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.