Author: Hall, Alexis
Book: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake
Difficulty rating: Little Women
Deliciousness rating: Exceeds Expectations (pudding); Acceptable (ice-cream)
“For this week’s baketacular,” Grace Forsythe was saying, “we have a first for Bake Expectations. It’s been the bane of many a baker and the shame of many a chef. It’s something many cooks have cocked up.” She paused for what would surely be ominous incidental music. “For your final challenge, you’ll be making a self-saucing pudding. It can be sumptuously sticky or silkily smooth, as long as when you slide your spoon inside, it drenches itself in a rich, delicious sauce. And to make it a little bit harder, you have to serve it with a homemade ice-cream.” (Hall 238)
My recommended summer read of 2021 is Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, by Alexis Hall — just released today! It’s the tale of a British single mom who has a far-off dream of baking for a living … and finally enters a TV contest to pursue it. I was super-engrossed in the story, just as I am when I binge Great British Baking Show episodes on Netflix — a lot of the fictional characters feel like delightful inside jokes that only GBBS fans would get.
I’d also like to note: as a bi woman, I deeply appreciate the level of representation in this book, which I haven’t found in any other to date. The crisis situation in the story mirrors experiences that I’ve had (and must be alarmingly common). Plus, I’m grateful for the template the author provides for difficult conversations I imagine I’ll have someday, with underhandedly homophobic authority figures in my future kids’ lives. Thank you, Alexis Hall — this book is important to me!
Jenne and I considered recreating dishes that appear in the story — especially since there are several recipes provided at the end of the book — but we felt it was more in the spirit of Rosaline Palmer if we baked alongside the characters in one of their challenges. Neither Jenne nor I had ever tried a self-saucing pudding before, so we embarked on creating our very own.
Did it measure up?
Okay, obviously, I do not have the talent or skills to appear on either Bake Expectations or its real-life counterpart, and if I served my ultra-basic pudding as a baketacular/showstopper, I would probably be laughed out of the country. (Ohhh, I can just imagine the judges’ sardonic smiles!) BUT did I fulfill the brief? A self-saucing pudding and homemade ice cream in 4 hours? Why yes, I did. I even timed myself. (Did I have to undertake a second attempt because my first pudding turned out with zero sauce? Why yes, I did.)
Now, I don’t have an ice cream maker. But I had heard of an ice cream you can make with just whipping cream and condensed milk that you don’t need to churn, so I went with that! It’s actually not my favorite — way too sweet, especially to eat with a pudding that has a sweet sauce already. It also takes 5 hours to properly set, so it was the consistency of soft serve when my time was up.
But I like the pudding! The top cake layer is fluffy with a very thin crispy top, not very sweet; its flavor reminds me of a yeasted cake. The sauce, I thought could be a little thinner — maybe add a touch more than the 2 cups water. As for the booze level, I think the fictional Marianne Wolvercote (the judge whose fondness for her tipple must be based on our dear Mary Berry) would approve.
MIKO’S BROWNED BUTTERSCOTCH PUDDING WITH ICE-CREAM
Ingredients & Supplies Needed:
- 7 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp + 4 Tbsp Scotch whisky, divided
- ¼ cup (50g) dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 ¼ cup (185g) all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 egg
- ½ cup milk
- 4 Tbsp golden syrup
- Pinch of salt
- ¾ cup (150g) dark brown sugar, packed
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 cups water
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brown the butter. Keep a watchful eye, lest it burn on you. In a small light-colored pot over medium-high heat, melt 7 Tbsp butter. Let it boil until it stops making a crackling sound and foams up. As soon as the foam starts sinking, decant into a heatproof container to cool. Add 1 Tbsp whisky (it’s fun to see it sizzle!) and stir.
- Prepare the pan. Grease a 6-cup baking dish with butter. Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and pour in 4 Tbsp Scotch.
- Make the sauce sprinkle. Whisk sugar, salt, and cornstarch together in a small bowl, and set aside.
- Make the pudding batter. Put sugar, flour, and baking powder in a separate bowl, and whisk together. Add the butter, egg, milk, and golden syrup. Mix until mostly smooth.
- Assemble the pudding. Pour the batter into the baking dish and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the sauce mixture (the sugar + cornstarch) all over the top. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the surface of the pudding over the bottom of a spoon, , as close to the batter as possible. (This softens the pour into a gentler shower, rather than a torrential waterfall that’ll destroy the pudding layers.)
- Bake! Put the dish in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into just the cake part comes out clean.
- Prepare for judging. Serve in bowls with a scoop of ice cream.
MIKO’S 4-HOUR CHALLENGE NO-CHURN ICE-CREAM
Ingredients & Supplies Needed:
- 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 pinch fine salt
- 2 cups heavy cream, cold
- Whisk together the condensed milk and salt in a large bowl, and set aside.
- Whip the cream with a mixer on medium-high speed until firm peaks form (about 2 minutes). Fold 1 cup of the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture with a rubber spatula until combined. Then, fold this mixture into the whipped cream until well blended. At first, it’ll seem impossibly lumpy, but if you keep folding, it’ll smoothen out.
- Pour into a chilled 9″x5″x3″ metal loaf pan. Freeze, covered, for 5 hours … or as long as you have till the end of the challenge!
Hall, Alexis. Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake. New York: Forever, 2021.