little bit.” I don’t know if this counts as accidental innuendo on The Washing Up’s drinking game, that’s between you and your liver. Anyway, Matt and Maggie taste the cake, which is dusted with matcha. Maggie tells Matt that it’s all about the whipping – if you underwhip it will flop and if you overwhip it will be tough.
Back in the shed, the bakers are discovering that the umeboshi plums Maggie has included in the challenge are not sweet, but salty. This is a classic Maggie move. Lidia tells Mel that she loves her suit, and Claire is busy asking Nav which host his daughter likes better. Blessing has forgotten to put the cream in (which Maggie picks up straight away at judging) and says, “I hope it’s not a problem.” Mel’s facial expression is priceless. It’s very tense watching everyone flip their cakes.
From last to first, the technical results are: Jawin, Blessing, Haydn, Tom, Nav, Ella, Ashley, Carmel, Lidia, Hoda, Nurman and Aaron. It’s pretty impressive that Blessing didn’t come last after leaving out the cream. Egg white crimes are clearly more heinous than cream crimes.
Now it’s time for tea in the tent where Matt and Maggie say that Aaron and Nurman are looking good for Star Baker, while Jawin and Lidia are in trouble.
Showstopper: Miniature world cake
Claire Hooper: Bakers! There is! No! Prize money!
The showstopper is a miniature world cake, which Matt describes as an “imaginative scene of miniature decorations of a story that’s important to you.” It’s a good challenge to get to know the bakers a little better, so let’s see how we go.
Haydn made a musical theatre cake, which regular Bake Off viewers can tell is a take on an opera cake. It has almond cake, chocolate ganache, buttercream and raspberry jelly made with agar. I thought maybe Chekhov’s agar might come up since it was mentioned, but it was okay. Matt and Maggie said the cake was slightly too small for a showstopper. All the flavours were good, but the execution wasn’t the best.
Hoda made a “top of the world” coconut madeira cake with passionfruit curd, covered in white fondant and countries in gold leaf representing all the places she’d like to travel. Matt and Maggie said that the cake was a little dense, but the flavour was good.
Ashley’s miniature world was a book, and inside Ashley was reading a book with her daughter. The cake was vanilla chiffon with honey mousse, almond nougatine and wafer pages. At one point Ashley forgot to give herself a skirt, so she painted herself some gold pants. Matt and Maggie say that the cake is very pretty, and Ashley’s daughter would be proud.
Aaron made a rugby field out of mud cake – “Like most rugby players, it’s pretty dense.” It was decorated with green crass icing, salted caramel and crushed peanuts. Maggie said the first flavour she tasted with olive oil, but it had a great texture and lightness. Mel described the rugby scene to Matt and Maggie. She said she knows a lot about sports because she’s a lesbian, but my initial thought is that it was because she’s from Queensland.
Lidia made a chocolate and vanilla swirl cake, decorated with buttercream, a fondant Italian flag and her grandchildren. The highlight was when she asked tom the order of the colours in the Italian flag. Don’t you know? Matt and Maggie said that the texture was good, but the cake was cooked too long and lacked moistness.
Tom’s butter and caramel cake represented his upbringing on the Torres Strait Islands. It was filled with dulce de leche and decorated with blue and white mirror glaze and sharks. The mirror glaze was stunning but didn’t taste great, while the cakes were fantastic.
Blessing almost immediately alienated Maggie by making a chilli chocolate cake in the shape of a volcano with cream cheese icing and Swiss meringue buttercream. It was a representation of how people are destroying the earth and it was a great concept. As for the cake, it was incredibly moist. Matt said there was just a hint of chilli, but Maggie thought it was a lot. You can’t win with Maggie Beer and chilli!
Nurman made a chocolate stout mountain with whisky cream, decorated with trees and moss. The judges loved the cake and icing, but unfortunately it broke apart, so the presentation wasn’t there.
Speaking of Nurman, him falling on the floor in exhaustion at the end of the challenge is so relatable. I felt like that when I finished work yesterday.
Jawin also made a mountain cake, dedicated to his love of hiking. It was strawberry, wattle seed and vanilla, with a strawberry meringue buttercream and marshmallow fondant. The flag at the top of the mountain had Matt and Maggie’s faces, which was a nice touch. I also noticed that there are gravestones on the side of the mountain. What kind of mountains are you climbing, Jawin? Maggie said that the wattle seed had a lovely coffee flavour that goes well with the sweetness of the fondant.
Ella made the cake that everyone’s talking about. A lemon-lime ‘Taboob’ cake representing breastfeeding, complete with a flowered lime biscuit bra and white chocolate and passionfruit ganache “milk”. This produced some of the best quotes of the episode:
“My nipples aren’t working right, my bra’s lopsided.”
“But how’s the cake?”
“You can take the bra off”
I also enjoyed Lidia coming to help decorate the bra with her tweezers.
Matt was blushing at the cake and the judges loved the presentation, the flavour and the technique. The cake was soft while the biscuit was crisp.
Carmel made a giant carrot cake for her rabbits. It had orange marshmallow fondant, edible soil and rabbits! The judges liked the playfulness of the scene. There was quite a bit of spice, the cake was moist, and the flavour was great.
Nav made a volcano chocolate cake with mayonnaise and rosewater cream (I had to double check that mayonnaise was an ingredient because note taking happens quickly), dark and white chocolate ganache, and seawater jelly. Matt and Maggie said the cake was really fudgy and it was a great combination of flavours, but if he’s going to put a gel on the cake, it needs to be edible.
Back in the potting shed, Mel and Claire have another chat with Matt and Maggie about how the bakers did. The judges loved that the showstopper helped them get to know the bakers. After that performance, Matt and Maggie can’t even keep Ella’s Star Baker status a secret. Nurman also did well, but he was outshone. Meanwhile, Lidia and Nav are in trouble.
Unsurprisingly, Ella is crowned Star Baker and Lidia is going home this week. The fact that Lidia didn’t make any large mistakes is a testament to the talent in the shed this week. She went home because she seems to be baking with traditional flavours and not stretching herself. This reminds me of Diana and Norman in Series 5 of GBBO.
- Welcome to my recaps for this year! I’m really excited to see where this goes, and I really like this group of bakers.
- Recipes! Japanese cotton cheesecake; Taboob cake
- I’m also publishing these independently now, which means two things: these will be up on Fridays rather than straight after the episode, and the availability of GIFs is uncertain.
- Pedantry corner: please calling it a blueberry/tropical/meringue sponge when those flavours aren’t in the sponge. I guess it’s difficult to find another way to describe it, but Nurman’s sponge was made with pandan!
- Jawin is the contestant to most likely end up working in my office.
- Note on naming conventions: yes, this is technically season 6, but we all know the Channel 9 season doesn’t count.
- I had to double check with Chris of The Washing Up that there was indeed mayonnaise in Nav’s cake in some form or another. I’m out of note taking practice.
- Mel and Claire’s bit at the beginning of the episode is estra fun if you’ve been to the filming location, but then again when I was at the season 4 finale I got lost trying to find the toilets.
- Earthquake watch? At the start of day two when everyone sits down to talk before the showstopper, they were talking about an earthquake. I then spent five minutes doing some research to see if if was the big Victorian earthquake last year, which was on September 22. Then I checked my email for the season announcement, which was September 29. It just said that filming had commenced, not that it started that day, so it’s a possibility. And even though it films in Sydney, I know people who said they felt it.