So let’s start this big party, shall we? The Great American Baking Show premiered yesterday and I am so excited to finally share with you a little bit about my experience in “the tent.” If you have not watched the show yet and do not want spoilers, save this post to read later.

Like many people who love to bake, I’ve watched all the Great British Bake Off shows available to us in the US, and all the American Baking Shows more than once. Some seasons that are dear to my heart (Chetna, Val, Nancy, Tina, Kim Joy, Amanda, Nadyia, Selasi, I am talking to you!) I’ve watched twice or more, and never got tired of them.  When I first applied to the show in 2018, I was a bit disappointed about my performance in the final audition, so I wanted to try it again. Much to my amazement, not only I got all the way to the final audition phase, but they selected me to be in the show! I remember very well where I was when I got THE phone call. First the adrenaline rush, and later that nagging question inside me “am I really tent-worthy?”

From the phone call to finally going to London, life gets turned upside down, as you get assignments for each episode and the tension keeps building up and up. It is a very unique experience, and pushes your baking skills to the limit. We all have things we are good at, and things we are not, as far as baking is concerned. Come to think of it, as far as ANYTHING is concerned… Getting ready for the show means designing recipes to potentially impress Paul Hollywood and Sherry Yard, even if you feel insecure about laminating dough, or if baking macarons sounds like the last thing you’d like to face in front of the cameras. By the time you step on the plane, you’ve already been through  countless hours of baking, a roller coaster of emotions, from self-doubt to bliss, from fear and panic to BRING IT!  And then you get to meet your fellow bakers, and realize you can finally interact with people who have been through the exact same roller coaster you did. It is a bonding experience that starts from the minute you gather in the hotel lobby. It is one aspect of this adventure I will cherish forever.

But nothing quite prepares you for that first look into the tent. I was in a complete daze,  and remember someone telling us… “Did you know more people went into space than baked in this tent?”.  Not sure what was their intention with that casual remark,  but it made my stomach a tad colder, and the butterflies inside it a lot more noticeable. It was a beautiful sunny day, I felt happy and grateful for being there although it felt so unreal. I was also anxious to get that first bake done. Cake. Yours truly, a former self-professed cake-o-phobe about to step in a famous tent, with dozens of cameras around, two demanding judges and two adorable hosts to bake for. Mind blowing, my friends. Mind blowing.



I adore yuzu. I could not bake with the real fruit, maybe they could find it in London but there was no way I could practice with it at home, so I opted for the bottled juice. More consistent, anyway. Once you get a certain brand, you know what to expect. I paired the cake with a caramel scented with sobacha tea, taking my assignment into a clear Japanese territory. Japanese patisserie fascinates me because they tend to make things that are not overly sweet, and often bringing unusual ingredients together. A little decoration with caramel and that was my plan for the very first bake under the spotlight. I practiced this cake three times at home and felt reasonably confident about it, my only fear was unmolding it. Bundt pans can be very unforgiving. I can tell you my heart was beating at 120bpm when I flipped that baby out of the pan, and I could feel the adrenaline rushing out of my system once it was all smooth sitting in front of me.  Of course, they had the cameras right there as each baker unmolded their cakes. Would you like some stress with your cake?

My main take home lesson from this bake is that all flavors must come through. The ginger was not prominent enough, so I should have either tried to work a bit more into the cake and glaze or simply left the yuzu alone. I will tweak the recipe again and once I’m absolutely happy with it, I will share with you.

Technical Challenge 


My very first technical challenge! I was cautiously optimistic when they announced it, because I’ve made Angel Food in the past and I knew the main details that matter in its preparation. I was a bit more worried about the curd, as it needs to have a smooth texture and proper consistency. The process of making a channel in the cake was a bit nerve-wracking, to be honest with you. I felt I was butchering the poor cake and not quite sure I had enough curd to cover the crime scene. As I placed the cake behind my picture, I remember feeling good about it, but never expected to be first in the first technical.  It was absolutely thrilling!  I will never forget the feeling…

Plus, it made going into the showstopper challenge next day a lot less stressful. Speaking of it…



My first showstopper challenge! I baked this cake three times during practice, changing little details in the preparation. Chocolate sponge with mascarpone-chantilly-raspberry filling, and chocolate buttercream icing. The thing I was most excited about was the brigadeiro topping, because I wanted to add something Brazilian to my concoction. Much to my surprise, Tanya – who was baking just behind me in the tent – had planned brigadeiros for her decorations too!  Can you imagine?  We immediately called ourselves Brigadeiro Babes, because… how could we not? Knowing she was making a Brazilian delicacy right behind made the whole experience even more special and fun for me.  Her little pine cone decorations over the top of the cake were in fact little almond-covered brigadeiros.  Super clever and cute.

