To celebrate the return of The Great British Bake Off, we gave Nancy Birtwhistle and Frances Quinn, two of the show’s finest winners, one of our plain sliced Victoria sponges to decorate. The result? Some stunning cakes and a host of tips and tricks to help you turn a simple cake into a showstopper
Autumn bliss cake
by Nancy Birtwhistle
Bake Off 2014 winner Nancy Birtwhistle gives us an autumnal sunset with her marbled cake complete with fresh raspberries, a chocolate crown and edible butterflies. See below for recipe.
How to make it
“I’m inspired by what I see, like my garden, which is why I wanted to use my Autumn Bliss raspberries for this cake. I’m trying to move away from using traditional fondant; rice paper is a great alternative, as it’s light and sugar-free and you can carve lovely shapes – like these piped butterflies. The white chocolate marble finish gives it a lovely autumnal colour and is easy to achieve – promise!”
“Chocolate is easy to work with if you know a few tricks. I spread my collar of dark chocolate over rice paper to cool, which makes it more malleable and means you can peel it off easily.”
Whisk the butter then add the icing sugar until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk and vanilla then whisk until light and fluffy. Spread over the sides and top of your M&S Victoria sponge cake, smooth off, then place on a cake board and chill.
Place the water, sugar and glucose in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for one minute, then remove from the heat and add the condensed milk and soaked gelatine. Mix until the gelatine has dissolved. In a heatproof bowl, break the chocolate and pour over the hot gelatine mix. Stir slowly until the chocolate has dissolved. Leave to stand for an hour, or until the temperature reduces to 28-30°C.
Pour 100ml of the glaze each into two separate bowls: you will now have three bowls. Colour the bowl containing the most glaze orange, using the red and yellow (go steady with the red). Colour one of the small bowls all red and the other all yellow. Take a large jug and transfer first the orange, scraping every little drop with a spatula, then pour in the red and finally the yellow. Do not stir.
Take the cake from the fridge and stand it on an upturned small bowl. It is important that the cake board does not stand proud of the bottom of the cake. Start in the middle of the cake and pour the glaze over. Keep your jug moving in a clockwise direction so that the marble colours start to spread. Refrigerate for two to three hours, until set, then move to a cake stand.
Chocolate collars and twigs
In a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt 2/3 of the chocolate. Remove from the heat, add the remaining chocolate and stir until it is dissolved. Lay lengths of rice paper, which will span the cake, on a flat surface and spread the chocolate over. When the chocolate is almost set, carefully lift and immediately apply to the cake. The mirror glaze will take the rice paper so there is no need for edible glue. For the collar of the fruit basket, a strip of acetate works well. Spread the chocolate over and secure it while the chocolate is still wet.
To make the chocolate twigs, pipe chocolate onto baking parchment then carefully remove when set.
Cut out from rice paper then decorate with edible spray paint and finish with royal icing. Glue to the cake with royal icing.
by Frances Quinn
The 2013 Great British Bake Off champion created a whimsical woodland scene based on a recipe from her book, Quinntessential Baking
How to make it
“I grew up in a bookshop [her father opened a bookshop in Market Harborough] so I’ve always said that food and fiction feed what I do – each of my bakes has a narrative. The chocolate pine cones are a simple ganache [heat a pan of double cream, then add chopped chocolate and stir to melt. Cool for a firm consistency] with toasted flaked almonds making up the textured edge. The marzipan tea lights are easy – take basic marzipan and use a round cutter to cut them out, then add a flaked almond for the flame.”
“Kids could do this with their parents, or take one element to make it simpler – for instance, make the biscuit bunnies with cookie cutters and stand on a cake scattered with ground pistachios to look like grass.”
Photographer: Katie Hammond & Danielle Wood / Styling: Emily Ezekiel / Hair & Make-up: Lisa Valenica