Spotted Dick and 21 Other 'Great British Bake Off' Terms You Need to Know

GBBO terms you need to know
Evan Lockhart/Thrillist

The Great British Bake Off (or The Great British Baking Show, as it’s known in the US, thanks to Pillsbury trademarks) has managed to fully charm our binge-watching hearts with its acute politeness, cheeky hosts, and incredibly pink cardigans of judge Mary Berry. Part of its allure -- besides the fact that everyone is just so damn nice to one another -- is that most of the items contestants are tasked to bake have quintessentially British names.

These terms are pretty adorable, but they are also pretty confusing to anyone who grew up on the other side of the pond, spelling color without a “u” and melting Cheddar cheese on apple pie. The show returns to PBS on June 16, and while Berry is only here for one last season (sigh, gotta love contract disputes), the terms definitely will be around forever. So here is a handy guide to help you distinguish a treacle tart from a traybake, and a Spotted Dick from a... well, you get the idea.  

The Great British Bake Off
The Great British Bake Off

Bakes: The catch-all term for any of the sweet or savory baked goods made on the show, as in “I hope Paul Hollywood likes my bake!” or, “Ruby’s bakes have been really inconsistent this week.”

Bakewell tart: The key features of a traditional Bakewell tart are a flaky pastry crust, layers of jam and frangipane, and an almond topping. That said, the version Mary Berry challenged contestants to make on the show -- with a fondant topping in lieu of the traditional sliced almonds -- created a mini #BakewellGate on Twitter, with many viewers complaining that fondant doesn’t belong atop the tart. But who cares? Either way sounds delicious.

Bap: A bread roll -- and also British slang for boobs. Often the subject of (now former) hosts Mel and Sue’s never-ending puns (Ex. “Stand away from the hot baps!”).

Battenberg Cake: This is a very involved sponge cake with a checkered interior, jam filling, and marzipan coating. It is exactly the kind of obnoxious technical challenge that Mary Berry will throw down during the finals, when the contestants are getting a bit ~too~ comfortable in their baking abilities.

Biscuits: Savory or sweet cookies, often meant to be dunked into or served alongside tea. GBBO Contestants have been asked to do all sorts of wizardry with biscuits, since they’re such a building block of British baking -- one contestant, Season 5’s Luis, even stacked them together to create an extremely impressive edible dragon.

Crème Pat: Short for “crème pâtissière,” or pastry cream, this is a filling used widely on the show in everything from religieuses (cream-filled stacked puffs) to napoleons. An overly runny crème pat has been the downfall of those impatient contestants who didn’t allow enough time for the cream to cool.

Fairy cakes: The British term for cupcakes that makes dessert sound a lot more appealing. Brits, of course, don’t make their fairy cakes exactly the way that Americans do; instead of piling on heavy buttercream frosting, they tend to opt for a more simple glazed topping.

Fool: Pureed fruit folded into custard. Alternatively, the correct word for the producers who stupidly decided that the show could go on without Mary Berry next season.

Frangipane: A sweet pastry filling with a base of ground almonds, named after Italian noble Marquis Muzio Frangipani (the more you know!). Look for it in many signature challenges, as the base layer for a tart. Frangipane tarts, though, are quite prone to soggy bottoms.

great british bake off

Genoise Sponge: A very light and airy kind of sponge cake, used very widely by GBBO contestants as a base for everything from tiramisu to Jaffa cakes (essentially mini chocolate-covered biscuits). You also sound very fancy and proper when you say it, like you went to boarding school growing up and then finished your education at Oxford.

Hot water crust: An old-school pastry made by boiling water and fat (usually lard) in a pan, then adding flour. It’s traditionally used for elaborately decorated meat pies, as it’s hefty and sturdy, kind of like Paul Hollywood.

Pasty: No, not those adult only pasties. This version of a pasty is actually a savory pastry, usually filled with meat and/or vegetables. Beef and potatoes (aka, Cornish pasties) are the most traditional, but during signature challenges, contestants have stuffed their pasties with lamb and mint, spicy duck, and even potatoes and peas, samosa-style.

Proofing (or proving): This is the exact same thing as rising, the stage of making a bread when you let the dough grow in size under moist, warm conditions to give the final product more volume and an airier texture. Usually the most stressful portion of bread week.

Proofing drawer (or proving drawer): Those little bins underneath the ovens on the show where contestants stash their dough to rise. These drawers help speed up the proofing process, but they don’t reduce contestants’ worries over whether their bread will bloom up nicely or fall flat.

Pudding: Not the brown or off-white colored liquid you eat out of disposable cups, but rather a term for dessert or cake, but never a pastry. GBBO contestants have been asked to make many a type of pudding, from the classic sticky toffee variety to a self-saucing one (also known as a molten lava cake). Savory puddings do exist, but these have qualifying adjectives, like Yorkshire pudding, or black pudding. On the show, you’ll often hear the word abbreviated to “pud.”  

Scrummy: A foundational descriptor during GBBO judging, scrummy (short for scrumptious) is the ultimate compliment from Mary Berry. If you’re on the receiving end of the s-word, you’re likely in the running for Star Baker.

Soggy bottom: A major pet peeve of judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, a soggy bottom befalls a baker when the pastry portion of a pie is under-baked (or as Paul puts it, “oonderbaked”), or a filling is so juicy that is soaks the bottom of the shell. You’ll likely hear the term mentioned at least three times per episode.

Spotted dick: This unfortunately named treat reared its head when GBBO contestants had to make a suet pudding -- a steamed or boiled cake made with the fat that surrounds the loins of sheep and cattle. Season 4 contestant/everyone’s grandma Christine made a specific variation of suet pudding called spotted dick, a rolled cake that incorporates dried fruit and custard. She also could not stop telling everyone that it was her husband’s favorite dessert.  

Sultanas: These are just golden raisins -- smaller, lighter, and sweeter than their brown counterparts. The spots in a spotted dick.

Traybake: A very pleasant-sounding word that refers to any sort of brownie, dessert bar, or individually portioned rectangular cake. Contestants usually love traybake week because these dishes are easier to make and allow for all sorts of creativity by way of flavor and texture.

Treacle: Molasses, or any kind of uncrystallized syrup. You’ll see many technical challenges centered on treacle tarts, which consist of lemon-infused treacle in a pastry shell. Treacle can also be found in basically every Harry Potter book.

Victoria sponge: A layered sponge cake filled with jam and cream. The Victoria sponge seems simple enough to make, but too many contestants have opened the oven before their cake was done, causing it to sink.

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Priya Krishna is a food writer and the author of the college-centric cookbook, Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks. Her pies almost always have soggy bottoms. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @PKgourmet.