Is there a Moose, Loose, Aboot this Hoose??? Well Jo Brand and her panelists on An Extra Slice certainly provided Paul with the mousse that was lacking in showstopper from the baker who left the tent this week. We were sad to see Tom leave the tent after showing such promise and being star baker twice (including bread week) but at the halfway point in the competition there is very little separating everyone.
I was super excited to receive an email from the production team at Love Productions inviting me back this year for the filming of an Extra Slice. Last year, me and my friend Gina travelled up for the “Free From” week in the tent and I excitedly spent all day on the Saturday preparing a delicious feast of free from afternoon tea goodies. This most notably included Brussels sprout muffins. Never again will I be making those as firstly grating Brussels sprouts is an absolute nightmare (Mr Baking Backpacker will testify this). They tasted great, just like carrot cake, but boy did they stink (my second reason why I will never bake them again!!). We had a great day but my bake got placed in the corner, in the back row, and so the only glimpse we got of ourselves on tv was from above in one sweeping shot that just exposed my roots!! So to hear from them for a second year got me super excited. And this year I was invited up for pudding week!
Luckily for me I would be going up with some good cake loving friends of mine from our local branch of the Clandestine Cake Club. Four of us planned to go up and take bakes in the hope that maybe one of us would make the cut and get tasted by the expert guest panel.
But first I had but a few days to plan my bake. After last year’s “interesting” flavour combinations didn’t make the cut this year I opted to go down the visual route. If Brussels sprout muffins and sweet potato brownies couldn’t entice the producers then I would have to get my creative juices rolling and put on a bit of a display. Having watched several previous episodes of An Extra Slice popular choices were either outrageous flavour combinations, disaster cakes or some intricate design that looks on TV. Having failed on number 1 and wanting to forever avoid number 2 this left me with designing something to look good on tv.
My first thought was a pumpple cake. This is something I’m perpetually saying I want to bake. It is the most calorific cake in existence!! A pumpkin pie baked inside a chocolate layer cake. An apple pie baked inside a vanilla sponge cake. Both sandwiched together with vanilla buttercream and then entirely coated in buttercream. Pure heaven and a pudding above all puddings. But this could very quickly fall into the disaster cake category if it went wrong. Not a cake to make for the first time to take on to BBC2!!
Now anyone who watches Australian Masterchef (I am actually obsessed with this show and am in love with George Calombaris!) will of heard of one man. One man known only by his surname. And that man is Zumbo. Adriano Zumbo to be precise, who’s wild and wacky patisserie designs go beyond the realms of most of us. He has even re-named the french macaron that adorns all of his shops (pending blog post on my visit to his shop in Melbourne to come) as the mighty Zumbaron. So looking for inspiration I took his book, simply entitled Zumbo, off my bookcase. Here I found a recipe for chocolate sable dog biscuits…and there an idea was born!!
I had my theme now – dogs biscuits – visually they would look like something other than what they are which is always popular. But I then needed to build a flavour combination that would work well with my idea and with the pudding theme. I instantly thought of a black forest gateaux. Luxurious dark red cherries, indulgent chocolate and lashings of cream. Ill be showing you how I made my Black Forest Dogs Dinner next week in Part 2 of An Extra Slice.
On the day we travelled up to the Big Smoke on the train, generally chatting about all things cake which we are well known for. Petra baked a truly stunning lime, strawberry and sweet basil cake; Ana baked pecan slices and Susan baked goats cheese and raspberry meringues.
We had to be at the London Studios at lunchtime on the Sunday to show our bakes to one of the researchers and explain what we had baked. Weirdly we also had to sample our wares, just to make doubly sure we weren’t about to poison Jo or the panel. We also had to sign confidentiality agreements to ensure that we wouldn’t divulge which Baker was to leave the tent. We were also issued with our guest pass wrist bands. We met some other cake lovers who had some great bakes, and a few that looked a little less appetising. By the time I had got to the venue, after nearly two hours of travelling time, my jelly had melted and was more juice-like. But luckily it got rescued from a few hours in a refrigerator.I got to resemble my bake in my newly purchased Mason dogs bowl to finish my creation off – the cherry on top so to speak.
We then had two hours to kill so went for a fab lunch at Wahaca on the Southbank before trundling back to the Studios for filming to commence at 3:45. As “Production Guests” we didn’t have to hang around and we were quickly taken to reserved seating on the front row of the waiting room. We were then the first to be seated in the front studio part of the audience, not the back seats. Must to my amazement Ollie, the researcher, informed me and Petra that we had been chosen to talk to Jo. My tummy started doing little cartwheels – yes I had made the initial cut and was going to get the opportunity to chat to the panel about my dogs dinner. Furthermore I had guaranteed screen time as Ollie seated me in the middle of the front row.
