The first challenge of my 2019 GBBO Bake Along is already a disaster! Not only am I over three weeks late, my cake suffered a terrible accident en route from the oven. Doctors say he’s not going to make it :’(

Yes, I know Cake Week already happened ages ago, but between recovering from jet lag, settling back into the school routine, and doing a total reorganization of my room, I only got around to attempting this complicated dessert today. And holy cow, is it complicated.

For those who aren’t following the show, I’m making Angel Slices, which features several baking basics that I’ve never done before: genoise sponge, fondant icing, and food colouring. (OK, I have used food colouring, but never actually in food. I think I bought some for a science project back in elementary school, and that was the last time I touched it. I have a thing about using natural colourings wherever possible, but I know sometimes food colouring is necessary, so it’s about time I got familiar with using it.)

Following the instructions, the first issue I ran into was the baking pan itself. In order to bake the three distinct layers for the cake, the recipe calls for you to separate a baking pan into three segments with foil-parchment paper. As far as I’ve seen here in Canada, foil and parchment are only ever sold separately, and I thought I could get away with using just parchment, without the foil. After finagling with the paper and trimming it down to the perfect width for my pan, I had three pretty even segments going on. But when I got to pouring the first bowl of batter, the paper was way too weak to hold its place, and it was collapsing and threatening to spill the batter into the next section! So I had to quickly work some aluminum foil under the paper. LESSON #1 LEARNED: when a recipe tells you to use parchment and foil, USE BOTH!

whisking the egg and sugar together

Despite that narrowly-averted disaster, the assembly of the genoise sponge went pretty smoothly. As I said earlier, I’ve never made genoise sponge before, and it’s definitely a hassle. I ended up dirtying a lot of bowls, especially because each layer requires its own set of dishes to keep the colours and flavours separate. I’m seriously missing Kevin my dish slave servant washer. I haaate scrubbing the raw egg smell off of my dishes.

Overall, though, I was happy with my sponges. I was grateful to have my thermometer on hand for the initial step of mixing the egg and sugar together, since it provided some assurance that I was doing things right. And I was paranoid about overmixing the batter and collapsing the whipped eggs, like so many contestants had on the show (this is my fear every time I work with whipped eggs, which is why I do it so rarely LOL), but at least two of my layers looked quite fluffy and strong still.

angel slices batter ready to go into the oven

As you can see in the picture, the yellow lemon layer on the far right seems to have collapsed a bit, but the other two are pretty even in height!

At this point, it was ready to go into the oven. This is where the end begins. I only recently discovered that our apartment microwave has oven functions, and since it’s larger than the toaster oven that I’d been using before, I’d decided to switch to using the microwave for all my baking projects.

Of course, any oven is bound to have some temperature discrepancies, and a microwave convection oven especially so. But since this was my first time using the oven, I didn’t know whether it was going to be too hot or too cool, so I decided not to mess with it and just set it at the temperature given in the recipe, 375 °F. I think this was too hot. When I took it out of the oven at the 15-minute mark, my instincts told me that the centre wasn’t quite baked enough, but the top layer had already formed a thick crust and was starting to pass the “golden brown” phase.

Whatever, I thought, it’ll continue to bake a bit in the pan, and I can trim the ugly top part off when I assemble the layers.

Sadly! The cake never got that far.

dead cake

Now, I’ve replayed this moment several times in my head, trying to recreate it, but I still can’t remember quite how happened. All I know is, I was transferring the foil out of the baking pan onto the kitchen counter, and suddenly, the cake was falling. I stooped down, helplessly, stupidly, as if I had some way of catching it. That only made it more messy as it hit my arm on the way down, splattering on either side—half in the trash can, and half on the dirty, dusty floor beside it.

You cannot understand my horror at watching this unfold unless you have gone through something like it too, and I hope you never do! This has literally never happened to me. Sure, sometimes I drop the occasional muffin or cookie, but never something so irreplaceable and irreparable as THE WHOLE DAMN CAKE.

My only consolation is, looking at the gooey mess still stuck on that parchment paper, it was definitely way underbaked, and would not have been fun to eat. 😭

The issue is probably a combination of the temperature being on the high end and the layers being too tall. Next time (because yes, I drink dumb fuck juice every day and I’m planning to try this again), I think I will just bake each layer one at a time inside my loaf pan and see how that turns out.

Tune in a few days from now (hopefully) to see me tackle my next Bake Off challenge, fig rolls.