Does this cake look like a Great British Bake Off contender to you?
Nope. I didn’t think so.
This cake was a disaster. “How?” you may ask.
Let me count the ways, though it’s so hard to know where to begin.
The reason I wanted to make this cake in the first place was because I was intrigued by the icing, whereby you take a bottle of champagne (not a typo) and boil it down into two tablespoons to act as the flavouring. This was a variation on champagne cupcakes I had made last weekend from “Lola’s Forever,” but in that case, for the icing you add just two tablespoons of champagne to it after adding two tablespoons to the cake mixture. This method comes with a special bonus because you then have to drink the rest of the bottle yourself because it’ll lose all its fizz by the time your guests arrive. I can fully endorse a recipe that has leftover fizz that I need to drink right away. (If you’re curious, those cupcakes were delicious.)
To Gizzi’s credit, she says you don’t actually have to use champagne– though I wouldn’t mind having a life whereby you’d give no thought to having a spare bottle that you could use in that way. I ended up using a bottle of Cava we had kicking around. I was curious as to how it would work, and it was fun to see the Cava fizzing away on the stovetop. But at the end of the day, it meant I spent £6 on two tablespoons of ingredients, which seems a bit rich to me. We couldn’t even taste the cava in in the icing anyway. Also, as you can see in the picture, the icing was a bit gloopy, which meant I couldn’t really ice the cake well.
The other method she endorses that I’ve never really understood or used when I make cakes myself (though other people, including the Queen of Cakes herself Mary Berry do sometimes do it this way) is to make one large cake. Once it’s baked, you then slice it into thirds for your three layers. I don’t know why you’d do it this way when it’s so much easier to just divide the batter into thirds and bake them.
In this case, this created one large cake that then cratered in the middle. I’m not sure if it was operator error or a problem with the recipe, but either way, it didn’t work. Consequently, it was impossible to then divide it into thirds. I could then use all the icing to fill up the crater in the middle, which was a means to an end but not the way I’d like my cake to be.
It looked a disaster and it tasted fine. Not delicious exactly, but our friends seemed to enjoy it. On the other hand, that might have had something to do with the copious amounts of wine we drank that night. But when I went to eat the cake, I could only taste bitterness, because I thought of the wasted cava and the wasted afternoon lost in the making of this cake.
Important Addendum: Thanks to “A Cookbook Collection,” she told me that Gizzi posted an apology on her Instagram feed that said the recipe should read 2 1/2 teaspoons NOT tablespoons. Duh! I should have known better, but sometimes you just have to trust what they tell you to do. (That was my mistake.) If you want to read the apology yourself, it’s here. As I don’t follow Gizzi on Instagram, I didn’t see the correction. At least now I know it wasn’t operator error. But there’s no way I’m giving this cake another chance, given all the other amazing things I want to bake. As a variation on the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” I would say, “You only get one chance to boil down an entire bottle of Cava.”
Will I make this again? I think you all know the answer to that one.