I was told I would be needed 9am-1:30am, had to bake scones and a loaf and bring them with me, and would then need to bake a cake in a 'bake off' scenario on the day.
By the end of the Thursday I had received the recipes for scones and the loaf, and Thursday night I attempted to bake scones ... for the first time in my life! They were fairly horrendous, but in the one batch I made I felt I learnt what I was doing wrong and which tools I was missing! I then started my loaf, making the sponge to be ready for the following days kneading activities.
After querying the bread recipe, purchasing a better pastry cutter, and a second test batch of scones I set about finishing off my loaf and baking my scones. I only did three batches, but I failed to master the art of getting them to rise correctly and evenly. This was to be my offering for the Bake Off judges;
We were up early on Saturday, and with this stage of the auditions taking place in North London at the Waitrose Cookery School it meant that a)it was possible to drive to and b)Tash and Alfie could come along too. So at about 7:30am Alfie was squeezed into his coat for us to hit the A1!
We arrived shortly before 9am, and after a lap of Waitrose found the entrance for the Cookery School.
Once inside my goodies were plated up, and after most of the production girls had coo'd over the little grubby one, Alfie took Tash off demanding to be shown the wonders of what North London had to offer on a sunny Saturday in March. I don't know quite what they got up to but I know it involved Ikea, a park, Leon and that he came back with a bump on his head!
Whilst they enjoyed their time, I too was having a ball! The atmosphere has always been fantastic at these auditions, and I very quickly learnt that getting this far meant I had made it to the last 48! Considering there were thousands that applied, I am VERY proud of myself for getting this far.
There were 12 of us in the morning group, and we sat around a table laughing and joking until our name was called and we were summoned before Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood once more - not before receiving a good luck 'high five' from the production crew though.
My turn came, and I couldn't wait. I've really enjoyed being up infront of Paul and Mary, and a big part of why I've done this is to get some quality feedback. In short, my loaf was very good (Paul Hollywood - he who bakes £15 loafs for Harrods - actually said I was a natural baker) and my scones were lovely .. just lacking in the appearance stakes. Thats pretty much the best I had hoped for, so I was well chuffed!
By about 11am we had all been seen and went through to the kitchens to start the bake off challenge. We were given a Mary Berry recipe for a coffee and walnut cake, a host of ingredients, the necessary health and safety briefing ... and then the stopwatch started ticking!
I was amazed at how much time we had, and how much of a breeze it all was. Two 7 Inch tins, bake two cakes, make the filling/topping as described, and then put the cake together. Easy. We had 30 mins prep time. I was done in 15, killing time by working out how the oven worked and checking through the next steps of the recipe. And then, with 5 minutes left I realised the recipe said for a 7" tin cake. But I had two 7" tins. Was I supposed to double the quantities? But no-one else had. But I had already thought that the cake mix wasn't much, especially as I needed to bake for 35 minutes. Sod it. I hurriedly threw another batch of ingredients into a bowl, the cameras immediately coming over to me and loving every minute of me having a last minute rush, and somehow got the mix into the tins and the tins into the oven pretty much bang on time. Whilst everything baked we all chatted, no-one really knowing how the recipe was supposed to be interpreted, but me confident I could leave my tins in the oven for the full 35 minutes. Of course everyone else was now stressing that I might be right, and they would therefore need to remove their cakes early.
I dunno what others did, but my cakes came out well, and of course once it was assembled it was massive - and in true Keith Stylee it was far from a work of art. There are some truly amazing decorators in that competition though, some of the cakes looked absolutely amazing!!
With everything finished off we chatted amongst ourselves before our cakes were passed to the judges and we all headed for home. This time the judging was done out of eyesight and earshot so I have no idea what they thought. Still not knowing if my final 5 minute flurry had been right or wrong I was pretty certain I was going out, and with that had in mind had a lovely chat with Paul and Mary before leaving, as well as a final photo with the pair of them. As you can see, Mary took a right shine to Alfie!
We were allowed to take everything away with us, and Tash
I don't think I'm good enough to go through to the final 12, but there is also a large part of me that doesn't want to - it would mean pretty much every weekend for up to two months (depending on how far you go) and that's A LOT of time! But after sitting down and tasting my cake I think Tash summed it up perfectly - if they are looking for someone who doesn't look like they should bake but does, and produces ugly but very tasty food then you never know .....