Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Caramel Cake, Aztec Cookies and GBBO app/book review

Hands up who's been watching the Great British Bake Off? A brand new series with new contestants but the same judges and hosts. Don't worry no spoilers here! I want to talk about cake and cookies and baking! I love watching the Great British Bake Off and I was really excited when I was asked if I wanted to review their new iphone/ipad app and book. 

Let's talk about the book first. It's a hefty volume with 319 pages in total. It's called The Great British Bake Off How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers.  It has technical challenge and signature bake recipes by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. On the inside cover, it says "baking doesn't have to be complicated to be showstopping' and I completely agree! 
The book is divided into the following chapters 

Breads & Sweet Dough
The Basics

The book has showstopping challenge recipes divded into 3 levels - easy, takes a little time and need a little skill. It also features best of the bake off such as sixpence cake and jubilee cake as seen in episode 1. As with the first book it has photos of the contestants throughout the book (don't worry the winner is not revealed in the book!). Interspersed throughout the book are showstopping techniques, for example, chocolate ribbons & bows, icing & stacking a cake, caramel & spun sugar - all of which have handy tips accompanied by pictures.

My Verdict - Overall, I think it's a good book to have especially if you are a fan of the show. It has a wide variety of recipes which covers all of the chapters listed above. The recipes are clearly laid out and the steps are easy to follow. My main problem with the book is that there is not enough pictures of the bakes. It's a personal preference but I like my recipe books to be full of photographs, preferably one for each recipe. However, it's quite a bargain for only £8.86 currently on amazon. The photographs that are in the book are stunning. 

BBC Books in conjunction with Love Production (makers of the GBBO TV programme) have also launched The Great British Bake Off App which contains fifty recipes based on the books The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake and How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers. 

It's no secret that I love my apple products - no not baking apples but iPhone, iPad, iPod.  The app allows you to search for recipes by occasion, ingredient or skill level. 

Each recipe gives you a quick overview including skill level, list of ingredients and method.  There are four icons at the bottom of the screen which you can see here. The star is to save the recipe as a favourite followed by option to email ingredients, share a photograph of your bake on facebook or twitter and finally to add ingredients to a shopping list. 

There is also a cool hands free feature which allows you to move from step to step without touching the screen. You need to place the device flat, tap the touch-free icon (top right of screen) and wave slowly from right to left to navigate.  It might just be me but I found this a little temperamental. It was great when it worked. What I liked best about this feature is that the ingredients required for that step is on the same page so you don't have to flip back and forth.  

My Verdict - It's a great app if you like your technology and have an iPhone/iPad. It has great graphics and is very user friendly. I particularly like the hands free function and obviously you get a photo for each recipe! However, it's a little pricey at £2.99 for 50 recipes especially as these are the same recipes as in the great british bake off books.  I already have both books so really I could just bake from the book!  If there was an option to update the app with new recipes, especially recipes that are not in the books at no extra cost then I think it would be worth having.

I've made 2 recipes from the app (which are also in the book) - Caramel Cake and Aztec cookies. Both recipes were easy to make and absolutely delicious! I made the Caramel Cake for a birthday which was very well received. Unfortunately I missed a step (user error!) and forgot to add butter to my caramel icing. I did wonder why it was setting as soon as I poured it onto the cake but it didn't look too bad in the end and still tasted great! The Aztec cookies are chocolate and coffee cookies which are perfect with a cuppa. The gold dust really makes it into a showstopper!

 bake 3 sponges 

 first layer is caramel icing, followed by chocolate caramel icing 

 my attempt at 'feathering' - would have helped if I'd remember to add butter to the icing! 

 Enjoyed by all :) 

 Aztec cookies 

 I love that the white chocolate pieces remain intact after baking 

Recipes have been reproduced with permission from the publisher. 

