The Great British Baking Show, Part 2: Sweets

If you were around last week, you know that I shared my Great British Baking Show (GBBS) adventures with bread (though my forays into the bread world are long from finished, trust me; next on the agenda is working with sourdough - stay tuned in the following weeks to see how it turns out!). Today I'm sharing how the show inspired the addition of some new desserts into my life.

Interested in more recipes inspired by and/or taken from the show? Feel free to follow my Pinterest board dedicated to just that.

In the earliest stages of my GBBS obsession, I was impatient and eager and just wanted to eat lots of cake (who doesn't?). But though I have baked many a dessert from scratch, I have never actually focused on the patience and consistency aspects that are necessary to make truly fabulous desserts. This became evident when I tried to bake this spiffy-sounding cake.

I didn't have many ingredients, but I wanted to bake something worthy of GBBS merits - or at least something who's name was worthy. Enter the Honey Thyme Banana Cake (that's what you get when you type in all the cake-like ingredients in your house that you want to use).

I started out with this recipe from Twigg Studios. I tweaked it a bit, mostly because I had to guesstimate the measurements from the UK metric system (minor math headache over here).
Here are the measurements I ended up with:

Banana Thyme Carrot Cake

2 small ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
½ c. honey
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground thyme
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. white sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
½ c. vegetable oil
1¾ c. self-raising flour (regular flour + 2 t. baking powder)
2 t. baking powder (so I did 5 t. baking powder total)

The idea of large pieces of carrot screwing up my cake was abhorrent to me, so I made sure to finely grate the carrots, ignoring the recipe's guidelines. Then, per a tip from one of Mary's cake recipes, I squeezed out the carrot juice through a cheesecloth, leaving me with a few tablespoons of violently orange liquid (which I discarded).

Considering all of the moisture-heavy ingredients I used (banana, carrot, honey), the cake turned out decently airy. The fluffy texture was lovely but also a bit dry, however, because I used dark cake pans and forgot to adjust the oven temperature accordingly.
Brown Sugar Frosting
5 T. brown sugar
5 T. butter
¼ c. skim milk
A few tablespoons of flour

I can not even tell you what I did with the frosting. Skim milk was all I had on hand, which absolutely doesn’t work in getting that creamy frosting I was looking for. So in a last-ditch effort to soak up the watery puddle around my butter chunks, I threw in some flour. Basically, it turned into a sweet, brown paste. Which, wasn’t awful. But there certainly wasn’t enough of it to properly frost a cake. I started over and managed to get something slightly more palatable, but I still wouldn't call it frosting.

Important Tips
  • If you're attempting this cake, do not follow my frosting ingredients! Head on over to the actual recipeNever mess with the frosting. It's a delicate process that must be shown proper respect.
  • Don't be afraid to improvise. A cake can often look real messy or burnt on the outside, but you can still save it! Cut away the burnt parts, cover things with frosting, slice the top of the layers so that they're even instead of domed. 
  • If you're new to cakes, go for something simple instead of healthy. Often the "healthier" recipes involve ingredients that are trickier to work with, such as honey or wheat flour.
  • Stick with it. Don't let unseemly results get the better of you! This cake would have looked awful if I hadn't stuck the strawberries on top.

I tried my hand at the classic Egg Custard Tart. It seems to be a very basic but important part of British desserts. My results were mostly successful and definitely delicious. I attempted this on a day that my husband had off work, which somehow made me more stressed because he was "watching me" bake. For the love.

When you’re watching the show, you start to think, “Why on earth is it so stressful to whip up some frosting? How hard can it be to make a tart?” You assume that the only reason baking on the show is difficult is because they are being timed and judged.

Well, I’m here to bust that myth. Entirely too many things can go wrong when you are baking. It’s an art, a science, and a touchy thing at best. Especially when you have a dog and/or a baby underfoot. And you’re nauseous. And you’re converting all of your recipes to US measurements.

A little tip for converting the metric system to ours: read the labels on things. Grams are often listed net to the ounces already. For instance:
You can find the official recipe from the show here, and a second helpful recipe from a non-professional here (it has the US measurements converted for you).

Here's the measurements I ended up using:

Sweet Crust
1 c. all-purpose flour, plus some
2 T. almond flour (I didn't have ground almonds)
½ c. chilled, unsalted butter, cubed
4 T. or ¼ c. sugar
1 free-range egg

Custard Filling
2 1/2 cups whole milk
7 egg yolks
3¼ oz. sugar
freshly ground nutmeg + cinnamon

Not too difficult, ingredient-wise. I mean, what's the big deal? They're just mini pies put into muffin tins, with the fancy "tart" name splashed across. Or so I thought. Pulling these off was a struggle for me. In the end, they only looked a little slaughtered...
I followed one of the contestant's ideas to put strips of waxed paper across the bottom of the muffin pan, but unfortunately I still needed to grease the pans more, I think, because I had to scrape these tartlets out of the pan. Cleaning it up was no picnic, either.

