Welcome back, friends, to The Great British Baking Show: Walton Edition! Join us this week as our bakers attempt to outcook the professionals as we recreate our favorite mass produced confections in Imitations Week 01: Snack Cakes!
We’ve got a lot to cover, so I’m going to skip the floury intro and get straight to the cakes. Let’s get cookin’!
First up we have Mark’s take on Hostess’s Mini Fruit Pies. We agreed before the competition that we would each provide an example of the food we were trying to replicate for comparison. Mark brought Hostess’s cherry pies, but his bake was blueberry. I’m not complaining; cherry is the Devil’s fruit and the less I have to eat the better.
Mark’s Blueberry Hand Pies were better than Hostess’s version, largely because there was no cherry in them. Their uniformity would indicate that Mark has access to a turnover and/or empanada press, so I give him points for that. But another way in which Mark improved on the original was his crust. Perfectly glazed, his crust was flaky and crisp where the Hostess version was more like compressed flour. These pies were incredible.
I discovered Hostess’s Raspberry Zingers late in life. Post-college late. But with my first bite they became, and have remained, one of my favorite snacks cakes. So when Mandy told us we were doing a snack cakes Imitations Week, I had to make Raspberry Zingers.
As a child I really enjoyed my mom’s Jello cakes, and I remembered how much flavor and moisture the Jello added to the cake without causing that weird gelatin jiggle. I knew it was the way to go with Zingers, but I wanted to be able to taste more than just raspberry. I started by making a pound cake, and I reasoned that the dense sponge would hold up better to a liquid gelatin soak while providing plenty of cake flavor. Unfortunately I underestimated the ability of hot liquid gelatin to dissolve pound cake. You have to dip fast and then leave it alone to set up or the cake will just disintegrate. I ruined a lot of pound cake learning that lesson.
I knew early on that there was no way I could replicate the look of a Zinger, so I focused solely on taste. I held back a little water from the raspberry gelatin to concentrate the flavor, and that accidentally helped me with the color. It wasn’t an exact match for Zingers red, but it was damned close. I was very happy with it.
I was also very pleased with the taste. To our mutual surprise, we bakers found that Zingers are much smaller than they used to be and don’t have the same strong raspberry flavor they used to. The other bakers very kindly pointed out that my Zingers tasted more like raspberry than Raspberry Zingers. I think I could cut back on the amount of coconut next time, but using real whipped cream added an extra depth to the bake that I really enjoyed. Overall I was quite pleased with these, and I’m proud of the way they turned out.
Mandy replicated Hostess’s Chocolate CupCakes; I don’t know why Hostess felt the need to intercap “CupCakes” but it looks obnoxious. Step yo game up, Hostess. This is some bush league Mrs. Freshley’s bullshit.
You have tasted chocolate cupcakes before, so I won’t waste time describing them to you. Instead I will use this space to congratulate Mandy for doing what I thought was impossible; she produced a nicely filled, professional looking pastry using home kitchen tools. I don’t understand how, but she did. These tasted almost EXACTLY like the original product. The were impressive. And unlike the Hostess version, her icing didn’t dislodge from the cake when you took a bite. Nice touch!
When I arrived at La Maison Mizer, on the shores of placid Laid Étang Par La Saleté, I was greeted with an ENCOM flag fluttering in the breeze. Dan had this made specifically to celebrate our Sunday night RPG campaign, which takes place partially in a Marvel Comics universe in which the characters and events of the TRON franchise play a significant role. Nice touch, Dan!
For as long as I’ve known him, Dan has loved Little Debbie Fudge Rounds. In fact, if my increasingly spotty memory is to be trusted, he may have been the one that introduced me to them. Growing up, if we ever had manufactured snacks around they were almost certainly limited to Twinkies and Oatmeal Creme Pies. My parents weren’t exactly culinarily adventurous in my youth. So when Dan opened my eyes to a whole new avenue to sandwich cookie diabetes, I was hooked. I absolutely LOVE these things. And though I did momentarily consider trying my hand at Oatmeal Creme Pies for this competition, I thought it would be nigh impossible to replicate the soft, crackle topped cookie that Little Debbie has perfected. Cleary I was wrong.
Not only did Dan nail the appearance and texture of the cookie, his icings were on point. How he managed to so perfectly duplicate the color of the Fudge Rounds filling and icing I will never know. But these cakes were impressive.
In the end, each of our bakes got one vote, making this our first four-way tie. Back on our Christmas Tins episode we let a three-way tie stand in the spirit of the holidays. But this wasn’t the holidays, and we wanted a winner. After some discussion we decided that if we couldn’t decide based on taste, we would determine a winner based on appearance. We would vote for the baker who made the best look alike imitation. And, with that in mind, I’m sure it will surprise absolutely no one that we unanimously voted Dan as this week’s Star Baker! Congratulations, Dan, on a well deserved win!
Be sure to join us next week as we tackle our first of many tributes to the food of a randomly chosen US state. First up: Utah Week! And, as always, until next time, bon appétit!