It's the last week of The Great Australian Bake Off, the nicest show on Australian television.
There may be swearing, but the way the contestants care about and help each other is heartening. There's also cake. We're down to Olivia, Antonio and Monica. I'm picking Olivia to win.
Signature Bake: Opera Cake
An Opera cake has layers of joconde sponge soaked in coffee, ganache and buttercream filling and a mirror glaze. The bakers have three and a half hours for the challenge. It's a difficult challenge because the bakers need to be careful with their layers, so the judges can see them distinctly when they cut open the cake.
Antonio's not making a traditional opera cake. His jaconde will be layered with passionfruit and dark chocolate AND mango and white chocolate ganache. He's making marshmallows to hold up the tempered chocolate, which he's using instead of a glaze. Maggie and Matt love the flavours, but the sponge is a little too dry. They don't seem to mind though, because the ganache is described as "exceptional". Maggie's not a fan of the marshmallows.
Olivia says the shed is too quiet, and she's on one side of the shed by herself. Make use of the extra bench space! Olivia's cake is called 'Passion for Opera'; she's soaking her sponges in passionfruit juice and her layers will alternate with passionfruit ganache and passionfruit buttercream. The cake will be decorated with mirror glaze and chocolate decorations. Disaster strikes when Olivia realises that she forgot to put the butter in her sponges, so she remakes them, and manages to get everything done in time. Matt says it's a perfect opera cake, and it's described as a "symphony in passionfruit".
Monica's made a classic opera cake with coffee buttercream, chocolate ganache, macadamia buttercream and a mirror glaze. Monica's sponge was too thin, which meant the layers bled into each other, but the flavours were so good that Maggie takes another bite after judging.
Technical Challenge: Sfogliateelles
Sfogliateelles are an Italian pastry, which theoretically puts Antonio and Monica at an advantage over Olivia. The thin pastry is laminated with lard rather than butter, and the sfogliateelles are filled with a mixture of ricotta, semolina and orange. All three bakers have fun rolling their pastry cigars before they go in the fridge, and Olivia remarks that it would be nice to make the sfogliateelles outside the confines of a technical challenge.
Olivia is tasted first, and while the pastry has good layers, and is well baked, there's not enough filling. The layers in Monica's pastries have disappeared, but it tastes great, and there's more filling. My notes for Antonio's comments: "good layers, great pastry, basically perfect," and of course he wins the technical challenge. Monica is second just ahead of Olivia. The layers didn't work as well, but the extra filling gave her an edge.
After the first two challenges, the bakers are on a level playing field, and the showstopper will be the deciding challenge.
Showstopper: Masterpiece Cake
The final showstopper for the season is a Masterpiece Cake. The contestants have room to do whatever they want, but the cake needs to have three tiers.
Monica's cake is an Ode to Italy, with each tier representing a different region. The top/North tier is gianduja chocolate and hazelnut cake, the middle/Central tier is lemon cake, and the bottom/South tier is cassata cake. It's decorated with the map of Italy in isomalt shards. The judges praise Monica's flavour combinations, and her cakes aren't too sweet for Maggie.
Antonio's cake is an expansion of the chocolate raspberry brownie showstopper that won him Star Baker in chocolate week. Each brownie tier will be accompanied by a different flavour: espresso on the top, passionfruit and pineapple in the middle, and raspberry on the bottom. He's also making a vanilla and white chocolate mousse and tempered chocolate for the decorations. Antonio's Nonna comes to visit him during the challenge, and says she's proud of him before she tells him to get back to work. The judges praise Antionio's ganache, cream, flavours and his brownies, and my family has decided that Antonio's going to win.
Olivia's making a tropical masterpiece. All her tiers are coconut cake, but each will have a different filling: raspberry on the top, pineapple in the middle and lime on the bottom. It's decorated with coconut, dried pineapple and gilded raspberries, and it's beautiful. The judges only have praise for the cakes, and Matt calls them three of the nicest cakes he's ever tasted, so now there's disagreement about whether Olivia or Antonio will win.
The bakers go outside to share their cakes with their families outside the shed, and we get a glimpse of all the bakers left behind. They really were a good batch.
And the winner is.... Olivia! Look how surprised she is!
It’s been fun everyone, I’ll be back next year. You can find recipes from the show here.
Leah Rocke is a television blogger based in Melbourne. When not writing about her favourite television shows, she's extolling the virtues of Mad Max: Fury Road to anyone who will listen.
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