Important Tips
  • Don't let the custard part scare you. As long as you whisk it well and add the eggs to the milk slowly, you'll be fine. I didn't experience any sort of weird separation or scrambled eggs, though I was terribly worried about that outcome.
  • The process is not difficult, but being consistent and patient is. Take your time with the simple things, like rolling out the pastry evenly and pouring the custard in slowly (so as not to spill on the outside of the crust).
  • Don't use dark pans. The crust will burn easily without cooking the custard enough.
  • Grease the tart pan/muffin pan well! Make it easy for you to remove them without deconstructing them a bit, ha.
  • Sprinkle the spices on with a sifter or very fine sieve - otherwise, they clump up like mine did.
  • Even if you fail in your presentation, enjoy the fruits of your labors! These babies are tasty. Different from most American desserts, yes, but really quite scrumptious in the end. Try them both warm and cool to get the full effect.

I knew this recipe would test my skills. I knew that completing such a thing as superb as doughnuts - with jelly filling, no less - would probably not end well. But you know when you try something that seems so difficult and perfect that it must be out of your reach, but you try it anyway? And somehow you are, in part, successful, and you're just so impressed with yourself? These doughnuts had that affect on me, even though I completely botched them.

So I want you to know, you can totally make anything you put your mind to. Whether it's making a special cake or a filet mignon, or sewing your own dress or re-painting your furniture - whatever it is, you can do it. I won't promise that it will turn out perfectly, or even precisely as you pictured it. But it will be okay and you will love that you tried it.

Making these doughnuts was exciting, but I made one fatal mistake. Let's see if you can figure it out before I spill the details.
This recipe is full-on American (thank goodness!), so I didn't have to do any funky measurements. I did fudge a few things, though, because apparently that is just who I am as a baker. I did not roll the doughnuts in sugar, make my own strawberry jam, or follow the recipe's chocolate frosting, since I was fresh out of coconut cream. I looked up a basic chocolate ganache and it was spot-on – had a nice shine to it and tasted like a rich dark chocolate. Yum. For the jelly, I heated my cheap, store-bought jelly on the stove, then added some fresh strawberries and simmered it till it was all mixed together.
Have you figured out yet what the fatal flaw in these doughnuts is? Ugh, I'm so embarrassed to tell you this. But here goes: I didn't use enough yeast. I thought the recipe said teaspoons instead of tablespoons. Rookie move. This could have resulted in absolutely ruined doughnuts, but somehow they were still edible.

My husband called them "Patty Cakes" (personal-sized funnel cakes). I can live with that. The dough did have that funnel cake-y flavor going on, and it was pretty dense. We gobbled 'em up, though, so no worries on the taste front.

But still. Jelly-filled, chocolate-ganache-dipped, homemade doughnuts. I feel accomplished just for ending up with something that resembled the goal. So worth the messy kitchen, frazzled hair, and please-try-to-entertain-the-baby moments.

Important Tips

  • Read the recipe thoroughly before beginning. Obviously, this would have solved the problem of not enough yeast, but this tip is also extremely important in new recipes because of timing. Most new recipes take longer than expected, especially if they involve yeast. Be properly prepared.
  • If you think a certain part of a new recipe will stress you out, buy a particular tool to help! I had no piping bag. I thought a small funnel shoved in the corner of a gallon freezer bag would work. It didn't. Also my doughnuts were too dense for the jelly to go in properly, so that affected everything, ha.
  • Pay attention to the oil temperature. Fried things can easily become over-saturated with oil if the temperature is too low to begin with, but you don't want to burn them while leaving the centers doughy. Do a single test-doughnut first, to help you figure it out.
  • Be patient. This is new, this is a little difficult, and your kitchen is going to be messy. Enjoy it. Lick the jelly off your fingers. Get your husband and kids involved! (I made my husband help, then promptly yelled at him for doing everything wrong #micromanager. Oops.)

> > >

Happy baking, my friends! Don't forget to follow my Great British Baking Show Pinterest board if you're interested in getting more baking ideas! Baking new things really is a fantastic way to hone your skills, enhance your eating life, and serve your family with fun treats. Plus the cooler temperatures of fall make baking that much more attractive.

I'd love to hear what you thought of the show, too! Did you attempt any of the recipes? Did you bake something new because you were inspired by the show? Tell me all your fantastic kitchen stories - the successes and failures.


  1. Wow! How awesome of you to jump into these recipes. The cake sounds delicious! I wouldn't have thought to add Thyme to banana but it sounds amazing! I LOVE English custard too! Yum!

    1. Right? Thyme seems so savory. But it totally made it seem unique and British.

  2. These all look so delicious and your pictures are awesome! Now I'm feeling inspired to bake. Maybe not quite on this level yet, but still. <3

    1. Hey, it doesn't matter the level, just your enjoyment of it! Or maybe how good it tastes haha.

  3. All these recipes sound so yummy! I love the donuts. :)

    1. Thanks! I will definitely be trying doughnuts again, with the correct amount of yeast this

  4. These all look so yummy! I love your motivation to do all that baking! I love it when I feel inspired to make fun things like that! I would really love to try those egg custard tarts.

    1. It feels like a mini adventure in the kitchen, doesn't it?!

  5. I'm really impressed with all your baking and trying new recipes! There are definitely some recipes that I haven't quite worked myself up to make because they look kind of intimidating, but I love your little piece of advice about how we really can do hard things and they might not turn out perfect, but that's okay. :)

    1. Thanks, girl :) if a recipe is intimidating you can always research a few aspects of it. Or just go for it! Cooking is generally best if you learn as you go.