I was also a bit worried about tempering the chocolate in the tent for the decorations. It was the last thing I had to do, and kept me a bit anxious throughout the 3 and a half hours of the assignment. Which go by like 30 regular minutes, I kid you not. It turns out tempering was ok, but not the piping. I did not have the exact piping bag I had at home, and the opening was a bit too big even when I cut it as small as possible. My trees, that were so cute at home, looked a bit like odd fish creatures, as Sherry Yard brought to my attention. She was 100% right, I am sad to admit. But at least the brigadeiro component was good.  With that bake we completed the first round of the Great American Baking Show, and one of us had to say goodbye to the tent.

The baker leaving on that first day was Helen. I should tell you that sitting in those stools waiting for the knife to hit the chopping block is beyond stressful. I knew I was safe that day, but the idea of ANY of the others being eliminated was too hard to face. Watching the shows on TV over the years, I often wondered if the emotion they show is real. The cynic in me would sometimes feel that it was not possible to show so much affection for someone you just met. Well, it is not fake. When you meet those people, you spend A LOT of time together. You talk, you share a lot, often in moments in which you are most vulnerable. When they said Helen’s name, I know the sharp pain I felt inside was the exact same pain felt by the other 9 bakers, and of course even more sharply by Helen herself. No one wants to be eliminated first, and the fact that she was, has ZERO impact on her quality as a baker.  She took it with a smile, very gracefully. With the unique sense of humor she has, and that you can get a taste of by visiting her blog. Her writing is fun, to the point, and charming. Several of us made her brownies. Absolute winner. Give her recipe a try, and thank me later.

We were crushed by Helen leaving the tent, and if I could change one thing in the show, it would be this: no one gets eliminated on the first episode. You get that as a warm-up round. Producers, are you reading me? Anyone? Anyone?

That wraps up Cake Episode.  I will be back in a couple of days with the round up of BREAD, which hopefully you already watched.  It was a nail-biter for yours truly…

ONE YEAR AGO: Broccoli Souffle

TWO YEARS AGO: Panettone Time!

THREE YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

FOUR YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

FIVE YEAR AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

SIX YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Homemade Calzones

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

NINE YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

TEN YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye


In the past year, I was hit hard by two addictions. The Game of Thrones, and The Great British Baking Show. Odd to see them mentioned together in the same phrase. I caved to GoT despite my adamant stance against violent movies. That show is awesome, brilliant, irresistible. I can hardly wait for the next season, already feeling deprived. But The Great British Baking Show is a lot easier to watch, and so much better than ANY cooking show made in the US, it’s not even funny. They really hit a magical formula to entertain and teach at the same time. The right amount of humor, the right amount of anxiety, great atmosphere among the contestants, and so much talent! I also love the fact that they do blind judging of the technical challenge, to me that immediately sets the show on a higher level.  Then, there is the chemistry between Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. I realize she won’t be part of the new season, and from what I heard the new person does a stellar job too, the show should follow its natural path of glory. Paul is something else. Those penetrating blue eyes probably turn the blood of some contestants cold when he deeply stares at them and asks “have you really tried this before?“, or “is this slashing going to be alright?”    Analogy for my hard-core biochemist readers: if Paul asks “are you telling me that a low Kd means higher affinity for this enzyme? you sure about that?”  you would probably doubt all the biochemistry that until then was solid in your brain…

When you are so in love with GBBS. you do two things.

  1. You move to binge watching Master Class, in which Paul and Mary actually bake all that stuff they inflicted on the contestants, spilling some of the secrets for success.
  2. You buy their cookbooks. I now own several written by Paul and Mary, as well as a few from the show itself. Yes, I have a problem. No, I do not intend to go for therapy.

