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What to Eat Wednesday - The Great British Bake Off!

I am an anglophile; I adore England.  Honestly, if I wasn't married, I'd probably be living there.  We don't have enough time to go into all the reasons, so I will sum up with this: the accents, my bestie, the beauty, and the food.

That last one may surprise some people because there's this crazy idea that British food is terrible.

Where does this come from?!  Jammie Dodgers, mince pies, fish and chips, meat pies, and Victoria sponge cake...what's not to love?!  This hideous stereotype is completely unfounded!  The stereotype about how much they drink tea, though?  100% true.  Seriously.

I actually didn't discover Victoria sponge cake until this last trip I took over there, last year.  It is such a simple yet delectable dessert.  Essentially, you've got two bits of sponge cake sandwiching strawberry jam and whipped cream, and you sprinkle powdered sugar on top.  That's it!  And now I can make it all on my own!

So I actually ended up making it twice using two different recipes because I wanted to do better after the first try.  Therefore, this is going to be a comparison-recipe-review mash-up.

This is the first recipe I did for Easter Sunday, and this is the second, which I made a week later.

These two recipes are as different as night and day, but they both had their challenges.  The first one is basically just dump and bake, but you have to measure everything.  And not just that, but it's in bloody metric!  Oh, did I mention that both of these are British recipes, which is fitting.  Ugh!  I don't even know what a gram is!  Don't you know I'm American?  Am I being dramatic?  Maybe a bit, but you may have heard I hate baking.  If I want GF Vickie's sponge, though, that's what I have to do.  As for the second recipe, it is such a diva!  The second recipe uses the two methods I hate most about baking: separating and sifting.

I almost never buy whipped cream anymore.  It's just so easy to make your own.  You basically pour it into your stand mixer and let her go at it for a while.  Even if you only have a handheld mixer, just pour the cream into a deep bowl and beat it up.  I used both methods in the making of these two cakes.

I used Cup 4 Cup GF flour blend for both cakes.  There are a lot of claims about how great it is, and it does makes really nice focaccia, which is ironic because it's not supposed to be very good for yeast breads.  It tends to be really gluey, though, which I'm not sure was great for this cake.  You know what else it is?  Painfully, embarrassingly expensive.  I don't know if I can recommend this blend because I'm not convinced it's any better than Pamela's or even some homemade ones I've put together.  I definitely don't think it's worth $15 a bag.

Okay, so here's the beginning of the first one in all its persnickety glory.  I know I went a little over 175 grams with both the flour and butter, but guess how fussed I was over that.  Hint: Not at all.

And here's the beginning of the second cake.  Separating eggs is stupid!  It's so finicky.  You may notice a casualty in the picture, which was later mixed up in a cup with some cheese and cooked up in the microwave.  You may also notice a cup of tea.  Also very fitting.  Although, even if I wasn't making a British recipe, I'd probably still be drinking tea...because I wouldn't be me if I wasn't.

Look!  I made stiff peaks!

Also with the second cake, magic!  Seriously, the way egg whites fluff up like this is the closest thing to magic that I know.

What did I say about being a diva?  You can't even mix the batter properly!  You have to ever so gently fold it in on itself over and over again.  I'm tired of your crap, cake.  I would tell you to toughen up, but, oh wait, that's the opposite you want from a sponge cake.

The batter for the first cake was kind of lumpy, and I'm not really sure if that's because my butter wasn't properly soft or if it was the Cup 4 Cup.  Like I said, it does have a tendency to be gluey.

Here you can see the batter for the second cake was a lot smoother.  I also think my cake pans are a bit bigger than what is actually supposed to be used for a Victoria sponge cake, but I'm not certain.  I liked how the silicone baking pans performed, though.  With the butter I used to grease the pan, the cakes came out really easily. 

Here we have cakes one and two fresh out of the oven.

You can't see it, but there's a big issue with the first cake here.  I accidentally bought sugar-free, calorie-free strawberry spread.  UGH!!!  I can't stand the taste of artificial sweeteners.  And who wants calorie and sugar free jam?  What's the point of that?!  Sadly, by the time I realized, it was too late to change it.  I sure as heck tried to think of a way, though.

There we go!  That's proper strawberry jam.  Oh, and I was so excited about eating this second attempt that I didn't remember to take a picture until we had eaten half the cake. :D

And the payoff!  Yeah, cake one is definitely a little lumpier than cake two.

So what's the final verdict?  Well, #1 was a lot easier to throw together, but it wasn't as soft as #2 (always a challenge with GF baking).  Even still, Mike liked #1 better.  I liked #2 better.  It fit my expectations of what a sponge cake should be, soft and spongy.  #2 was a lot more work, though, even with having to measure everything in #1.  If I was going to continue to use Cup 4 Cup, I'd go with #2 any day of the week.  I'd like to see how #1 does with a different flour blend, though.  If the gluey nature of Cup 4 Cup was part of what made #1 tough, maybe I can get around that.  Then again, #2 will always have the advantage of being so well aerated.  Looks like I'm stuck eating more cake.  Too bad. ;-P


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