Liam Charles was the 20-year-old break star from last year’s Great British Bake Off and gave hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig some serious screen-time competition. A year on and he’s landed his own telly gig, co-hosting Bake Off: The Professionals, and has written his debut baking book, Cheeky Treats (“It’s just crazy!”) – plus, he’s still set to graduate from university in December. Here’s his top 3 bakes he’s chosen to share with us.
TOFFEE APPLE CRUMBLE LAYER CAKE
This is a cake that’ll seriously wow.
“It is pretty evident I am obsessed with apple crumble,” says Liam Charles, the stand-out contestant of last year’s Great British Bake Off.
“This cake has four layers of light brown sugar sponges, apple compote filling, and squiggles of salted caramel. And a few clusters of crumble, you know, for texture, as they say,” he adds.
For the sponge:
- 750g unsalted butter, softened
- 600g golden caster sugar
- 150g light muscovado sugar
- 12 large eggs
- 750g self-raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 180ml whole milk
- 1/2tsp vanilla extract
For the crumble:
- 225g plain flour
- 135g soft brown sugar
- 1tsp fine sea salt
- 150g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
For the cinnamon buttercream:
- 900g unsalted butter, softened
- 1.95kg icing sugar
- 2tsp ground cinnamon
- 180ml whole milk
- 11/2tsp vanilla extract
For the filling and topping:
- 350ml shop-bought salted caramel
- Apple compote
- Apple crisps (optional)
- You will need 4 x 25cm cake tins
1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas 4 and grease and line the cake tins.
2. Make the cakes. Cream your butter and both sugars together in a large bowl with a freestanding or hand-held mixer until light and fluffy. Crack the eggs in one at a time, mixing after each addition. If the mixture begins to curdle, just pop in a couple of tablespoons of the flour to bring it back together. Turn the speed down very low and add your flour and baking powder. Finally, add the milk and vanilla and give it one more blast. Divide your mixture evenly between the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes in the tins before turning out on to a wire rack.
2. Make the crumble. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Tip your flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl and give it a good mix. Take the cubes of butter and begin to rub them into the flour. Tip the crumble onto the baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Smash it and tip into an airtight container, ready for later.
3. Make the buttercream. Measure your butter into a large bowl and beat with your free-standing or hand-held mixer until light and pale. Sift your icing sugar and cinnamon into a separate bowl, then add it to the butter in three stages, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Add your milk and vanilla to loosen the buttercream and give it one more mix.
4. Use a cake leveller or sharp knife to trim the top off all the cakes so they are level. Spread a small amount of buttercream on a board that is slightly bigger than your sponges and place your first layer of sponge on top. Place that board on a turntable, if you have one. Place half the buttercream in a piping bag, snip the end and pipe a circle around the edge of the first layer of sponge, leaving a 10cm circle in the middle. Fill that circle with apple compote and sprinkle with crumble. Spoon the caramel into a piping bag and cut the tip off, then squiggle the salted caramel on top.
Repeat until all the sponges are stacked. Your last sponge should be placed upside down on top.
5. Using a palette knife, cake scraper and a turntable, coat the outside and top of the cake with a thin layer of the remaining buttercream. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
6. Remove the cake from the fridge and apply another layer of buttercream around the sides and top of the cake. Use any leftover buttercream to pipe around the top edges of your cake. Finally, place apple crisps on top with more crumble and – yes – more salted caramel.
Falafel crossed with a scone – what’s not to love?
“OK, ask any of my pals, whenever we go out – morning, noon or night – there isn’t a time when I don’t fancy a falafel wrap,” says former Great British Bake Off contestant, Liam Charles.
“With the whole savoury scone craze, I’ve wondered for a while what a falafel-inspired scone would taste like. Hmmmmm?”
Here’s his take on it.
(Makes about 30)
For the chickpea crumb:
- 1x400g tin chickpeas, drained
- 1tsp rapeseed oil
- 1tsp smoked paprika
- 1tsp ground cumin
- 1tsp ground turmeric
- 1tsp dried mixed herbs
For the scone:
- 720g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 3tbsp baking powder
- 1/2tsp fine sea salt
- 200g unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- A small bunch of chives, snipped
- A small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and chopped
- 300g feta, diced
- 15 halves of sun-dried tomatoes, diced
- 4 large eggs
- 160ml whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas 4.
2. Make the chickpea crumb. Chuck the chickpeas into a large bowl with all the other ingredients and mix until the chickpeas are well coated. Tip on to a baking tray and bake for 16 minutes. Rotate the tray and bake for a further 16 minutes. Leave on one side to cool. Drop the temperature to 170C/Gas 3 and line a baking tray with baking paper.
3. For the scones, sift your flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add your butter and, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until there are no clumps left. Stir in the fresh herbs and mix until evenly distributed. Finally, add the feta and sun-dried tomatoes and stir again.
4. Crack three of the eggs into a jug with the milk and beat lightly. Pour this into the bowl, stirring as you go. Bring the mixture together to form a rough dough.
5. Dust your worktop and rolling pin with flour then roll your dough into a 25 x 25cm square about 3-4cm thick. Dip a 6cm cutter into flour then cut out about 18 scones. You want to use one swift motion when cutting, they say it helps the scones to rise. Re-roll the offcuts of dough and cut out more scones until you have a dozen. Place them on the baking tray.
6. Beat the remaining egg and, using a pastry brush, slather the top of your scones with the egg wash.
7. Blitz the cooled chickpeas in a food-processor to a fine crumb and sprinkle this over the scones. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen. The base should be a deep, golden brown and they should sound hollow when tapped.
CARROT CAKE COOKIES
Carrot cake, but not as you know it.
“I was in the sixth form when one of my teachers asked me to make her a carrot cake,” explains Liam Charles, best known for appearing on last year’s Great British Bake Off.
“I went through a phase of making complementary biscuits to go with cakes I baked, so these carrot cake cookies were made. Since then, I’ve developed the recipe and these cookies are not anyone’s sidekick any more – Carrot Cake Cookies take centre stage.”
Fancy whipping up a batch? Here’s how…
For the filling:
- 150g full-fat cream cheese
- 150g icing sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
For the dough:
- 350g plain flour
- 1/2tsp baking powder
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 1tsp ground cloves
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- 100g soft light brown sugar
- 50g soft dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 200g carrot, finely grated
For the decor:
- Zest of 2 oranges and juice of 1 orange
- 4tbsp walnuts, finely chopped
1. Mix the cream cheese, three tablespoons of the icing sugar and the vanilla in a large bowl until combined, then pop in the freezer for 30-45 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, measure your flour, baking powder and spices into another bowl. Beat your butter and both sugars together in a third bowl until creamy. Beat your egg into the butter mixture, then tip in your carrot. Mix together well. Tip your dry ingredients into the carrot mixture and mix slowly to form a dough.
3. Preheat oven to 200.C/Fan 180.C/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Weigh your dough and divide by 15 – this is how much each ball should weigh. Then flatten them slightly into thin discs using the palm of your hand.
4. Add a generous teaspoon of the cream cheese filling to the centre of each disc and wrap the dough around the filling to seal. Pinch the top and roll it back into a ball, making sure no filling leaks out. Pop the balls on to the tray and flatten slightly. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
5. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave on the tray for a few minutes to firm up, then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.
6. Sift the remaining icing sugar into a small bowl and mix with the orange juice – you’re aiming for a drizzling consistency. Flick the icing over the cookies and top with the orange zest and walnuts.
Cheeky Treats by Liam Charles, photography by Haarala Hamilton, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20. Available now.