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Great British Bake Off 2013, Week 3 - Custardgate!

Great British Bake Off 2013, Week 3 - Custardgate!

by Urvashi Roe 04 September 2013

Last night’s episode of Great British Bake Off saw the focus on desserts, with perfect petit fours, terrific trifles and illuminating iles flottantes. Urvashi Roe, food writer and contestant from 2011, gives us the lowdown on this week’s show

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Wow! What an incredible episode this week. I think it was quite possibly my favourite ever! I was hooked within the first few seconds with talk of losing one or two bakers and baking burglaries. The theme was desserts and the challenges were tough which reflects the high standard of this batch of bakers. What an amazing job they all did.

The Signature Bake – Trifle

We started with the infamous, 400 year old British classic – a trifle. It’s a dessert that was reserved primarily for the aristocracy with it’s delicate layering of custard, sponge and fruits – until that is the rebel Hannah Glass popularised it by featuring a step by step recipe in her ground breaking cookbook which brought fine, upper class dining to the middle class masses.

Rather them than me. I’m not a huge fan of trifle. It’s just a sloppy mess of a dessert which I have never enjoyed but I must admit that there were some combinations from the bakers this week that had me salivating.

The one I most wanted to try was Christine’s Pina Colada Trifle. What a perfect combination of flavours – rum syrup, pineapple jam and coconut custard – yes please!

The bakers could choose any base for their trifle and like Christine, many opted for a sponge – I particularly loved Deborah’s use of a lemon Swiss roll as the base.

Mark, Beca and Kimberley opted for a ginger cake base which would make for a heavier base. I think this was the easiest component judging from the filming. The challenges came with juggling jellies and fruits and of course the crucial custard component.


There was much ado about custard this week and many reprimanding looks from Paul on the use of cornflour as a thickener. He commended Howard for being the only one to attempt this “correct” version. Debates about the thickness and the stirring technique and the consistency and the time to cook out the eggs ensued. It really all paled into significance to be honest because we also we also saw the start of “custardgate” as Deborah accidentally used Howard’s custard. Poor Deborah looked so aghast at having made the error but I think the judges did a great job in taking this into account in their assessments – Deborah sadly not faring too well as her own custard was too gloopy.

Christine, Kimberley, Ali and Glenn came out top on flavours with Rob, Mark and Beca not doing so well due to “slack” custards, overdecoration or overloaded layers.

Sugar plum fairy cakes
Frances had a lovely theme this week too based on The Nutcracker. Her Sugar Plum Fairy Cakes and Ginger Nut Crackers looked scrupulously the same and were commended for their perfection in production and taste
Ginger cake trifle
Mark, Beca and Kimberley opted for a ginger cake base which would make for a heavier base

Technical Challenge – Iles Flottantes

It must be hard coming up with baked challenges for every series and this is another example where the lovely ovens got a rest. The contestants had just one and a half hours to make perfect meringues floating in exquisite custard but on top of that had to spin some sugar to pop on top. Mary was looking for a delicate meringue cooked all the way through. Paul was after textures with a smooth custard, a marshmallow like meringue and a crunch from the sugar topping. This was going to be a tough one as you could glimpse the scarcity of the instructions which seemed to read something like this:

- Make the meringue

- Place poached meringues on custard

- Decorate with spun sugar

- Pray for success!

There were lots of meringue tips. Confident Christine advised us not to have egg whites that were too stiff and Kimberley warned that not adding sugar slowly would deflate the meringue. Ali seemed to soak up all the tips this week as he eyed up everyone else before starting. He confessed to eating this delectable French dessert but never making it. Meringues were problematic for many though when it came to the judges verdict – too fat, too thin, not stiff enough, not cooked through, overcooked.

Spun sugar was another element that many struggled with but in a cold tent it’s hardly surprising that it cracked or turned to blobs. Glenn was at the top of the leaderboard this week. His meringue melted in Paul’s mouth and left Glenn gleaming which was great to see.

Showstopping Petit 24s

Last but not least the bakers had to prove themselves with mini bakes, canapés, petit fours. I was so excited about seeing their combinations as I love mini baking. I love the fiddlyness, the precision and the attention to detail to make everything uniform.

Their remit was to produce 12 sponge based and 12 biscuit based bitesized bakes.

I think they were ALL amazing but the ones that stood out were Christine’s Ninety Nines. I was rooting for her to get Star Baker at this point – not only for the ingenious idea but for getting her husband to make a wooden tool specifically for her cones. I hope he is inundated with requests for mass production as I would dearly love one to experiment with!

I also liked Howard’s ideas to incorporate two elements often enjoyed at the end of a meal – coffee and cheese. He was the only one to do a savoury bite which Mary seemed to devour.

Frances had a lovely theme this week too based on The Nutcracker. Her Sugar Plum Fairy Cakes and Ginger Nut Crackers looked scrupulously the same and were commended for their perfection in production and taste. Well done Frances!

There were many macarons this week too which shows how much these bakers are having to step up. Sadly Mark’s didn’t turn out as he’d hoped but we knew that would happen after Paul jinxed him with all the questions in his obligatory “are you sure?” rounds.

Poor Deborah also upset the judges and we saw the first stern face of the series from Mary. I never wanted to get that face for one of my bakes and thankfully didn’t but poor Deborah. She was already so disappointed with herself and she did really well not to get tearful.

Two tearless goodbyes and a well-deserved Star Baker

There was only one contender for Star Baker for me and I am so pleased she nailed it. Christine, who we haven’t seen much of until this week, took the golden accolade with a beaming by shy smile. Nice work Christine!

And as expected we saw two people leave. For Deborah the episode had started with “the wrong custard” which was a shame as I think her ideas had so much more potential. On the plus side but she may well have inspired a new Wallace and Gromit movie!

Mark was the other contestant to leave this week and I think he knew he had not been as technically good as the rest. He summed up his experience with words I would echo – The “most fantastic and stressful thing I’ve ever done”. Good luck to them both!

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