It’s no secret to those who know me well that I am a big fan of the Great British Bake Off. I alluded it to it recently in this post and I would attribute much of the progressive love of baking that has emerged in our household over the last few years to this very show. In the last couple of weeks, the show has made headline national news in the UK after it was announced that it would be jumping ship from the nurturing comforts of its founding home at the BBC to the somewhat edgy and unexpected climes of Channel 4 (shocking for fans but in the context of global issues, it probably doesn’t take centre stage.)
In any case, it is not in my remit today to talk politics about said TV show moving from one channel to another but suffice to say, much debate has ensued, much uncertainty remains and many a baking-pun hashtag has been spotted infiltrating the social media channels of livid cake-bakers everywhere.
The level of outcry is testament to how much the British population have taken this programme into their hearts, so much so that the bake-off concept actually featured in my best friend’s wedding last year (I’m talking literally not Julia Roberts-related movie chat.)
A Great Wedding Bake Off
When my best friend got married last year, she figured, why have one wedding cake when you can have 20 (she has always been of high IQ), thereby launching the Great Wedding Bake Off.
Guests who wanted to take part were tasked with designing, executing and submitting their own creative bakes to the judging table and the prized judging role for the day, that fortunate individual who got to accompany the bride and groom in playing Paul and Mary on this celebratory day was…..yours truly!
A passport to eating multiple slivers of fantastic homemade cake and an opportunity to be bridesmaid? I had to ask myself what the catch was.
Elsie and I go back more than twenty years so I was flattered enough to be part of the wedding party and when she extended that generosity by requesting the blog to get involved with a little blurb about the Wedding Bake Off, I was delighted to oblige.
For a fleeting moment, I contemplated bringing along a batch of homemade cookies as my bake-off entry to their endearingly chic, country barn wedding but in the interests of time management, I decided against. Now Elsie and her groom, Adam, clearly mingle with the kind of people who can do better than a Pot Noodle for dinner and after seeing the calibre of bakes on display at their wedding bake off, I fear I would never have lived down the humiliation of arriving with something so simplistic (or coming last in the competition by such a wide berth!)
Much as I would love to pretend to you all that I am a born natural at photographing baked goods, the reality is my only real expertise with cake is that of consumption. Credit for the exquisite images dotted around this post of the Great Wedding Bake Off goes, for the most part, to their professional wedding photographers, Luna Weddings and the few other images here were taken by Adam and Elsie’s guests, which Elsie allowed me to share here.
The official cake blended in well with the bake off competitors (which perhaps gives you an idea of just how much baking talent was nestling in the grounds of the barn that day) and was crowned with two rather cute Totoro cake toppers, paying homage to the Japanese animated characters that Elsie has loved since our younger days. I can safely say this is not something I have ever (or likely will ever) see on a wedding cake again 😀
As Elsie is of Chinese heritage and Adam of English heritage, wedding guests and bake off entrants brought with them an eclectic array of backgrounds, many of which were reflected in the fusion flavours that had inspired their bakes. Some introduced a twist of the Orient, some arrived with sultry Middle Eastern flavours such as rose and orange blossom.
Some bakers were of the stance that classic, timeless bakes are the most stalwart and some called out to the tastebuds of those of us who first watched Carrie Bradshaw pop into Magnolia Bakery on Sex and the City and vividly recall the moment that the cupcake became en vogue again.
Now in her various professional guises over the years, Elsie has attained qualifications in urban planning and has led large-scale projects with gigantic clients so even the Bake Off came with its own typed charts, Excel spreadsheets and rigorous criteria. There are no sloppy corners where my bestie is concerned and the pressure was on to ensure my judging credentials were up to scratch. This was not just a task in eating lots of cake (gulp) – this would involve some interviewing techniques and some brain power.
As judge, I was asked to quiz the entrants about the inspiration behind their bakes and any unique ingredients or techniques as well as enquiring into the titles of their bakes. Adam’s two sisters aptly named their bakes “All you need is love” and “Love is all you need” respectively and thanks to that reminder, I have had that melody resonating in my head for the entire time I have been at my laptop writing this post.
One of his sisters made me chuckle when I posed the unique ingredient and technique question to her about her perfectly coiffed cupcakes, when she humorously replied with “errr…..my special ingredients were butter, flour and sugar and my special technique was mixing them together!!”
We had a geocache box/treasure chest entry in honour of Elsie and Adam’s spectacularly original proposal story, which I can’t possibly go into here, as it could consume a separate blog post in its own right.
We found a giant gingerbread man, which for reasons even her nearest and dearest will never fully comprehend, is something that Elsie has always found “freaky”
We had a love sponge and before you dip your heads in the filthy gutter, let me assure you that it was a scrumptious, comforting, pink, heart-shaped sponge cake, adorned with the initials of the bride and groom (and not a memento of UK hospital casualty services!) It was beautifully baked with a sweetness to the icing that perfectly complemented the sponge and I loved it!
The Reese’s peanut butter cup cake was always going to trigger a glint in my eye given my peaking enthuasiasm about nut butters (the discovery of a maple peanut butter on last night’s food shop caused boundless excitement in the supermarket aisles.)
We had a two tiered colourful novelty cake which had a heart shaped pattern running through the middle and the kind of vibrant colours called for on a warm May day in the sunshine.
In the end though, it was Nicole’s East Meets West divine creation that took the biscuit (and my waistline with it). With two flavours of sponge including vanilla and salted caramel, the winning bake was surrounded by homemade white chocolate and berry profiteroles and draped with charming homemade fortune cookies.
Nicole’s elaborate concoction was unanimously voted as the most impressive of the night and when she told me she had worked into the early hours and taken a full day of annual leave to make this, she seemed a very worthy winner to applaud here on Why Waste Annual Leave.
There wasn’t a guest at the wedding who sampled it who didn’t agree it was annual leave well spent and it was a most certainly a cut above the cookies I was going to bring!
Kudos to all the bakers on the night who invested hours of passion, creativity and innovation into making these thoughtful sugary treats for the special couple and kudos to the bride and groom for trusting their friends and family enough to get stuck in with such an integral part of their wedding day dining.
Which one of the wedding bake off cakes would you have voted for?