These iconic loaves are synonymous with France. Tearing into the crisp, golden crust to reveal the chewy open-textured interior is an almost sensual experience.
Mary Berry's walnut layer cake features three layers of light, moist sponge with bits of walnut throughout, filled with vanilla buttercream and covered with what she calls "boiled icing" but what I recall from my childhood as "seven-minute frosting."
Scones, Victoria sandwiches and lemon tarts are all historically British bakes. While this "back to basics" challenge may seem simple enough, it takes a lot of time management skills to juggle all three at once. Mine didn't turn out perfect (bubbles in the custard, scones too pale?), but I was proud of the results. Judge for yourself how well I did!
Charlottes are related to trifles in that they are unbaked and made in a glass dish or mold. The two most well-known types are charlotte russe and charlotte royale. This technical challenge, set by Mary Berry, has a lot of steps but is not difficult. The end result is a showstopper dessert that is light, fruity and perfect for summer!
Its name means “nun” in French, and this popular pastry is found in patisseries and boulangeries all over France. Made of pâte à choux and filled with pastry cream, two buns, like little cream puffs, are stacked on top of each other and decorated to look like nuns dressed in their habits.
From the time custard was invented, this magical, golden concoction of eggs, milk and sugar has been intimately tied to pastry, as the name is derived from the French crouste (for "crust") and the Anglo-Norman crustarde, meaning "tart or pie with a crust." These custard tarts feature a simple, sweet short-crust pastry, with the addition of a small amount of ground almonds for a nutty flavor and added crunch. Done right, the custard should come out smooth and creamy, and the crust should be nicely browned (no soggy bottoms!).
Îles flottante, eggs in snow, floating islands … a rose by any other name … would still be a dessert consisting of poached meringues floating on a sea of crème anglaise, a vanilla-scented custard thin enough to pour (also called pouring custard).
Once you’ve had homemade angel food cake, you realize there really is no comparison with the kind that comes from a box. What sets angel food cake apart from other sponge cakes — and what makes it a suitable food for angels, apparently — is the fact that it contains no egg yolks and no fat. The only leavening in the cake comes from beating air into the egg whites until they form a meringue-like consistency. This creates a high-rising cake with a light, airy texture that would probably float on a cloud (making it easier for angels to eat it, no doubt)!
Fondant fancies are little cakes, often layered with jam or marzipan, covered with a thin coating of fondant and usually adorned with icing or sugar paste flowers or other intricate decorations. Watching The Great British Bake Off bakers making their fondant fancies was quite entertaining, until I had to do it myself. Trying to create 25 identically sized, uniformly coated miniature cakes can be extremely frustrating, not to mention messy!
The fraisier gets its name from the French word for strawberry, la fraise. Visually stunning, the fraisier is distinctive because of the layer of strawberry halves arranged so that the cut sides line the outside of the cake. The result is an elegant confectionary creation that would make an exquisite ending to a festive dinner party or a stunning addition to a dessert table at any large celebration.