22 British Baking Phrases, Decoded
In honor of The Great British Bakeoff, we went deep into the world of British baking to discover and decode its mysterious language—from baps and biscuits to soggy bottoms and spotted dicks.
Photo: Shutterstock / Ruth Black
If you’ve ever watched (or binged) The Great British Bakeoff (a popular baking reality show) then you know it is full of vocabular oddities such as “pasties,” “proofing” and “saucy puds.” You were probably left feeling confused and slightly concerned with desserts called “spotted dick.” Well, fear not! We love our readers, so we gathered—and translated— some of the most used baking terms that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood love to use so much.
Simply put, it’s a bread roll. Bap is also slang for breasts in Britain, resulting in many witty puns by the judges.
A general term for baked goods that can either be savory or sweet. There’s no doubt about it, after you binge the GBBO you’ll catch yourself saying “what a lovely bake” from here on out.
No, not the puffy pastry slathered in butter and country gravy. When Mary and Paul say biscuits they are referring to a sweet or savory cookie that is often times made to be dunked in tea or coffee. They are a staple of British baking and are seen quite often on the show.
A light pastry dough used to make desserts such as beignets and churros. Made only of butter, water, flour, and eggs, instead of using a rising agent it uses a high moisture content to create steam that will in turn puff the pastry.
A thin, fruit-based puree used to make various sauces.
Short for “crème pâtissière.” In America we know it to be a pastry cream, a sweet filling used in a wide variety of desserts like cream puffs. Many contestants had their dreams crushed due to a runny Crème Pat that wasn’t given enough time to cool.
Similar to our cupcakes, but instead of a thick buttercream frosting on the top (or other type of frosting), over the pond they often opt for a simple glaze to finish off these scrummy treats.
In America we know fondant to be a smooth sugary icing used to decorate cakes and other pastries, but in Britain they know them to be a soft-centered chocolate cake—similar to lava cakes.
A dessert made of pureed fruit traditionally served in a custard, but nowadays often served in whipped cream.
A sweet cream filling made with almond paste, sugar, butter and eggs.
In Britain, grill actually means to broil. The heating comes from the top instead of the bottom.
British pasties refer to a savory dish usually formed of meats and vegetables in a pastry shell.
Simply a braid. Many baked goods require the baker to intertwine the pieces, creating an aesthetically pleasing look.
Proofing or Proving
Meaning to rise. On the show, contestants put their bread dough in proving drawers that are heated to help it rise faster.
Or “puds” for short, refers to a food that can either be a sweet or savory dish—not the soft dessert we are accustomed to in those plastic cups.
Though it does sound like a cheeky form of endearment, it is in fact Britain’s equivalent to our lava cake.
A term used affectionately by Mary Berry and short for “scrumptious.” Many contestants consider it the highest form of compliment and is a good indication of a future star baker.
Nobody likes a soggy bottom in baking—or otherwise. In baking, it refers to the bottom of a pastry that is under cooked or soggy due to a juicy filling that soaked into the crust.
The unfortunately named pastry that has the more immature of us Americans giggling is made of suet (the hard white fat surrounding the kidneys and loins on sheep and other animals) and dried fruit and often times served with custard.
An uncrystallized syrup better known to us Americans as molasses.
Twiddly refers to something decorative and bits refers to something small. So, a twiddly bit is anything small yet elaborately decorated.