Caramel Cake

For the cake 
300g self raising flour
pinch of salt
300g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, very soft but not runny
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Filling
225g unsalted butter, softened
450g dark brown muscovado sugar
175ml double cream
300g icing sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt flakes, or to taste
100g dark chocolate, broken up 

3 x 20.5cm sandwich tins, greased and the base lined with baking paper
disposable piping bag
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  • Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl of a large free-standing electric mixer (or into a mixing bowl if you are going to use a hand held electric mixer)
  • Add the butter to the bowl, in pieces.
  • Whisk the eggs with the buttermilk and vanilla using a fork, then add to the bowl.
  • Beat on low speed until everything is thoroughly combined and very smooth, thick and light.
  • Divide the mixture evenly among the 3 tins and spread level.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes until the sponges are springy when gently pressed in the centre and starting to shrink away from the sides of the tins. 
  • Set the tins on a wire rack and run a round-bladed knife around the insides to loosen the sponges, then cool for 2 minutes before turning out.
  • Leave to cool completely. 
  • Meanwhile, make the caramel filling.
  • Put 175g of the weighed butter into a medium-sized pan with the muscovado sugar and cream.
  • Heat gently until the butter has melted, then bring to the boil, stirring. 
  • Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  • Pour the mixture into a heatproof mixing bowl and beat in the icing sugar, using an electric mixer. 
  • When the sugar has been incorporated, continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and barely warm. 
  • Gradually beat in the rest of the butter and the salt.
  • Add more salt, if needed.
  • Put the pieces of dark chocolate into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of steaming hot (not boiling) water and melt gently, stirring until smooth. 
  • Spoon about half the chocolate into another bowl, and stir in slightly less than 1/4 of the caramel mixture. 
  • To assemble the cake, set one sponge layer on a serving plate and spread over one-third of the caramel mixture.
  • Spread a second sponge layer with the chocolate-caramel mixture and set on the first layer.
  • Place the third sponge layer on top.
  • Cover the top and then the sides of the assembled cake with the remaining caramel mixture, working quickly before the mixture firms up.
  • Spoon the remaining melted chocolate into the disposable piping bag and snip off the end. 
  • From the centre, pipe a spiral on the cake, then 'feather' the surface by drawing a cocktail stick through the icing from the centre to the edge at regular intervals.
  • Then, in between the feathered lines, draw the stick back to the centre from the edge. 
  • To marble the icing, pipe random loops and circles of chocolate onto the caramel icing, then swirl the two together with the cocktail stick.
  • Leave to set.
  • The cake can be kept, in an airtight container, for up to 4 days. 

Aztec Cookies

140g espresso dark chocolate, broken into squares (or dark chocolate and 2 teaspoons espresso powder)
65g unsalted butter, diced
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
good pinch of salt
130g caster sugar
185g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g good quality white chocolate
edible gold dust, to finish

  • Put the pieces of dark chocolate and the butter into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of steaming hot (not boiling) water and melt gently. 
  • Remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool for about 5 minutes until barely warm.
  • Meanwhile, put the eggs, vanilla, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. 
  • Using a wire whisk or hand-held electric mixer, beat for a couple of minutes until thoroughly combined,
  • Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and stir in using a wooden spoon. 
  • Roughly chop or break up the white chocolate into chunks and mix in. 
  • Leave the mixture to stand for 15 minutes to firm up a bit.
  • Meanwhile preheat the oven to 160C. 
  • Using a heaped tablespoon of mixture for each cookie, drop onto the lined baking sheets, spacing the spoonfuls well apart to allow for spreading. 
  • Don't flatten the mixture. 
  • Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes until just set - they will continue cooking for a few minutes after they come out of the oven.
  • Leave the cookies on the sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. 
  • Store in an airtight tin and eat within a week.
  • Dust lightly with edible gold dust before serving (I used gold lustre spray)
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book and the app to try for free. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. The pictures of the app and book are supplied by the publisher with the exception of the touch free function photos which were from my own phone. 

As these bakes are from the Great British Bake off book and app, I'm entering them to a new challenge called Lottie's Bake Off Challenge, hosted by Lottie from Lotties World of Cakes and Bakes. Join in the fun with your Great British Bake Off inspired bakes!


