Ralph from Madison, WI (All Ten Challenges)




Madison, WI

Baking Challenge

Star Baker

What was the most difficult challenge that you faced during any bake? And how did you overcome it?

I was looking forward to making my own marzipan for the marzipan cake challenge but had to realize that marzipan is very difficult to make. The first batch went into the garbage which was very frustrating because I put a lot of time into the preparation. For the second batch, I simply used blanched, ground almonds from Trader Joe’s. The whole process was so much easier and quicker. In short, I overcame the challenge by acknowledging my limitations and then move forward towards a better cake.

Which Wisconsin twist were you most proud of, and why?

I found it much easier to incorporate local ingredients than to make the Wisconsin twist visible through decoration. Either my wife or I often made an effort to get specific local ingredients from the market or a store. That, however, was easy in comparison to creating my Wisconsin badger design with marzipan. Dyeing and then cutting marzipan into the shape of a badger was a real challenge for me. Patience, exam gloves, and a good stencil helped me to create a marzipan centerpiece I was eventually proud of.

If you were to draft a baking challenge for Wisconsin bakers, what would you like them all to make? And what would you be looking for if you were the judge?

Most of the challenges I completed were technical challenges, and even in the Great British Bake Off I almost always found these to be the most interesting. So, here is one from me: Make an impeccable Baumkuchen (Tree Cake).

Baumkuchen is a German variety of what is called a “spit cake." Layers of a light batter are spread, one at a time, onto a cylindrical rotating spit; the batter is then baked by an open fire or a special oven, rotisserie-style. Through that process, the cake develops characteristic rings that when sliced resemble tree rings.

Bakers would need to make a variation of that cake in the oven in a springform pan. The technically difficult part is that you cannot leave the oven. You begin by spreading a thin (1/4”) layer of batter in the form, which is then put under the broiler (!) for two minutes. Take it out when golden brown, and add the next layer of batter on top of the first, broil for two minutes, and so on until the whole batter is used up. As you add layers and the cake rises, you need to lower the rack to prevent burning.
Once finished and cooled, the finished cake must be covered in tempered chocolate.

I would be looking for perfect layers, none of them can be burnt or raw, but there must be browning. The chocolate must be silky and evenly spread.

How did you do?

I participated in all 10 Great Wisconsin Baking challenges this summer – I’m a Star Baker!