Quite some time ago I asked for Mary Berry's Baking Bible for Christmas with the intention of improving (or indeed acquiring!) basic baking skills.  I can do a reasonable sponge cake and variations on that theme (quite an array of buns, cupcakes, etc. decorated in such a way as to hide the fact that basically they are all the same!), but to be honest, I'm never particularly impressed with the results of my baking efforts.

Now I am a stay-at-home parent, I imagine filling some of our time baking together at the kitchen counter. Whenever I hear people talk about how their Mum was always cooking delicious home-baked goodies I feel jealous on behalf of OB.  I don't want him to talk about how his Mum was always showing him the very latest Candy Crush level! At our new house I've had the kitchen and dining room ripped apart at great expense specifically to get a massive breakfast bar room divider so that I can stand at one side and OB at the other, 'helping' me without being in the kitchen danger zone.  So far so good.

Now to actually be able to cook and bake to make it all worthwhile!

One of the things that has always held me back from baking more in the past is my tendency to gleefully consume all that I have baked.  This is not good for my (rather generous) physique!  Now there are two of us to share the goodies but still, OB doesn't really eat all that much so the lion's share of the task is left to me.

Thankfully, these days, I usually host a meeting of church folks at my home every second week - a perfect group for being guinea pigs eating all the goodies so I don't have to!  So I've decided to work my way through Mary Berry's book, recipe by recipe, not missing out anything that looks tricky (although avoiding things I know I won't like - I'm not that disciplined!).

You join me, not at the beginning of my journey - several recipes including maple syrup cake and swiss roll are already behind me - but at a pivotal point: Battenberg week!  I've been putting off Battenberg week for months, blaming the house move and holidays while providing shop-bought treats for my friends, but the time for prevaricating is over.  Last night, undaunted by watching GBBO contestants' variable efforts at the same recipe in a previous series, I baked Mary Berry's Battenberg recipe.

I will say that it was in no way as difficult as it looks.  Folding the greaseproof paper to divide the square cake tin into fairly even halves was not not the origami I expected it to be.  I'm not a meticulous baker (I'm not a meticulous anything!) so I didn't measure the paper and I didn't weigh out the two halves of the mixture but just did it by eye.  The yellow half did turn out bigger, but that just means more offcuts :)

Oh, and I didn't have any red food colouring, so I used purple!  It looked quite pink though - if I'd really wanted purple I think I would have been disappointed.

So, it looked ok.  What was disappointing was the actual taste/texture of the cake.  The recipe called for 2oz of ground rice (which was quite a trial to find in the shop!), so I dutifully followed to the letter, but the resulting cake was grainy and gritty and not really pleasant to eat.  It tasted ok, but I found the texture so problematic that after the first small slice, I didn't want any more.  If you know my cake-eating habits you'll know how serious that is!

When I checked around on the internet for alternative recipes I found that the vast majority used ground almonds instead of the ground rice.  If I was to bake it again, I'd definitely try that instead as I really like ground almonds as an addition to almost any cake recipe and I've never had problems with texture using that.

I must admit, for the first time in my baking adventures, I worried that this wasn't a good enough cake to actually serve up to people, so ended up rush-baking a batch of biscuits as well (which involved an emergency trip to Tesco!).  In the end everybody did try it, but only once!  Except for one sweet friend who declared it 'better than shop-bought' and took the leftovers home wrapped in cling film. This has led me to question both the quality of his taste buds and the quality of the shops he goes to!

Verdict?  Well, I will probably bake this again as I absolutely love Battenberg - it's probably up there as one of my favourites.  But next time I'll ditch the ground rice (which will probably languish in my cupboard for years now) in favour of ground almonds.  Sorry Mary!

* Disclaimer:  this (and any other post like it) is in no way intended to be an advice column or exemplar for excellent baking.  I am a horrible cook!


  1. What a baking achievement, I am seriously impressed. I like a cake you can wiz in a mixer and pour into a tin. I've never been much of a baker but when there are children in the house it does become a more necessary activity. What's the next challenge I wonder? Keep me posted. x

  2. Having got completely hooked last year while on adoption leave I will be watching we bated breath! yes, what's next? And who will be first with a terrible "soggy bottom" joke?


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