The Great British Bake Off – THE FINAL!

The Great British Bake Off - The Final

The last ever Bake Off on the Beeb.  It’s the end of a madeira.  Oh please yourselves.

So – and now there were three. Who would win the royal-themed Great British Bake Off final? The country held its breath.  And its glasses of wine, if Twitter was anything to go by.  Mary Berry’s legacy to the nation is that everyone is now as keen on booze as she is.

Jane, Andrew and Candice lined up and were told to bake a filled meringue crown.  “Big enough for the whole Royal Family!” squeaked Mel.  What, all of them? They were going to need a bigger tent.  “It’s the final, and we’ve been waiting for this,” wrinkled Mary, wisely.  “I’m looking for it to taste good, look good, and…..” And what, Bezza? Have a secret layer of tequila-flavoured raspberries?  Be made entirely of gin?  “Be spectacular.” Oh.  I blame Nadiya (last year’s winner) for this royal shizz.  She’s always being papped with Her Madge.

Jane wanted her meringue to be “as white as possible” (should please Prince Philip) whereas Andrew wanted his to have a brown colour, using muscovado sugar and Candice, (looking all kinds of fabulous in a funereal black dress) wanted to go “a little bit further” and threw in some prosecco (should please Mary).   “Now for my cassis jelly jewels,” shimmied Andrew.  Is that what you kids are calling them these days?  He then bent over his oven to check his meringue and uttered the immortal words:

Great British Bake Off

Moving swiftly on, the judging.  “Your coulis is sharp,” declared Mary to Jane, who looked unsure as to whether or not this was a good thing.”  Candice and Jane got a Paul handshake (it’s just a handshake, calm down) but Andrew didn’t.  Andrew felt this was a worrying development.  What would happen in the technical challenge?

Victoria Sandwich.  Eh? Any fool can make one of those.  There were no instructions, no quantities, no recipe, no method, nothing.  Aha.  Evil.  The camera cut to a Victoria Sandwich so perfect it couldn’t be real.   “It MUST look like this,” said Mary firmly.  Paul’s mandarin orange complexion gaped at her in awe.

Everyone made their sponges, fretting about creaming methods and all-in-one methods, (“Mary likes the all-in-one method” said Jane, trying, and failing, not to look smug.)  They then started making their own jam.   Oh but Mary, you’re cruel.  “Everyone’s will look exactly the same, making it easier to compare them,” wailed Andrew, his jelly jewels presumably limp with worry.

Candice was told she’d made jelly not jam, because she’d taken the pips out.  Candice reacted as though she’d gone to the doctor with a slight rash on her knee and been told she needed her leg amputated.  Jane’s buttercream was a bit on the soft side and her jam was gluey.  She pulled a face that indicated she wished to destroy the government.  Andrew won.  “An even bake, a good jam, a smooth buttercream.”  What more can a girl ask for?  He should put that on his Tinder profile.

The biggest ever Bake Off final show stopper challenge. Five hours to make  12 puff pastry sausage rolls. 12 fruit and custard tarts (bleurgh). 12 savoury scones.  12 mini quiches (seriously Bezza, the 80s are over. Stop trying to make them happen) and a chocolate cake.  Essentially, a large picnic for alas unwritten Enid Blyton novel, “Five Go Mad With Pastry In A Tent”.

Candice made a chocolate orange and cardamom cake.  Bloody cardamom.  WHY?  Andrew produced a spreadsheet. Of course.  Jane made stuff like elderflower and something or other tarts and a four tier chocolate cake.  You won’t fit that in the picnic hamper, Jane.  There was a clip of Jane’s extremely good-looking children.  Why doesn’t one of them tell her to use Frizz-Ease? John Frieda is the way forward, Jane.  Knock that squirrel off your head.

So, 49 bakes, but only one oven.  “Time management has never been so important,” whispered Mel.   Meanwhile the other bakers were sat outside the tent having a great old time, giving their tips for who would triumph.  Selasi wanted Andrew to win.  I WANTED SELASI TO WIN.  Jane had the most supporters.  Would she steal it from the other two?   Val was firm.  “Candice.  She’s VERY focused.”  Val gave no indication as to whether she approved of this.  Jane’s chocolate collar wouldn’t peel off the greaseproof paper.  She pretended not to mind.


God but it was amazing – they were baking at the speed of light (whatever that is, I didn’t pay a lot of attention in physics at school) and everything looked bloody gorgeous.

Mary thought the Queen would love Jane’s colourful picnic.  “Great chocolate cake”, smiled Paul.  “Shame about the collar.”  He giveth, and he taketh away, folks.

“It’s beautifully displayed,” said Mary of Andrew’s spread.  “But such a thick layer of undercooked pastry, I think I’ll be leaving that.”  His cake fared better.  “That’s a great cake.”