Finally, I had realised my Extra Slice dream! Upgraded from the back row to front of the middle, right in front of the guest panelists as the photo below shows!!! And even more fantastically Petra’s tart had been chosen for the guests to sample!!! Before we started we had a little warm up act to get us in the mood before Jo came out. When to ooooh and when to clap!! When to raise your cakes in the air and cheer – you get the drift. It can feel a little forced but once you start filming you genuinely forget all that and just get into the spirit of the show! Also in this period I got my microphone fitted, which I had to sit on for the entire show!
First up we got to watch the following week’s episode of bake off for pudding week (you can read my review of pudding week here). Three days before anyone else (felt very privileged) but I guess they have to otherwise you can’t exactly film An Extra Slice. Just being on the set of a production was amazing, getting to see how filming is done over and over again, all the lighting, the massive cameras on wheels, and the sheer number of runners – who spent the whole day literally runnings around. Jo came out first to film the first introductions for the show, including the Moose scene, before introducing the celebrity panel.
I was excited to see who was on our panel as Cherish Finden is one of my absolute favourite patisserie chefs and I was lucky enough to go for afternoon tea at the Langham Hotel in London for my Hen do this year. She was also joined by double Olympic silver medal winner cyclist Becky James and comedian Chris Addison.
Cherish was the judge on the Creme de la Creme professional version of the Bake Off, armed with her ruler but it was great to see the other panellists were also keen bakers. Becky bakes at every opportunity when she is not in training and having a look on twitter she has made some stunning cakes. Chris’s specialism is functional cakes. They made the perfect panel!
Filming took a couple of hours, but the time flew by, with Jo asking general questions to the panel about talking points in the show such as was Tom the right person to go? How more laid back can Selasi get (clearly from this behind the scenes shot he really cant be any more laid back) and a very long question with Cherish about what Unami meant! Becky showed over her glittery silver medals and Chris was on top form with his comedic interludes.
But this was all just leading up to the big event – the audience bakes. I was number four in the train and got to chat Jo through my Black Forest Dogs Dinner, which I dedicated to my two dogs Billy and Mylo. Unfortunately I did mess up what I was saying which did lead to the panel maybe thinking my dogs had passed away rather than moved away! Jo’s final comments to me was thats what Mary would call “Fun”. Eight bakers got to chat to the panel, including three who got sampled.
Petra’s tart met with resounding success, the panel didn’t want to give her the tart back after trying it. They were full of praise and in fact of the three they sampled this was the only one that got positive feedback. Yet Petra’s tart never made it to the final edit mores the pity. Chris Addison described it as one of the best tarts he had ever eaten!!
After the studio bakes we finally got chance to meet Tom, the evicted baker. He came across as so nice and genuine interested in pushing the boundaries with flavours. He certainly had no regrets and even rebaked his meringue pie for the panel who loved it. He even brought his little fan on, like a show and tell!! He will definitely be missed.
Once filming had finished we had a few bits of re-do (unfortunately I didn’t get the option to re-film my section!!) and then Jo filmed a few advertisements for the show to be screened before the show was on tv. And then suddenly it was a mass exodus as the entire set had to be dismantled for the following days filming of Loose Women (well last year it was Loose Women may have been a different show this year). I had to trundle off through the studio carrying my dogs bowl and biscuits to try and locate my tupperware before heading off to face some delays on the trains home.
Then came the wait…the wait to see if I made that final cut on the night. I had poorly planned to be out on the Friday night in question but had quick confirmation shortly after the show started that I had featured. Happy face! Then about half way through the show my family confirmed I wasn’t one of the chosen ones, and neither was Petra. Sad Face. I was gutted, truly gutted, as I really thought visually my bake would make good TV. This disappointment was further strengthened the next morning when I watched the show whilst tucking into a bacon sandwich to discover that of the eight, the EIGHT, bakes that were recorded during filming everyone but me and Petra had made the recording. So disappointed that the UK, and all BBC2 viewers, weren’t given the opportunity to marvel at my Black Forest Dogs Dinner – so you guys reading this are the lucky ones 😉
All in all though we all had a fantastic time at London Studios and with the whole Love Production team. And had a thoroughly enjoyable train ride home tucking into all the bakes!!