The Great British Bake Off for Comic Relief – episode three

Photograph: BBC/Love Productions/Tom Dymond

Photograph: BBC/Love Productions/Tom Dymond

After last week’s dull episode, we were back with a bang (and Jo Brand) to the tent in the unspecified field that hosts the one and only Great British Bake Off.

This week we had comedian David Mitchell, actor Michael “I am the most competitive person IN. THE. WORLD.” Sheen, Radio 1 DJ Jameela Jamil (I had to google her. Yes, I know. Shut up), and education campaigner but let’s face it, better known as the wife-of-Gordon, Sarah Brown.

It kicked off with the signature challenge – 24 identical shortbread fingers with, apparently, “a touch of je ne sais quoi.” So not shortbread fingers, then.  Why can’t they just say that? Jameela chose to make orange shortbread, which within seconds was welded to the worktop like Posh was to Becks when news of his alleged dalliance with Rebecca Loos broke. Mary, already looking disappointed, silently handed her a palette knife. Sarah looked serious. David put too much icing sugar in his sieve and then couldn’t get it into his bowl because it was too small.  “I always thought difficult baking involved things like flambéing.  I never thought trying to sieve something would make you feel like you wanted to die,” he groaned dispiritedly, more icing sugar on his face than his biscuits.

Next up was the technical challenge: mini pork pies, which are fiendishly difficult to make at the best of times.  Nobody except Sarah had any idea how to rub butter into sifted flour, so they simply waited a few minutes and then copied her. David made the mistake of asking her for help. “It says in the rules that contestants must not confer,” she retorted as she brushed him away smugly.  Life in the Brown household must be a HOOT.  Meanwhile, Jameela was struggling. “What even IS lard?” she fretted, unsurprisingly for a woman who has clearly never eaten anything with more than 200 calories in it in her life.  Lard is great, Jameela.  Britain was built on it.   Michael got a fit of the giggles.  “I’ve no idea what I’m doing,” he told everyone somewhat unnecessarily, since he was trying to peel an onion with a potato peeler.  Once his pies were in the oven, he peered at them worriedly.  “Mine are looking pallid,” he said sadly. “If it was a horse, you’d shoot it.”  Sarah took hers out of the oven and pronounced them a success.  “They’re golden brown, and they smell rather nice.”  We’ve all been at school with someone like that, haven’t we children?

Anyway, most of the pies looked more or less like pies, which was a triumph given their unpromising start. Sarah looked furious to be told by Mary her pies had “got a bit of leakage”  but there was “plenty of meat in there, which I like.”  Double shots drunk at this point by anyone playing the GBBO innuendo game. David beat Sarah to first place, who pretended not to mind, and secretly rang her husband to ask if they still had access to the S.A.S.*

Finally, the show-stopper.  The bakers had to make a fruit and cream triple-layered pavlova.  “I’m looking for a bit of artistry,” said Paul, hopefully.  David said his pavlova would be designed to look like a rocket, and the meringue would therefore be dyed grey. Grey being the least appetising food colour ever, Mary looked doubtful.  Michael said he’d be baking a kind of lemon curd pavlova.  Sarah was baking something tropical. Jameela did something with red food dye and peaches.  I didn’t hear the precise details because I was mixing a gin and tonic at the time, alright? Bite me.

Jameela squealed with despair as she took her efforts out of the oven. “They’re burnt, and they’re under-cooked! How can that even BE?” Your oven was too hot, love, that’s how.  David’s grey meringues were the size and shape of three pantechnicons and were also heavily cracked. “Definitely more moon rocks than rocket,” he said, happily smothering them in whipped cream.  At the other end of the spectrum, Jameela’s were so small a mouse would have left the table hungry.  “What should I do?” she wailed.  Michael’s looked delicious. Sarah’s had so much fruit piled on it, it resembled a market stall, but Mary said she loved it, so what would I know?

Unsurprisingly, Jameela’s was a disaster, as she’d mashed the whole lot up and declared it a sort of Eton Mess.  “It’s not got the three layers,” said Mary, gazing a bowl full of bright pink germolene. David’s was pronounced beautifully marshmallow-y.  Michael’s was sensational.  “Sheer perfection,” said Mary.  “This is going into the National Museum of Wales,” whooped a delighted Michael.  He won.

Next week, three celebrities and Chris Moyles will be competing.   If you want to make a donation to Comic Relief, all you have to do is text Bake to 70005.

