GBBO Recipe Challenge with John Holland (Forgotten Bake Special)

by Owen Redford

GBBO recipe challenge time! This week we have avid baker and cake creator John Holland who takes on Forgotten Cake week with his delicious Welsh Honey Cake from 1796!

Name:             John Holland

Occupation:     Finance Officer for Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)

Social Media:  @BakeronBoardUK (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

  • How did you get into baking?

I started to bake along with the various technical challenges on The Great British Bake Off during 2014 and enjoyed the reactions I got posting my results to social media – it grew slowly from there, branching out into developing new recipes, meeting up with several of the bakers from the show over the subsequent years, doing workshops, improving my techniques and eventually establishing Baker on Board in 2016, having spent many journeys going back and forth from work on public transport with my goodies on display!

  • How long did the cake take from start to finish?

Two hours, plus cooling. The cooking time was the maximum stated in the recipe, as it was a loaf cake.

  • What’s your favourite thing about the cake?

The gorgeous combination of soft, sweet honey crumb and crunchy, fizzy meringue on the top – although that was optional (along with the addition of raisins – which I adore), I followed a hint in the book that it would have had this showstopper topping, so went with it…

  • What was the hardest thing about making the cake?

Getting the meringue right! I think there’s a typo in the recipe, as when I added the rose water, it became far too wet to become a meringue, so had to do that again – even on the second attempt, the texture wasn’t quite right and I had to add more icing sugar than I would have liked. I think it’s meant to say 1-2 ‘teaspoons’ of rosewater, not ‘tablespoons’!

  • Tell us about your business/blog.

A bit of a hobbyist adventure, as still working full-time, but taking on bespoke celebration cakes, developing new recipes and trying to spread the brand name whenever and wherever I can. I hope to be able to fill my website with more recipes and maybe a blog at some point, but fitting everything in is tough currently. I don’t know whether I want to be a full-time baker, but I certainly enjoy being in the kitchen and making people happy with my home-baked creations.


Welsh Honey Cake (1796) with Swete Plums and Meringue Icing

Great British Bakes by Mary-Anne Boermans Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 170g honey
  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 340g self-raising flour (add milk if required)

Method (for the cake)

  • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius/150 degrees Celsius fan/gas mark 3. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
  • If necessary warm the honey until runny, but not too hot. Set aside to cool if required.
  • In a bowl beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the honey and mix it thoroughly. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Fold the flour. The mixture should be of a ‘dropping’ consistency (it should drop freely from the spoon). Add a little milk if necessary until the correct consistency is reached.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 40 minutes – 1 ¼ hours until risen and firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. The cooking time will vary, depending on the size and shape of your tin, and the moisture content of your honey.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Ingredient (for the icing)

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1-2 tea spoons rosewater
  • 225g icing sugar

Method (for the icing)

  • When the cake is fully baked, remove it from the oven and while it’s still in the tin, spoon the icing over the top. Return the iced cake to the oven and turn off the heat.
  • Let the icing set for 15 minutes then remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin. 
  • When it’s completely cold, remove the cake from the tin. Run a knife around the edge of the icing to loosen the baking parchment and slowly peel away the paper. 

Thanks for reading and check back next week for a new GBBO recipe challenge.

Happy baking!