The television network celebrated its Love Baking season by putting local celebrities and media to the baking test with a bake-off held at the Miele Kitchen on Peter Place in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
With our aprons on, a mixing bowl and wooden spoon at hand and measured out ingredients in front of us, each "contestant" had just 30 minutes to whip up British baker Lorraine Pascale's famous chocolate cake. Dubbed her "I Can't Believe You Made That!" cake because as Pascale explains in the first episode of her exciting television series Baking Made Easy when you make it people will exclaim, "I can't believe you made that!".
The gorgeous Pascale is a former model-turned-highly-trained-patisserie chef. In her six-part series Baking Made Easy she shares her secrets, passion and knowledge on baking sweet and savoury recipes. Having worked in some of the most critically acclaimed UK restaurants, Pascale will feature old favourite recipes as well as new twists on modern classics, and tips on helpful shortcuts, techniques and kitchen secrets for baking. And if her chocolate cake is anything to go by, baking can be easy and fun.
With our cakes in the oven ready to bake, our next challenge was to ice and creatively decorate already prepared cakes just like my favourite baker, the Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro. However, with more icing on our faces and hands than in our decorating bags, we soon learnt that icing a cake is not quite as easy or simple as Buddy makes it look. Cake decorating really is an art and involves plenty of patience and technique, as the series Great British Bake Off proves.
Airing this September on BBC Lifestyle, the show is an entertaining and exciting nationwide search of the UK to find and crown the best amateur in Britain. The series follows 10 passionate bakers as they travel the country and each week undertake three challenges in different disciplines designed to showcase the exacting science behind the art of baking.
As a child, I always enjoyed and spent a lot of time baking, but eventually stopped as I grew up and moved out of home to study and then work. And although my creation didn't quite take the cake at the bake-off challenge, it was great to make a return to the creative and some what therapeutic world of baking.
* Catch the Great British Bake Off from Tuesday, 4 September at 8pm. Baking Made Easy airs from Tuesday, 11 September at 9pm on BBC Lifestyle (channel 180 on DStv).
Lorraine Pascale’s "I can’t believe you made that" chocolate cake
30 minutes – 1 hour preparation time
30 minutes – 1 hour cooking time
• Vegetable oil or oil spray
• 200g/7oz butter, softened
• 200g/7oz caster sugar
• 4 free-range eggs
• 140g/5oz plain flour
• 60g/2½oz cocoa powder
• Pinch salt
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 400g/14oz plain, milk, or white chocolate cigarillos (about 75–80 in total)
For the butter cream:
• 250g/9oz butter, softened
• 500g/1lb 2oz icing sugar
• 100g/3½oz good dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids), melted and slightly cooled
• Strawberries or raspberries for the girls/ Figs, quartered for the boys
1. Preheat the oven to 180/C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 20cm/8in round deep cake tin with baking paper and brush or spray with oil.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until they begin to go pale. Add half of the eggs and half of the flour and mix well. Add the rest of the eggs, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder and beat for a minute or two until the mixture is uniform. Dollop into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30–40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.
3. Meanwhile, make the butter cream: put the butter and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk together until the mixture goes fluffy. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whisk for a further two minutes.
4. Once the cake is completely cool, remove it from the tin. Carefully cut the top flat with a large serrated knife. (Eat this bit as a chef’s perk!)
5. Turn the cake upside down on a 20cm/8in cake board so that the bottom now becomes a nice flat top. Split the cake horizontally and sandwich the top and bottom together with a 1cm/½in layer of butter cream.
6. Spread half of the remaining butter cream all over the top and sides of the cake, making it as smooth as possible. Put it in the fridge to set before doing another layer – this makes it much easier to get neat squared-off edges.
7. Gently push the cigarillos vertically onto the sides of the cake; positioning them as straight as possible and making sure they touch the bottom.
8. The next step is up to you – I can’t tell you the wide-eyed looks you’ll get when you walk into a room holding this finished cake. Serve with a self-satisfied grin.