Week 1 Cake Recap: The Great Wisconsin Baking Challenge

June 19, 2017 Wisconsin Public Television Leave a Comment

Season 4 of The Great British Baking Show had a sweet beginning: Cake. In the premiere episode, the 12 new contestants were challenged to bake and decorate three delicious creations: Drizzle Cake, Jaffa Cakes and Mirror Glaze Cake.

In the spirit of The Great British Baking Show, we asked our Wisconsin bakers to select just one of the three cake types to tackle in our kick-off challenge. Let’s recap the episode and see how our local bakers did!

If you have not watched this episode yet, then this is your official spoiler warning!

And read to the bottom to find out who our six featured Wisconsin bakers are!

Season 4 of the Great British Baking Show

Credit: Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions


Season 4 kicked off with a classic – and Paul Hollywood’s favorite cake – asking the new crew of nervous bakers in the Signature Challenge to bake a moist and spongy cake with “sumptuous drizzling.”

Right from the start, bakers Lee and Kate developed serious concerns about the consistency of their batter, which definitely led to … well, firmness …  issues later on. Louise, Val and Michael presented family recipes with nice stories.

Tom went for the 21-and-over recipe, producing his Gin & Tonic Drizzle Cake. Mary Berry busted him immediately for not drizzling both layers of his cake, but the shock came during the tasting when Sue Perkins exclaimed: “I can’t feel my face anymore.” Without tenderness in his voice, Paul added: “It has got no flavor. It has been killed off by the alcohol.”

Although Andrew went with the standard Lemon Drizzle Cake, he was astonished to be reprimanded for not having enough lemon in the flavor. How much lemon makes a cake lemony?

Kate and Candice risked their cake’s textures by adding fresh fruit into the batter. And Candice, well, “poked” some custard into hers. Mary’s shocked face was worth it.

The Disasters: Louise’s sphere-like Orange Liqueur and Lemonade Cake proved to be too dense and Michael’s drizzle completely disappeared into his ginger cake. Rav was inspired by Mary’s call to be inventive, but his complex blending of flavors left Paul very, very confused.

The Highlights: Candice’s beautiful decoration and Selasi surviving a cliffhanger moment as Paul chewed silently and delivered “the look.” You know, the “look.”

The Takeaway: No amount of drizzling can save a cake gone wrong.

To use local Wisconsin ingredients in baking, is well, pretty easy given our wealth of fresh butters, creams, cheese and milk. And many of our bakers made sure to go local every step of the way.

Bakers Kris in DeSoto, Susan from North Freedom, and Jean-Margret from Blanchardville opted for freshly picked Wisconsin strawberries, since they are perfectly in season. Alison from Madison added fresh strawberries on the side of her Triple Chocolate Drizzle cake, a special Father’s Day treat.

Sujhey in Madison gathered another in-season item, fresh rhubarb, from her local farmer’s market.

Marie in Madison was proud to use Wisconsin’s official state fruit, cranberries (not cherries!), for her Cranberry Lemon Drizzle Cake. As was Karen from Niagara, for her Cranberry Drizzle Cake. Marie admitted that she failed to follow past GBBS advice, and added her cranberries whole instead of halving them, forcing a redo.

Favorite unique local ingredient? Jill in Hollandale added locally produced lavender buds to the batter for her Almond Lavender Cake with Lemon Drizzle.

21-and-over: Amanda from Madison joined show contestant Tom by going for a Gin & Tonic Drizzle Cake, using Garden Gate gin from the local Wollersheim Distillery. (Love it!) And a couple intrepid bakers took on the Brandy Old Fashioned Drizzle Cake, inspired by the unofficial Wisconsin state cocktail.

Amanda - Gin and Tonic Cake

A Green Bay Packers Nod: Jennifer in Sun Prairie added lime to her Classic Lemon Drizzle Cake for a green and yellow touch.

Favorite Off-the-Wall Local Idea: The S’more Drizzle Cake baked by Julienne in Neenah, inspired by her family’s love of s’mores over Wisconsin campfires.


The Technical Challenge sent a shockwave of nervousness through the baking show tent, not soothed by Mary Berry’s cryptic advice: “Do things in an order – keep to that order.” Easier said than done. So many decisions. So much disorder.

Given Mary’s basic recipe and a slew of ingredients, the contestant crew wasted no time getting started.

Most opted to prepare the jelly layer first, since it needed to firm up in the refrigerator. However, after that, everyone took a slightly different direction in mixing the batter in their attempt to achieve the perfect sponge texture. Take note of Benjamina’s instincts to mix the batter over low heat.

Making 12 identical copies of a baked item requiring three perfect layers is indeed a challenge.

The Disaster: Andrew admitting his sponges are “very large” and then decorating them upside down. His cakes looked like flying saucers, which here in America, would be acceptable.

The Highlight: Selasi dug deep into his baking experience to deliver the most-perfect-Mary-pleasing jaffa cakes, although he admitted at the beginning of the challenge that he had never made them before! In the outtake, he says: “I don’t know how that happened.” He’s our hero.

The Takeaway: Mary might not approve of dipping a jaffa cake in a cup of coffee. But we do.

Most of our jaffa cake bakers detailed their trials and tribulations with the inner orange jelly layer – or reasons for ditching it completely.

Sarah did her best to create perfect orange jelly disks, but found using American ingredients (i.e.: Jello-o) extremely disappointing.