Finally, Candice, who looked terrified.  “It looks an exciting hamper,” said Mary, happily.  “I love your little piggies.”  (Sausage rolls folks, she hadn’t cooked her toes.)  “Beautiful LAAAAAAIIIRRRRRS.”   The tarts were a little over-baked (apparently) but “that’s a good custard.”  Paul looked closely at her cake whilst Jane also stared at it intently.  “Let there be snakes in it,” she seemed to be praying.  “Or a great honking dog poo.” Bad luck, Jane.  Her chocolate orange and bloody cardamom cake was a triumph.  Had Candice got this in the bag, or rather the hamper?   The bakers joined their cheering family and friends whilst Bezza and Paul tried to pick a winner.

Candice won.  Of course she did.  She is a superbly talented baker and she deserved it, and all the people on Twitter and in the newspapers who said a ton of mean things about her lipstick and her pout can just EAT IT.  She cried while Jane and Andrew cheered her heartily, like the good sports they are.  “I did it,” she wept quietly.  “I’m good enough.”  Of course you are.  They all are.

So, that’s it.  Bake Off moves to Channel 4, without Bezza, and without Mel and Sue.  It is such a truly lovely programme that I really, genuinely hope it is successful on another channel.  There’s enough meanness and cruelty in the world.  Let’s have more cake.






The Great British Bake Off – Semi Final

The Great British Bake Off

So we kicked off with Selasi saying if he made it into the final, he’d wear a dress.  PLEASE LET SELASI MAKE IT INTO THE FINAL.  A very funny arthouse homage to French cinema (patisserie week, innit) from Mel and Sue, and then the bakers were up their elbows in palmiers.    Palmiers are easy peasy to bake, folks.  They are also a delicious party snack, the kind that you can cram into your mouth one after the other in vast quantities before realising that everybody is looking at you, and not in a good way.  Just me, then?  Oh please yourselves.

Selasi admitted he’d never made palmiers before, and Mary said “laaaaairs” several times.   There was an interesting spat between Jane and Candice, when it seemed that Jane was carefully watching Candice’s every move – for hints? tips? straightforward copying? – and Candice hissed “I CAN HEAR YOU WHISPERING” in a hey-I’m-only-joshing-I’m-not-really tone.   Selasi finished Sue’s sentences for her and then gave everyone a time check.  “Don’t take this away from me!” laughed Sue.  “Time checks with puns is all I have!”  Selasi grinned, and then went over to Andrew’s bench to help him because Andrew was having a complete ‘mare.  I love Selasi.  Candice wasn’t wearing any lipstick so Mel decided to apply some for her because “you, without lipstick, just isn’t right”.  I also love Mel.

Tasting time.  Jane had turned the same colour as her cerise T-shirt, so the only way to know where her face ended was by the bristling squirrel located about 12 inches above her neck.  Oh Jane.  Why the terrible haircut? In fact, why do women of a certain age choose this haircut? It’s one of life’s mysteries.

Jane: underdone and oily (sounds like an Italian bloke I once dated).  Candice, beautiful flavour, didn’t look like palmiers.  S elasi – okay, Andrew, okay.  Candice is looking good for the winner, but who knows?

Next up, the technical challenge.  A Savarin, which is sort of yeast and booze, basically.   Don’t bother, folks.  Have a sandwich and a beer instead.  Yet again, Selasi had never made one.   Nobody knew what they were doing and everyone tried different methods: Selasi didn’t beat anything, Jane used a dough hook, Candice melted butter, Andrew hurled it all in one bowl.  This is Mary’s doing – who bakes crap from the 1970s apart from Bezza, eh? Someone needs to drag her into the 21st century, pronto.  “How is it everybody can make caramel and I can’t?” wailed Jane, now a shapeless fuschia blob topped by a welcome mat.

Paul didn’t hold back in his criticism. “Overcooked and under-prooved.” He could have been referring to the latest ITV Agatha Christie adaptation, but was actually being rude about Candice’s effort.  “The membrane is off the orange, which is nice,” said Mary of Andrew’s bake.  Innuendo central.  Selasi’s was declared to be the wrong colour, and, horror of horror, he’d left the membrane on his orange.  Ahem. Jane’s caramel had crystallised.  And yet she won.  Selasi looked despondent.  Noooooooo.

The showstopper.  36 fondant fancies, of two types. Genoese sponge, buttercream and glossy fondant.  Argh.  They are SO difficult to get right.  “Time really is important,” said Andrew, glumly.  “I want to see SHOP STANDARD FANCIES,” glowered Paul.  You do? Then buy them from a bloody shop, mate.

