This past weekend saw the semi-finals of the Cambridge Bake Off take place at the Cambridge Cookery School which challenged the 8 remaining bakers to create something truly delicious with crème pâtissière and fresh fruits. This is the round I was most looking forward to so whilst I was in pâtisserie Heaven happily observing all the French-baking techniques under the sun going on, the bakers had the gruelling task of whipping up from scratch something impressive both for the eye and taste buds in just 2.5 hours.
I won this round last year with my pistachio and raspberry entremet which consisted of a giant pistachio macaron base, white chocolate and pistachio ganache, génoise soaked with Kirsch and Chambord, and finally pistachio crème pâtissière studded with fresh raspberries, all topped with a raspberry jelly. Sure, I pushed the boat out a little! Unfortunately, I ate so many versions of this cake in the many practice runs preceding the semi-finals that I still can’t face eating it today. Not to worry, I sure do find other ways to fill this sugar void.
As I chatted to the bakers to find out what they intended to create (which was a delicate task knowing all they really wanted was for me to go away allowing them to crack on with their 5+ pages of detailed instructions) my mouth was salivating at the thought of what was in store: chocolate, passion fruit, mango, pistachio, caramel, pear, rhubarb, creams, génoises, jacondes, macarons…I could go on but it’s making me drool (again). Ooh such treats!
So after 2.5 hours we (the judges) were deliriously happy to receive two (yes, two!) croquembouches, a crème pâtissière-themed afternoon tea, miniature Frasier cakes, a rhubarb and custard macaron layer cake, a violet and mango entremet, a passion fruit and pineapple layer cake and a pistachio and raspberry Swedish princess cake. Wow, oh wow, someone pass me the insulin, I’m going in!
Whilst all I wanted to do was face-dive the croquembouches (which one, I wasn’t bothered), we patiently waited for the bakers to clear out of the room and then took small bites of each cake/pastry before making our final judgements. It was a difficult task (eating cake can be difficult. No really, it can!), but we all agreed on the top three, pictured below, feeling they delivered superior texture, flavour and presentation.
Interestingly, each of the bakers through to the finals has now held a first-place position at some point during the competition so I’m certain the final round is going to be hot! (Though incidentally nowhere near as hot as last year when the competition took place in a marquee during some of the hottest weather the UK has seen in years; think sticky, think sweaty, think surface-of-the-sun HOT!)
And so the question on all our lips: who will be crowned best amateur baker in Cambridgeshire 2014?? Watch this space!