They've made orange and cardamom pastries, egg custard tarts, pies, desserts, breads and a huge selection of sophisticated cakes.

But the contestants in the current series of the Great British Bake-Off haven't yet been handed the challenge of baking a classic Victoria sponge - arguably the most difficult of all.

So, to find out how hard it is, we challenged members of the Herald and Times Cake Club to put on their pinnies. To add a little spice to the mix, we set the girls against the boys.

Their task: to bake a Victoria sponge, decorate it on the theme of a Scottish seasonal fruits showcase, and present it to the judges, within all two hours.

The contestants: journalists Alison Campsie, Catriona Stewart and Caroline Wilson; Ewan Fergus, Iain Lundy and Stephen Naysmith.

The judges: Willie McCurrach, Head of School for Food, Hospitality and Tourism at City of Glasgow College, and James Morton, Great British Bake-Off 2012 finalist and author of Brilliant Bread (Ebury, £20).

Six stainless-steel workstations in the bakery at City of Glasgow College are gleaming invitingly as our nervous contestants troop in. Each station is set with a pair of digital scales, a mixing bowl and a baking mat. The specialist baking ovens are on at 180C/gas mark 4 and Willie McCurrach explains that as the heat goes from top to bottom, they'll cook the cakes quicker so it's best to allocate 20 minutes instead of the normal 25. "And put the tins on a tray and not straight on to the bottom of the oven," he advises, to stop them burning.

Contestants are shown how to work the professional food mixers, and the chill-blast machine for speedy cooling of the sponges so they can be decorated in the alloted time.

Each contestant has to bring their own recipe and ingredients. Iain's recipe is from Woman & Home magazine, Stephen's is a Delia Smith creation and Ewan's version comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall via his wife. Catriona's is a Felicity Cloake concoction, Alison's is a "twist on the recipe, substituting cherries with Kincardineshire raspberries because they're the best in Scotland".

Caroline, founder of the Herald and Times Cake Club, which was set up to encourage staff to swap tips and recipes, is the most ambitious: her recipe is in her head: "I use 8oz of everything with a dash of baking powder, although you're supposed to weigh your four medium eggs and match that weight with each of the other ingredients."

Their choice of aprons taken from home illustrate an eclectic range of tastes, from Stephen's artfully painted mushrooms to Iain's Italian coastal villages, a recent holiday souvenir.

The range of ingredients also speaks volumes. Iain brought his pre-weighed flour and cream in airtight plastic boxes, and has pre-washed and packed his fresh worcester berries, blueberries and gooseberries, picked from Pittormie farm in Fife. He also has a lemon for grating into his soft cream cheese filling. Fergus has brought a bottle of The Glenlivet, to be mixed into his cream. Catriona decided to make a cranachan for her decoration, so mixes her cream with honey and oatmeal. Caroline has made her own strawberry jam from fruits grown by her mother, and little chocolate leaves for decoration. Stephen has brought strawberries from his back garden.

Elsewhere there are fresh supermarket blackberries and raspberries; free-range eggs; Asda extra-thick double cream; M&S raspberry jam; Be-Ro self-raising flour; Silver Spoon icing sugar; Tesco milk; Sainsbury's Taste the Difference sponge flour; a bottle of organic vanilla extract and packets of Tate & Lyle sugar.

The competitors set their iPhones and Androids to be used as timers. James shouts: "Bakers, begin!" and they're off. Cue lots of running around, the sound of mixers, a smattering of swearing and puffs of flour being tapped through sieves.

As she reads and re-reads her recipe, Alison confides that she hasn't baked since the age of 10 and only stepped in at the last minute when another female colleague had to pull out.

She quickly gets into the zone, and is first to put her cake in the oven, within minutes of the competition starting.

Ewan actually talks to his printed online recipe, which is spread before him on the table with instructions such as "fold" and "spoon" highlighted in fluorescent pen. It's only his second attempt at Victoria Sponge, but it's clear he's in a good place: he speaks to his cake, telling it that it's beautiful and that everything is going to be fine. "I'm trying to calm it down," he explains simply.

Stephen - an accomplished home baker - impresses with his sophisticated technique of painting chocolate on to broad strips of greaseproof paper.

Then slight panic, as Iain discovers he can't work his mixer and worries quietly that he's losing time.

Catriona shouts, "What is WRONG with this?" as clumps of her butter-and-flour cake mix fly out of her bowl and land at her feet. She discovers only one of her electric handbeaters is turning - and Willie replaces it. Her mix is too thick but she adds a little milk and says she's "hoping for the best".

