Cafeteria boss or cake boss? Food services director takes on baking challenges

Carvi’s dish from Japanese Week. (Photo courtesy of Juli Carvi)
A red jelly cake that Carvi baked for dessert week. (Photo courtesy of Juli Carvi)
Carvi’s pink and white checkered Battenberg cake with homemade Marzipan and peach preserves. (Photo courtesy of Juli Carvi)

After a long day of directing the distribution of food to hundreds of students, District Food Service Director Julianna Carvi can often be found heading home to embark on another difficult challenge: British desserts. 

Carvi uses her culinary talents both at work and at home, where she creates intricate and detailed baked goods from the popular Netflix baking show “The Great British Bake-Off.”

Carvi participates in weekly baking challenges found on Twitter, in which participants recreate the desserts baked on the show. Contestants on the show face off every week to create three baked goods, and at the end of each episode, the baker with the worst results is voted off by the panel of judges.

“On Twitter, there are home bakers who do the same challenges at their home and then post pictures of what they’ve done,” Carvi explained. 

Carvi said she’s participated in different online baking challenges for years but hadn’t been interested by any challenges recently until she stumbled across the “Great British Bake-Off” challenges. Carvi was immediately drawn to the “Great British Bake-Off” challenges because of their uniqueness compared to American baking.

“It’s very British, and it’s very different from the cakes we eat here in a lot of ways,” Carvi said. “You think, ‘oh cake is cake is cake,’ but they’ve got a very interesting culture of baking.”

Carvi explained that in America, cakes are mostly about quantity rather than quality, but in Britain, the baking is much more intricate. Carvi explained that in American baking, most desserts have one or two flavors, like vanilla or chocolate, that are very strong, while in British baking, desserts incorporate many subtle flavors.

Carvi has been participating in the challenges for eight weeks now and says that the online community of fans and bakers has made the show more interesting for her to watch. 

“The Great British Bake-Off” airs on Tuesdays in Britain, Carvi explained, but because the show is only available to American viewers on Netflix, she can’t watch it until Friday. 

“I always know who has lost before I watch the episode because I can see what others are posting on Twitter,” Carvi said. “So while I’m watching, I try and figure out how they’re going to mess up.”

Carvi said that her access to spoilers has caused some problems for her challenge entries because she will see the requirements on Twitter from the British users and create her dessert before she’s watched the episodes, causing her to occasionally miss important steps. 

“[One] challenge was a gelatin dessert that was supposed to have a cake element,” Carvi explained. “Well, mine didn’t have a cake element.”

While Carvi originally joined “The Great British Bake-Off” Twitter community for the baking, she says she has found the community to be welcoming and always positive. She explained that even after she posted her gelatin that was missing cake, everyone still gave her positive comments about how pretty her dessert was.

“It’s a great community to be a part of, and I love doing the challenges,” Carvi said. “It’s really been a great way to spend my time during this crazy year.”