Yesterday, I was invited to what was perhaps the best – and strangest – work conference you can imagine.
At around midday, a very nice chap delivered a box to me. Inside the box, were another two boxes.
Inside those, were two cakes. One recipe was Great British Bake Off 2020 winner Peter’s, and the other, a Google AI machine’s.
As part of a live, blind taste test with Maltesers, I got to taste test two cakes, to see if artificial intelligence could ever take over from professional bakers.
As you can see, they both looked delicious. I was initially drawn to the shiny mirror glazed number. Surely this shine can only be the work of a Bake Off champion?
When the Google Meet began, the fan girl inside me was delighted to be in the same virtual room as an actual Bake Off winner. Unfortunately, there were no robots in sight, but the engineer who coded the Google AI machine was in attendance, and she told us all about it.
The brief for the cakes was that they had to, in some way, feature Maltesers. They also had secret, unlikely flavours inside. The excitement built.
It was finally time to taste the cakes.
Cake one was a glossy, chocolate number. As I bit inside, I noticed a delicious mix of textures – a traybake bottom, chocolate mousse inside and caramel core.
It was time for the second cake. It was crunchy and tasty, with a Malteser crumb, buttercream icing, and a cookie base. But there’s no denying it was dry.
Far too dry to be Peter’s, I thought. If I was Paul Hollywood, I’d be saying it was overbaked.
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Those of us on the video call had to then guess what the strange ingredient in each cake was from a list of items, and who had baked which. There was soy sauce lurking in the caramel of the first, and Marmite inside the buttercream of the second.
I cast my guess, putting Peter’s as the glossy first cake, and the Google AI machine the second. A third of people voted the other way.
I was correct. Of course this sophisticated treat was Peter Sawkins’!
Peter then shared that the recipe had been based on childhood nostalgia, of the traybake his mum would make for coffee mornings and church events growing up, adding “my brother and I would snaffle away as many as we could”.
He shared that when developing his recipe, he added a malty flavour to the mousse and soy sauce to the caramel, to try to mimic the flavour of a Malteser, in a different form.
Here’s a fun fact for fact fans – did you know we eat over 200 million Maltesers in this country per year? Madness.
The top secret recipe is so secret, that only a select few know it. Even their head of chocolate tasting doesn’t know.
Peter was then asked how he thought an AI robot would fare in the Bake Off tent.
“It wouldn’t be taken in by the pressure and stress of being in that big white tent!” he said.
Malteser’s taste testers didn’t want to choose between the two, but I think Peter’s was a clear winner.
For those who would like to try their hands at baking against the machine, visit this website, for your chance to win a bright red Maltesers coloured Kitchen Aid.
When you take the quiz on the link, you’ll also be sent a special recipe with instructions on how you can make the world’s very first Maltesers Artificial Intelligence cake at home, just like I tasted.
I took the quiz myself, and was sent a recipe for some Maltesers Truffles Chilli chocolate shots, along with the recipe for the cake I had tried, and Peter’s too.
Would you try a robot’s cake? Would you eat Marmite frosting or soy sauce salted caramel? Let us know in the comment section here.