One of the cookbooks I own is The Weekend Baker by Mr. Hollywood. And I got his and Penguin Books permission to share with you one recipe from it (insert happy dance here). After a lot of mental struggles to pick just one, here it is. Chocolate to the limit, an Italian classic from Capri. Gluten-free, which might be a bonus to some, and decadently rich. A small slice will be enough, making it perfect to share with many friends, or in my case, co-workers. A certain Monday morning was made quite a bit sweeter in our department.

(Reproduced from THE WEEKEND BAKER by Paul Hollywood, published by Penguin Books Ltd (2016). With permission from Penguin Books Ltd. Recipes © Paul Hollywood, 2016. Photography © Issy Croker)

 to buy the book, follow this link:  The Weekend Baker

for the cake:
100 grams (3.5 ounces) blanched whole almonds
50 grams (1.75 ounces) plus 160 grams (5.6 ounces) superfine sugar
1 whole egg, plus 5 eggs, separated
265 grams (9.3 ounces) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
50 grams (1.75 ounces) chopped almonds

for the topping:
70 grams (2.5 ounces) water, plus for softening the gelatin
90 grams (3.2 ounces) superfine sugar (superfine)
30 grams (1 ounce) cocoa powder
25 grams (.9 ounces) liquid glucose (I used light corn syrup)
2 gelatin sheets (about 2.4 grams/.1 ounces)

Candied lemon peel or chopped almonds, for decorating

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4 (355 degrees F). Grease a deep 20-centimeter (8-inch) round cake tin. To make the cake, grind the whole almonds with 50 grams of fine sugar in a food processor. Reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat the whole egg and 5 yolks with the 160 grams fine sugar until the mix is pale and creamy and leaves a trail on the surface. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Do not over mix.

Add the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the ground almond mixture and the chopped almonds. Beat in a spoonful of the egg whites to loosen the mixture. Now, a spoonful at a time, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Once the cake is cooked, leave it in the pan to cool before turning it out onto a serving plate.

To prepare the topping, place the water, fine sugar, cocoa powder and glucose (or corn syrup) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and stir.

Soften the gelatin sheets in a little water. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Squeeze any liquid from the gelatin sheets and then add the sheets to the pan. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Leave to cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour the chocolate topping just onto the surface of the cake and decorate with candied lemon peel or extra chopped almonds.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Please notice that instead of almond flour, Paul prefers to grind whole almonds with sugar. He states to get better taste and texture this way. So resist grabbing that bag of Bob Mill’s you’ve got on your pantry. The glaze. Oh, the glaze. Very intense chocolate flavor topping a cake that also has a punch of chocolate, but mellowed down by the almonds, both in taste and texture. In fact, when you look at the Torta Caprese you’ll expect your classic flourless creature, very fudge-like. It is not, the ground & diced almonds turn it into a different type of cake, one that in fact will feel a tad bit less rich. When I bite into a flourless chocolate cake, I always have the filling that it is so rich, a small slice seems tricky to finish.  This cake? Not the case. It is rich, but you’ll feel that keep working on that slice is the most natural move… Consider yourself warned. Plus, the glaze… Oh, the glaze…


And now, a quick virtual tour of Paul Hollywood’s book.


The book is organized in ten chapters, and contrary to most cookbooks, these are not your regular ‘Breads”, “Pies”, “Cakes” categories. Instead, Paul dedicates one chapter to each place he’s been to, showcasing the recipes that impressed him most during his visit.  Consider it a gastronomic tour. His introduction to the book will have you excited to jump on a plane (or as he puts it, start a very long swim from UK all the way to New York), and, book in hand, try every one of the delicacies he talks about.  So, without further ado, a few of my favorites from each chapter.

SUN BAKED, MADRID: I’ve never been to Spain, so baking from this chapter would be a nice way to tempt myself to finally go visit. My favorites include Churros and Spanish Hot Chocolate (for dipping them into), as churros were actually quite popular in Brazil when I was growing up.  But how about Iberico Ham and Manchego Empanadas? I am crazy for Manchego… Buñuelos de Viento sound great too, these are very light puff pastry entities, filled with chocolate or cream. But I am really intrigued by the last recipe in this chapter, quite simply called Torta. It is like a focaccia, but made with 70% olive oil in its formula. I bet it is amazing!

