It’s back, baby! A butcher, a banker, a teacher, a vicar.. and, er, eight others, stood quaking in the Bake Off tent, dreading the inevitability of Paul Hollywood’s ill-disguised disdain greeting their attempts at baking something fiendishly difficult.
The new series kicked off with Cake Week. In the pre-bake, warm-up section, we got to meet some of the contestants. All declared themselves to be nervous, and most said they had occasions when they’d found baking stressful. “I once shouted at a pie,” admitted one. We’ve all done it, love.
So, first challenge. A lemon drizzle cake. Easy peasy, lemon…. you know the drill. The contestants looked delighted. Who doesn’t know how to knock out a lemon drizzle cake? Pah. My cat could do it. “It’s Paul’s favourite cake,” yelped Mel. Oh. The contestants looked despondent. Expect more of this in the coming weeks, folks. Louise, a hairdresser from Wales, was baking a cointreau and lemonade cake. Paul looked doubtful, and interrogated her on the viscosity of her drizzle (not a euphemism). “I suppose he knows what he’s talking about,” muttered an equally doubtful Louise, as Paul swaggered off intent on collapsing someone else’s mental soufflé. Some goon introduced the seed of Satan (better known as cardamom) into his recipe. A nice chap called Tom busied himself with his G&T drizzle cake recipe, which immediately made him my favourite, although if I’m honest, the best kind of G&T cake is a slice of Lidl’s Madeira sponge with a large gin chaser, but nobody ever seems to suggest this on GBBO.
Tasting. “Not enough lemon,” declared Paul. DRINK, everyone. (You remember the GBBO drinking game, yes?) “It’s very dry.” “This isn’t really a cake, it’s a pudding.” Man, Paul is can be mean. “Great penetration of the syrup.” I beg your pardon?
Over on Twitter, someone familiar to regular Bake Off viewers was tweeting advice.
Now for the technical challenge. Jaffa cakes. Hey, I’ve made these! Took me about 24 hours, due to bloody Gary Rhodes and his complicated recipes. This one looks a breeze by comparison. Just saying.
So, in essence, the bakers had to make orange jelly, then make a sponge, then lather chocolate on everything. Mary’s instructions were deliberately rather woolly, so some of the bakers were confused. How much cake mix do I put in each hole, wondered Lee. Oh I don’t know Lee, what about DIVIDING IT BY THE 12 HOLES IN THE TIN? Jeez.
Most of the resultant Jaffa cakes looked like something a cat had taken an experimental chew on and then regurgitated, but Selasi’s (he of the accursed cardamom) were perfect.
Finally, the Showstopper. Genoise sponge, mirror glaze. Who the what now? A tricky sponge, with a tricky-to-achieve covering. Like this:
Initially, no-one looked particularly worried – which they should have, as several of them made a complete balls-up of their sponges and had to start again from scratch. Louise’s recipe was based on a white chocolate trifle, with a raspberry creme pat. I’m in, Lou. Benjamina said she too would make a white chocolate mirror glaze. Selasi, possibly the most laid back person ever to grace the Bake Off tent, was making a raspberry glaze. He forgot to put the vanilla in his vanilla sponge, but looked supremely unbothered at this omission. If Selasi can eschew shoving cardamom in things that DON’T NEED CARDAMOM, I may warm to him. Tom’s recipe involved a couple of buckets of Kirsch. Given that his G&T cake was about 75 per cent gin, I think we can assume Tom likes his booze. It’ll certainly help with getting Mary onside at any rate.
Everyone’s lack of concern at the difficulty of the challenge disappeared pretty swiftly, as sponges resembled frizbees, nothing would set, Benjamina’s glaze turned to scrambled eggs, and she wept over her mixer. Pretty much everybody had a melt-down. Except, that is, Selasi, who looked so relaxed he might as well have donned a silk smoking jacket and a pair of monogrammed slippers and asked Noel Coward to pour him a pink gin. His cake was great, although there was no shine on his glaze. Selasi looked unperturbed. Selasi for prime minister. The country needs his brand of sangfroid. Inexplicably, Tom’s cake was declared to contain insufficient kirsch. Mary has one hell of a liver. Candice was told to her face she’d messed up, and spent the rest of the judging trying very hard not to cry.
Nice vicar Lee went home (I confess I barely noticed him, sorry Lee) and Jane was star baker.
Next week, biscuits.