Everyone came up with inventive ideas for their fancies.  “I never sieve my flour,” confessed Selasi.  Mary looked as though he’d just done a poo on her kitchen table, stuck a candle in it and wished her Happy Birthday.  “BUT YOU MUST SIEVE!” she corrected, in a horrified tone. “Er, okay,” said Selasi, with a “calm down you loon” look on his face.

Candice’s fancies looked  “Could do with tidying up,” said Paul. Oh shut up. “Textures are spot on though.” As you were, Paul.  “You’ve made two cracking fondant fancies,’ added Mary.  Candice to win, anyone?

Selasi’s weren’t all that.  “The white chocolate isn’t coming through,” said Mary.  “There’s very little sponge, but then the  lime IS really coming through.” DRINK, everyone. Jane had made a bollocks of hers, and looked close to tears.  She’d iced hers in the same colour as her face, ie fuschia pink.  “So sad you didn’t put anything on the outside of them,” sympathised Mary.  “They’re very lumpy. But the lemon’s coming through.” Anyone playing the GBBO drinking game (copyright, my daughter) would be in an alcoholic coma by this stage.  Andrew’s were too buttery.  “The mocha’s coming through.” Christ, enough with the coming through, judges!  When this programme moves to Channel 4 (pah) the new judges need to think of something else to say.

It was goodbye to Selasi.  Everyone was genuinely sad to see him go.  “No-one’s more sad than me to see him go,” said Mary.  “What a character, what a baker.”  Goodbye, Selasi.  Jane said she was crying that he had gone.  Andrew, however, was made of sterner stuff. “I’m in the final. YESSSSS!”  Nobody likes a show-off, Andrew.

Until next week, folks. Can’t wait. Also, Candice for the win.




The Great British Bake Off – episode 7


It’s dessert week, yay! Back to proper baking, not pratting about with pancakes that you FRY, Paul.

So, the signature challenge was to bake a roulade.  Last fashionable in 1981 (I can still recall the horror of spinach roulade filled with coronation chicken), it put the fear of God into all the bakers, as everyone immediately fretted about their roulade having a crack when rolled.  I’m just going to leave that sentence there, as my gift to you.

Andrew made a Tropical Roulade – yeuch, and also, why? – and Benjamina knocked up something repulsive involving pineapple.   The only two ways to serve pineapple are (a) in the 14 Pina Coladas you knock back on a night out in a dodgy cocktail bar, and (b) on top of the Hawaiian pizza you snarf in a feeble attempt to banish the ensuing hangover.  I realise I may be in the minority with this opinion.

But wait!  The bakers are not just good at baking.  No.  Some of them are philosophers, specifically Tom, who briefly decided to abandon his roulade to take up the role of Confucius.  “Good enough is not good enough,” he intoned solemnly.  Honestly, if I wanted to drown myself in that sort of meaningless shite, I’d scroll through Instagram.

Back to the tent.  Everyone served up their sponge tubes of goo, and Mary and Paul liked some of them.  Far more interesting was the technical challenge: making something nobody had heard of.  Marjolaine.  Who the what now?  It’s a  fiendishly difficult French (obvs) dessert, essentially a combination of nutted meringues, pastry cream, and a hint of chocolate.   Or as Andrew put it, “It’s like a Vienetta, but posher.”  Paul and Mary would, we were informed, be looking for a perfect daqciose. Aren’t we all, darlings, aren’t we all.

Anyway, at the judging, Mary told Selasi that his effort was “a bit drunk looking”.  You should know, Bezza.  Andrew won.  He looked thrilled, as well he might.  Onto the show stopper – 12 Mini Mouse cakes! Hey, that’s a bit low rent, isn’t it?  Just icing a load of red and white bows onto sponge.


Sorry, what? Oh, Mini MOUSSE cakes.  If you’re not sure what they are, let me explain.  They’re the kind of pointless shizz you buy in a panic in Aldi when it’s Christmas and the whole family’s coming round and you suddenly think you need a metric tonne more food but you don’t want to cook any of it.

Candice confided that she would be making a “Champagne Cocktail Mousse.”  Mmmn, yummy.  “I’ll be making it with Prosecco.”  So a Prosecco Cocktail Mousse, then.   Andrew whipped out a ruler to measure his strawberries.   Look I just report this stuff, I don’t make it up.   Tom and Benjamina did complicated stuff with apples.   Jane did something with gelatine.  Selasi looked worried as his mousse refused to set.  “Disaster.”  Oh no, not Selasi, the king of laid-backness (shut up, it’s a thing.)  Would he be booted out of the tent?

Jane’s mousses (I really want to type mice) were terrific, despite some gelatine disasters (steer clear of gelatine, people, nothing good ever comes of it).  “Great moussiness,” snuffled Mary with her mouth full of pink gloop.  Selasi’s were pronounced to be too big *sideways look to camera* but had a lovely flavour.   Candice’s chocolate mousses weren’t mousses, according to Paul “more of a ganache”, and her other mousses were “too stiff for me” he added.  If you say so, Paul.   Tom produced mousses called “Hipster Madness” but, if I have got this right, as there were no Doc Martens, beards or checked shirts they were pronounced inadequate.  Andrew won Star Baker.  “He showed us a very good finish,” creamed Mary.   What is this woman on? And can I have some?