Next to her, Fergus is beating hell out of his eggs and butter using a wooden spoon, while Caroline steams ahead and is soon weighing her two filled cake tins to check they're equally balanced before putting them into the oven within 18 minutes of the competition starting.

Iain mistakenly opens Caroline's oven to check his sponges and all hell breaks loose. "Get out of my oven!" she screams, fearing he'll have caused hers to sink by introducing cool air too soon. But all is well and harmony reigns once more.

Meanwhile, James flits between workstations dispensing crumbs of advice and asking questions about how much flour someone's using, and what their hopes and dreams are. Wanting to see how the cake is looking is the tempting part, he says, because it's all about the sponge. "I'd rather have a good sponge and bad decoration than the other way around," he says.

It's clear James, whose father Tom is a Radio Scotland presenter and author, is still bitten by the baking bug, so while Willie walks around observing and filling in his score sheet, James begs little amounts of flour and other ingredients from everyone and sets about making scones. But by now a seasoned judge, he never takes his eye off the task in hand, and he's watching closely.

The girls chat to each other, exchanging tips and jokes but there is absolutely no conferring between the boys; it's fair to say the competitive gene is more apparent.

Finally, all cakes are out of the chillers and the decorating begins. Now we get to see the finished items emerge, and it's a thrilling moment. Iain has taken the Scottish theme to heart, using a paper doily as a template for his icing-sugar dusting to make a Fair Isle-type pattern, and tops it with an (inedible) thistle. Catriona's cranachan looks tasty; her highly risen cake is greeted with a unanimous "wow".

Stephen's looks wonderful, like a craggy chocolate mountain range with redcurrants, blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries cascading down in a fruity avalanche. Sadly the chocolate wrapped around Stephen's cake has taken too long to set and though he takes Willie's advice and puts it in the fridge, he doesn't recover the time. He is last to present.

Willie congratulates them all, saying they have done extremely well to get a cake on the table within the allotted time.

James says: "It's nice to see everyone's gone for the traditional recipe and used butter, sugar, eggs and flour rather than the all-in-one mix, although I did notice that one or two of the mixes curdled."

Tasting begins, and it's ladies first. The judges think Caroline's sponges are very light and like her jam, though there is a query on the use of Thornton's cranberry chocolate for the decorative leaves. They like the almonds on top of Alison's cake, though wonder why she went to the bother of browning them before baking, as they'd have browned in the oven anyway. The jam has seeped into her sponge because the cake was still warm when she began decorating. But both sponges are great, with a nice texture, though they could have done with longer in the oven. Willie feels Cat's cranachan is a bit wersh, or tasteless. James says the whisky in it was thankfully not too overpowering, and they both like the cake.

Overall, the judges feel the girls' creations are of a very high standard. But they were also messier in the kitchen, with flour and sugar strewn everywhere. The boys, by contrast, were tidy, washing up as they went.

James says Iain's cake has "unfortunate moving issues" as he cuts into it, although the sponge itself is evenly cooked. The jam in Ewan's filling has bled into the cake, but it has a nice flavour. Again, James feels it could have done with a bit longer in the oven.

He loves Stephen's winter forest scene with three layers. The sponge is a level colour and has a "surprisingly good flavour", although it wasn't baked long enough and had concertina'd at the bottom.

Then the two judges disappear to confer privately. "It's clear the girls have won," declares James immediately. Alison and Catriona are closest. They like Cat's cranachan theme, although are less impressed by the flavour.

They note Caroline's "style and panache" when mixing, observing that she is obviously very experienced, but they feel her cake is a little too dry. It doesn't matter that Alison's almonds aren't Scottish, because berries from Kincardineshire, where she hails from, make up for it. But she is very well prepared. James says: "I'd have had more of Alison's than Catriona's, though Catriona's looked better."

Stephen's timing was off and his sponges sank quite badly. He wasn't quick enough, thinks Willie. Iain did very well in prep and they like his theme, though they aren't sure the berries go together with the lemony butter cream. Ewan was very enthusiastic, but his cakes have a bit of a "muffin top". Willie says he should have used bigger tins, and his cream was "so curdled you could have made butter with it." But his cake had a very good flavour.

The last words go to James. "The girls trashed the boys, which is a first for the Great British Bake Off, but it would only take a few tweaks to bring the boys up."

And guess what? There wasn't a soggy ­bottom between them. n

Thanks to Willie McCurrach and City of Glasgow College. Read more on the Herald and Times Cake Club online at