  1. What great bakes to showcase the books - they do look delish! I have the three GBBO books and totally agree with your review here - the show stoppers book is great, but it could have done with a photo for every recipe. The app sounds intriguing but I'm not sure that I'd spend money on it when I already have the books. :)

    1. I'm not surprised you have all the books - we all know what your bookshelves look like now :) I really wished there were more photos in the books. The app is a luxury not a necessity - it would be great if they had new recipes which would be a major selling point. Its easier to update than the book!

  2. I bought the app a couple of weeks ago and love it, particularly the hands free feature :)

    1. I like the hands free feature too but sometimes it doesnt work properly. Not sure if it's just me or the app. Either way, I'm pleased I have it - I'm keeping my fingers crossed for updates :)

  3. Looks like it's a great collection of recipes!

    1. Yes there's a lot of variety and different skill levels required!

  4. Ros sounds a wonderful collection of recipes:)
    I love your cake look delicious!

  5. It's funny because whenever I think of delicious British baking, I think of you Ros! :D

  6. I really like the look of these aztec cookies! They are not something I've heard of before

  7. Oooh, this all looks awesome. If I don't get this book for my birthday, I think I shall have to get myself a copy!

    1. There's a lot of different recipes and some require quite a lot of skill and time!

  8. I agree with you and like lots of photos in baking books. It helps me to decide what to bake first! I think I would probably choose to make the caramel cake as it looks so fantastic!

    1. The caramel cake stood out to me too and there was a picture for it :)

  9. I've been really enjoying reading the recipes in this book, although if I'm truthful some of the recipes do look a bit complex/overwhelming and I completely agree with you about the pictures, they are such a useful guide as to how bakes should look. But a really inspiring book, I enjoyed making the Aztec cookies too!

    1. I agree about the recipes. I suppose it's good to have something to challenge me unless I pick it for Dom's random recipe at which point I will cry or cheat ;-) Your cookies looked fab!

  10. Lovely Ros, I thought the feathering looked really very good and the biscuits amazing.

    1. Thanks! I was a little worried about the feathering and upset with myself for missing out the butter in the icing but it all worked out in the end!

  11. What a great cookbook (the show sounds fun, too). The cake is beautiful!

  12. A great review - I have been transfixed to the TV screen every Tuesday night, just can't get enough of the show ;0)
    Love the bakes too, especially those cookies, white chocolate makes my mouth water!

    1. Tuesday nights are now sacred although I'm a little behind! The cookies were delicious :)

  13. Thanks for an in depth review of the app. The cakes look delicious. I will have to try these!!

  14. I thought your feathering looked great and didn't realise there was anything wrong until you fessed up!

    1. Thanks! I'm sure it would have been better if I'd followed the recipe exactly!

  15. Your cake and cookies both sound delicious. I appreciated your review of the book as well. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

  16. I love the Aztec cookies! The gold makes them perfect. I love a bit of edible lustre!

  17. Oooh, love the look of that caramel cake - it's definitely on my list of things to bake from the book. I too found it disappointing that 1/3 of the recipe had no picture - there are plenty of other random pictures in there, why not photograph the recipes properly.

    1. Totally agree about the pictures. The caramel cake was really good!

  18. A lovely review of the book. I have bought it but haven't tried any of the recipes out yet. I know what you mean about the pictures though. I like one per recipe at least! The caramel cake looks gorgeous and I am loving the shiny aztec cookies. Thank you for entering the Bake off Challenge!

    1. Thanks for hosting the challenge. I'm sure I'll be baking more from this book but I'm not sure when. So many recipes and so little time!

  19. i'm gonna go download this app now :) I love watching the Great British Bake up hehe :) YAY! Thanks Ros!


I've had to turn word verification back on as I've had a lot of problem with spam lately, Apologies! Please, please do leave a comment - I appreciate every one of them and will reply to all of them. Thanks!