LA DOLCE VITA, NAPLES: My showcased recipe, Torta Caprese, comes from this chapter, where you will find many of the most authentic examples of Italian baking, like Pizza Margherita, Ciabatta, Focaccia. But the one that captured my imagination is Gatto di Santa Chiara, a cross between a quiche and a pie. The dough calls for some mashed potato in it, which I know results in incredible texture. Definitely something to make in the near future.

FRENCH FANCIES, PARIS: My home away from home! He opens the chapter with royalty, Croissants… And offers some other classics like Quiche Lorraine, Eclairs (be still, my heart), and Madeleines (made with brown butter). Baguettes are there too, just in case you are wondering…  I have my mind set on Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues, though.

PUDDING LANE, LONDON: A city I visited three times, and find absolutely amazing, definitely want to go back. You will find a basic recipe for Scones that you can adapt for any flavor you like, the famous Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns, Lemon Drizzle Slices (similar to a cake I just blogged about, but with fancier icing), and Battenberg (a two-color cake that is calling my name).

DANISH TASTIES, COPENHAGEN: Another place I’ve never visited but hope to stop by some day, to get fully acquainted with the meaning of hygge, a very fashionable word. Danish is in there, a version with Apricot and Passion Fruit,  Seeded Rye Bread, and the recipe I almost picked to showcase, Danish Raspberry Slices. They look so cute, I know I’ll be making them for our graduate students in the very near future.

BAVARIAN BITES, MUNICH. I’ve been there, years ago, ate superbly well. Beautiful place! Paul offers a recipe for Pretzels that has some unexpected twists, I am a lover of soft pretzels, and have been meaning to try and bake them at home for…. forever.  Stollen, the famous bread is in this chapter, as well as Lebkuchen Biscuits, a sort of soft spice cookie that I’m sure I would fall in love with at first bite. Prinzeregententorte (say that three times fast) seems like the kind of cake that could be the weapon of my self-destruction. Seven layers of sponge cake that must be absolutely identical, as they represent the regions of Bavaria in 1886. Are you amazed yet?

AMERICAN PIE, NEW YORK: There we are at the Big Apple, the chapter opens with Bagels, rightfully so! Also a big nod to Bittman’s No Knead Bread, New York Cheesecake with details for baking that definitely take it to the smoothest consistency ever.  I really want to try my hands at it. So many recipes, so little time!

FUN IN THE SUN, MIAMI: Still in the US,  dear friends…  Paul loved the beat of Miami – who doesn’t? – it is packed full of Brazilians (sorry could not resist a little wave to my home country). Great items in this chapter, starting of course with Key Lime Pie, passing by  Best- Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Waffles, and American Pancakes.

PRIDE OF POLAND, WARSAW: Would I be repeating myself too much if I say I’d love to visit Poland? Not only I have great Polish friends, but all my friends who visited were mesmerized by it. Seems like a fantastic place indeed.  Here are the recipes I loved the most: Babka, for obvious reasons. A bread, beautifully swirled with chocolate. And Polish Cheesecake. Yes, I need to get to know this, if not in Warsaw, in our kitchen.

THE RUSSIAN OVEN, SAINT PETERSBURG: Paul was really smitten by that city, and I also heard plenty of great things about it. Of course, I would never go in the winter, just looking at the photos of Paul in full winter gear when he landed there, made me cringe. No, a Brazilian cannot face that ever. But the recipes seem just amazing. Russian Pies (much more involved and complex than the name implies), the famous Blinis, Medovik (a gorgeous honey cake), Sweet Berry Pancakes, but what really won my heart is something call Vatrushka. Go ahead, google, and drool…

So there you have it, my little tour of Paul Hollywood’s The Weekend Baker is over. The book has a little introduction to each recipe, with interesting bits about them, gorgeous photos, not only of the finished product, but of the places he visited.  Well-balanced, actually. You will not be bombarded with personal photos like some cookbook authors do (not naming any names), but you’ll have enough to tease you, make you dream about that plane trip to see the world.

Paul, thank you and Penguin Books for allowing me to publish your recipe.

Before I leave my dear readers… yes, a lower Kd will always indicate higher affinity. For any enzyme in the known universe. I am sure you can all sleep better now…


ONE YEAR AGO: Texas Sheet Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sour Cherry Sorbet: A Labor of Love

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

FIVE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

SIX YEARS AGO: When three is better than two  (four years with Buck!)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day