Alaina in Milwaukee said her proudest moment was when she saw her brandy/orange gelatin had set for her Brandy Old Fashioned Jaffa Cakes. Michaeleen in Portage deviated from the straight orange jelly filling, adding “about two shots of brandy, a dash of bitters, and some maraschino cherry juice to the orange jelly mix! A bit of cinnamon went into the sponge, and an additional halved maraschino went on top of the jelly layer pre-chocolate.” Yep, you guessed it. She produced some dandy Good Old Fashioned Jaffa Cakes.

We have a lot to learn from Ralph in Madison, who tapped his German roots and Wisconsin pride for his Artisan Jaffa Küchlein. His jelly layer seemed to come out dandy, but the most fun at the end when he had “chocolate not just running down the edges, but also my fingers and face!”

Most of our jaffa cake bakers ditched the orange disk layer and opted for other fruit flavor layers. Jen from Sun Prairie opted for raspberry jam. Sandy in Appleton was pleasantly satisfied by her Black Cherry Jaffa Cakes. And Char in Madison used Door County cherry jam, and added a “W” on top for extra Wisconsin pride!

Door Co Cherry Jaffa Cake


The Show Stopper challenge set the contestants off in a three-hour frenzy to produce a genoise sponge cake with a reflective glaze that Mary Berry demanded radiate in “sheer perfection.”

This type of cake is raised not from baking powder, but from whisking the eggs heavily. Candice admits she is not a fan of preparing the light genoise, calling the cakes “temperamental.”

While everyone had their own style of blending the ingredients, Selasi has his whisks swirling the batter in a glass bowl placed on a pot with boiling water. Why? It helps the batter rise – although he can’t explain it.

Louise broke into a sweat mashing raspberries. Many contestants had to start over and redo their cakes. Candice had a meltdown with her sponge, tossing one cakes against the tent wall – an act that was oddly satisfying for the viewer.

Tom hit the bottle again with his Black Forest Mirror Cake. He admits that he is “learning how to be subtle” after he blinded the judges with liquor in the first round.

Michael’s Matcha Tea Chocolate Mirror Glaze was perhaps a bit too experimental. “It smells a little like grass,” said Mary, before leaning over to smell it again. Michael blushed the color of Selasi’s raspberry glaze.

The Highlight: Andrew went in “all or nothing” and took the cake with his “Ultimate Indulgence” Mirror Glaze Cake. Just wow. Sue proclaiming that Lee’s four-layer Strawberry Surprise Mirror Cake was “the size of a small European country.”

The Disasters: Kate trying to match her cake to her outfit. Michael’s flavorless cake needed more booze.

The Takeaway: If you keep focused when you are baking, everything will go fine. That’s just not true. Lee’s own advice didn’t help him rebound in the final round.


First of all, we tip our hats to everyone who attempted the Mirror Glaze Challenge.

Our local bakers produced some beautiful cakes, and it was their Wisconsin decorative twists that were jaw dropping.

Molly in Green Bay stole our hearts with her strawberry and buttercream cake named The Great Cheese, which gleamed like a very proud slice of Wisconsin cheese. And the state-shaped cookies on the side were an added delight.

Several bakers took up our challenge to incorporate Wisconsin waterways into their glaze decoration. They weren’t discouraged by Mary Berry’s disdain for blue glazes, showing us that it is indeed possible to polish a cake with the color of lakes.

Joshua from DePere was inspired by the color of Lake Michigan for his glaze. The White Cranberry Lake Cake made by Ruth from Oshkosh, inspired by sailboats gliding off the coast in Door County, left us daydreaming about summer vacation. And baking far away, Jeung Hwa in Australia dazzled us with her blue and white marble glaze, based on her fond memories of how beautiful Wisconsin lakes are when they freeze over.

Perhaps the first person to ever glaze a cake the colors of rhubarb stocks was Kimberly in Madison, who nailed the look with her colorful shine on her Rhubarb Mousse Cake.

Kimberly Mirror_Glaze

Going with a classic chocolate mirror glaze was Rebecca in Stevens Point, whose love of hunting for local wildflowers inspired her Woodland Trillium Mirror Glaze Cake.

Most adorable? Definitely the Green Bay Packers football players atop a green glaze made by Dani in Edgerton.

Dani - Mirror Glaze Cake


Star Baker: Jane

Kicked Out of the Tent: Lee

Our Six Featured Wisconsin Bakers:

Marie in Sun Prairie
Cranberry Lemon Drizzle Cake
Marie paired citrus with cranberries, the Wisconsin State Fruit. To her delight, it was perfect for hot day.
Marie - Cranberry Lemon Drizzle Cake

Sujhey in Madison
Corn Pound Cake with Rhubarb Glaze
Sujhey blended two locally grown ingredients – corn and rhubarb – topped with a radiant drizzle.
Sujhey - Corn Pound Cake with Rhubarb Glaze

Ralph in Madison
Artisan Jaffa Küchlein
Ralph charged Mary Berry’s sponge cake recipe as “very un-Wisconsin” and melted more butter. We approve.
Ralph - Jaffa Cakes

Alaina in Milwaukee
Brandy Old Fashioned Jaffa Cakes
In a tasty twist to a popular Wisconsin cocktail, Alaina was proud of her brandy/orange gelatin layer.
Alaina - Jaffa Cake

Molly in Green Bay
The Great Cheese
Molly swept us off our feet with her strawberry and buttercream cake named The Great Cheese.
Molly - The Great Cheese

Ruth from Oshkosh
White Cranberry Lake Cake
Ruth tapped her love for Door County with her cake layered white chocolate and cranberry mousse, decorated with sailboats on the lake.
Ruth - Mirror Glaze Cake

We hope you will join us for our Week 2 Challenge: Cookies! If you need inspiration before cracking the first egg, you can watch this upcoming episode of The Great British Baking Show online now.

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