(*Oh alright, she didn’t.)












The Great Comic Relief Bake Off


Over the next four weeks, 15 celebrities and Chris Moyles will enter the hallowed portals of the marquee in an unspecified field that is the venue for  The Great British Bake Off.  Tonight’s programme featured Dame Edna Everage, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders and Lulu.

Lulu, who referred to herself in the third person (“well done, Lulu!”) was easily the most competitive. Dame Edna, on the other hand, was supremely unbothered. “How long are you going to cook it for?”enquired Mary Berry of the Dame’s unappetising biscuit mixture. “I’m going to cook it until it’s cooked,” she replied.  Afterwards, when said biscuit had cleaved so strongly to its aluminium casing that I suspect not even an acetylene torch could have separated the two, she declared: “Mary and Paul aren’t the only people in the world, you know.  If they don’t like it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the best.”

Next up was the technical challenge: 12 individual fruit tarts, with short, crisp pastry topped with billowing whipped cream and glazed raspberries.  Naturally nobody produced anything like it. Dame Edna’s efforts looked like the result of a child mixing wallpaper paste with the inside of a cream egg. “Do we have to taste them?” asked Paul Hollywood, eyeing them warily.  Mary charmingly pronounced them “rather informal”.  Only Jennifer knew how to make pastry so naturally she won the challenge.

Finally, it was the Showstopper challenge – a tiered chocolate cake inspired by a memorable occasion.  “Are we asking too much?” worried Paul.  Yes, was the short but direct answer to this, but the slebs gamely got their cake tins greased and their egg shells cracked in readiness.

Ever the maverick, Dame Edna said her chocolate cake wouldn’t feature any chocolate. “Does it have to?” she asked Mary.  “Well, yes,” she replied.  Unperturbed, Dame Edna explained that she would make the Sydney Opera House out of meringue and sponge and would be called “Last Performance”.  Paul looked nervous.

Jennifer’s creation was, she said, inspired by her Ab Fab character, and would be a soggy bottomed bed cake, featuring a drunk Edina and containing vodka-laced buttercream.  What’s not to like about that? I’d eat it.

Joanna’s cake was, she said, inspired by her visit to see the Northern Lights.  Paul looked intrigued as to how one would represent this in cake form, as well he might.  “I’ve got snowflakes and edible balls if it all goes wrong,” Joanna reassured him.  Paul and Mary, stunned into silence at this, moved on to ask Lulu what she would be baking.  A cake shaped like a record player, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her hit single “Shout” came the answer.  Lulu also casually threw in a few lines from a song or two whilst baking.  If she’d made a cake iced with the words “Give me a record deal, somebody” she couldn’t have made it more obvious.

Late into the proceedings, Joanna discovered she had made a coffee, not chocolate cake.  And when baked it was still raw in the middle.  She also dumped the multi-coloured spun sugar representation of the Aurora Borealis and announced she would call the cake  “a walk in a winter wonderland” instead.  Dame Edna’s confection did indeed look like the Sydney Opera House, but only after an earth shattering explosion.   Lulu’s record cake was flat and sad, mainly because she’d chosen grey icing.

Jennifer won, and the others congratulated her with genuine warmth.  The Great British Bake Off is the loveliest of lovely television programmes, this Comic Relief version especially so.  If you want to make a donation, all you have to do is text Bake to 70005.



The BAFTAS 2015


Judging by the Daily Mail’s tweets, this year’s BAFTAs was notable only because 1. Keira Knightley was pregnant (“Keira hides her bump in a gown made by blah blah”) and 2. Rosamund Pike gave birth recently (“Rosamund Pike showed off her amazing post-pregnancy figure in a gown made by blah blah.”)  Yep, as far as the Mail is concerned, it’s still 1953 and a woman’s only purpose is to push out babies and look good before and after.  And probably during.

Anyway, Stephen Fry (“newly married Stephen flaunted his curves in a bespoke tux”*) tripped over his own feet as he made his entrance, no doubt due to the shock of seeing Cuba Gooding Jnr wearing RayBans indoors at 8pm at night. Fry then delivered a monologue of such astonishing banality his audience was stunned into embarrassed silence. Perhaps he was weighed down by the 15 layers of Peter Andre Orange make up smeared on his face.  One longed for the wit and talent of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Or even Philomena Cunk. But Fry, a very nice man who really should take a sabbatical from presenting awards ceremonies, has this gig all sewn up.

Patricia Arquette, accepting her award for Best Supporting Actress, bored on breathlessly for what seemed like several days, thanking everyone from her fellow actors to the woman who does her bikini wax.*  There was a lovely tribute to Lord Attenborough, spoiled only by a wooden Prince William who read the words on the autocue as though he’d never seen them before in his life.  Which he probably hadn’t, thinking about it.  Ralph Fiennes gave out a truly funny acceptance speech on behalf of, and written by, Wes Anderson, who had won Best Original Screenplay (The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film I adored, scooped a total of five BAFTAs, including costume design, production design, make-up and original music).

Eddie Redmayne won the Best Actor prize for his role as Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and said it was “one of the best nights of my life”. The film was also named outstanding British film and won a third award for its adapted screenplay.  It’s a wonderful film, one of the best I’ve ever seen, and if you haven’t seen it, what the hell is wrong with you? Do so immediately.

Julianne Moore won the Leading Actress award for Still Alice, a film in which she gives a performance of such complexity, depth and beauty that I urge you all to see it when it opens in the UK on March 6 2015.  Kristen Stewart is also wonderful in Still Alice and I’d have nominated her for Best Supporting Actress, frankly, but for some bizarre reason I’m not a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Pfft.

Finally, it was Best Film, and Stephen Fry redeemed himself by introducing the presenter of the award with the words “It’s only TOM FUCKING CRUISE!” See, just when you think Stephen has cashed all his chips, he comes out with the words anyone normal would say in such a situation. Props, Stephen.

It was won by Boyhood.  A film which bored me, as did Birdman, but whevs.  Well done everyone, anyway.

(* I may have made this up)

Celebrity Big Brother – the final


After what seems like a thousand years, Celebrity Big Brother finally came to a close. Against the odds, Katie Price won.  Katie Hopkins pretended not to mind, and mentally re-wrote the headline of her Sun column, as “How I came second” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “I won but I still hate all of you.”

First to be evicted was Michelle Visage, and my guess is she came fifth because she was friends with Hopkins.  In her post-eviction interview, Michelle spoke like an advertising executive pitching at 4.30pm on a Friday to a disinterested client.  “I was up against four big brands and I am honoured to be considered in their company.”  Hey, Cheggers is a brand, people!  I liked Michelle and hope British TV offers her some suitable opportunities for work.  She’d certainly shake up Downton Abbey, not to mention Emmerdale.

Next to get the boot was Keith Chegwin.  The only one in the final able to boast a passing acquaintance with normality, Cheggers was nonetheless quite the troubled individual.  Obsessed in equal measure with cleaning the house and telling jokes so limp an Asda Christmas cracker would be ashamed of them, he was unable to take even the mildest slight to his character without retiring to the Diary Room to blub.  Indeed he almost did a Les Dennis but at the last minute managed to hold it together. The crowds gave him a huge ovation.  Why didn’t you vote for him then, eh?

Professional moose knuckle and serial under-achiever Calum Best was third.  He looked furious, as well he might, given that last year Jim Davidson won the whole thing, and Calum is at least a nicer person than the so-called comedian.  Calum declared he hoped that by going into the Celebrity Big Brother house, he had changed people’s perceptions of him.  Yes Cal.  What we thought of you when you were on reality TV show Love Island is completely different from what we thought of you when you were on reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother.   In fairness, Calum seemed like an okay guy, which is more than can be said for Perez Hilton who, for a mercy, was unable to hog the cameras, sat as he was in the we’ve-forgotten-you-already seats.

Katie Hopkins was runner-up. A pantomime horse cleverly disguised to look like a human being, she emerged from the house not quite as triumphantly as she’d clearly imagined she would. Still, runner up isn’t bad going for a universally loathed individual.  How did she do it? Everyone you know can’t stand her, yet somehow gazillions of people voted for her. This is why Britain should never have a referendum on anything.  Emma Willis, looking absolutely glorious in a lavish cream confection of a dress, took her on telling her she was “ballsy, opinionated and sometimes rude.” “Yes,” smirked Hopkins. “I was.”

Katie Price emerged victorious, her huge hair-do paying twin homage to the power of Elnett and Joan Collins (Dynasty era) as she pretended that she never expected to to be the winner. Something of a sea change from her second time on I’m A Celebrity, when the public voted for her to do every trial until she finally gave up and quit.  “Never underestimate The Pricey” is her motto. The bookies did, the fools.