Tom got the boot, and was incredibly gracious about it.  “You always hope it won’t be you, but I knew, really, it would be me.”  What a lovely chap.

Next time, quarter final.  Tudor Week.  Tudor Week? FFS.  Baked swan and leeches, anybody?

The Great British Bake Off – episode five


Week five, and it’s the dreaded pastry week.  We kicked off with the signature challenge: Danish pastries. Two different types, 24 pastries in total.  My colleague Beth is fond of the occasional Danish pastry for breakfast, which she reasons is “mostly air” and therefore does not weigh particularly heavily on the calorific front.  I like this opinion.

Back in the tent, Cambridge-educated engineer Andrew manfully deployed his ruler (not a euphemism).  He measured precisely his pear and chocolate pinwheels and did something complicated with, er, right angles. I’m a bit hazy when it comes to Geometry, not considering it half as important as reading Philip Larkin when I was at school.  I like this opinion too.

Anyway, I missed the rest of this bit due to doing something important involving a cork and a bottle, but I can report that there was a lot of “good lamination” from Paul and “I’m not getting any ginger” from Mary.  A lot of stuff wasn’t cooked, which Val attempted to style out by pretending her family ate raw pastry on a regular basis.  Bad luck, Val’s family. Paul remarked that Benjamina’s butter had exploded (also not a euphemism – this week was stuffed with them).   Candice did well, which after her tears last week was particularly cheering.

The technical challenge was to make a Bakewell tart.  Crushingly for those of us over the age of 40 *ahem*, the young ‘uns looked puzzled, and claimed never to have heard of them. “What’s the top of one meant to look like?” enquired Andrew. Ouch.  Val, meanwhile, declared that she made Bakewell tarts all the time, and proceeded to ignore the admittedly fairly sketchy instructions, because of this superior knowledge. Brave move, Val.  Back at Andrew’s station, he couldn’t understand why his tart wasn’t baking. BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T SWITCHED YOUR OVEN ON, ANDREW.  Andrew works as an aerospace engineer designing jet engines for Rolls-Royce, people.    Jane won the challenge, and Val looked at her darkly.  Val is a former primary school teacher, and looks the sort who would have made her own dunce’s hat and placed it on some unfortunate pupil’s head every half hour.

Finally, the showstopper, which this week comprised filo pastry amuses bouches.  For the uninitiated, these are placed, with an entirely unnecessary flourish, in front of you in smart restaurants, and which you eat not because you want them “today the chef has made a celeriac and goat’s ear blancmange with whisky soil and a hint of armpit sweat” but because they’re free and you’re frightened of the waiter.

Rav made chocolate samosas – WHY? – Andrew made deconstructed baklavas, Tom made chocolate steak – seriously, WTF? – and Candice told us that “it’s good to get a handful of sausage.”  I’m just going to leave that remark there, without comment.  Jane made filo cones which looked delicious.  Paul wasn’t amused (see what I did there?)  “Those aren’t amuse bouches. They’re too big.” Paul tasted one.  “They’re delicious.” Told ya.

Candice did extremely well (Star Baker) and then Rav nervously produced his prawns. “That’s just the sort of surprise I like before a meal,” declared Mary.  Anyone following the GBBO Innuendo Bingo game knocked back a triple and slumped to the floor.

Val was sent home, possibly with a note about doing her homework.

Next week it’s botanicals. Knowing Mary’s fondness for a tipple, the person who uses gin in all three rounds will probably win.





Bake Off is back! #1


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.









The Great Sport Relief Bake Off – ep. 2


For a variety of reasons (okay, one reason, going to the first meeting of the new Harrogate WI, no, I don’t know myself anymore either) I missed the first episode of the Great Sport Relief Bake Off.  Nothing, however, was going to stop me from watching this week’s, mainly because of my giant girl-crushes on Victoria Coren-Mitchell (VCM)and Kimberley Walsh. I love Kimberley, and still feel aggrieved on her behalf for being ROBBED of the Strictly trophy two years ago.  ROBBED.

Anyhoo, moving on. Signature challenge? Bake 24 muffins which must be identical.  Jennifer Saunders was very keen that the bakers understood this.  I’d have preferred Jen to appear as AbFab’s Edina, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

Blokes were Chris Camara (sports commentator, apparently) and Ed Balls (#edballs). Chris was making sultana (bleurgh) and banana muffins, with a touch of cinnamon. Ed  was making the same, but his had yoghurt in (double bleurgh, although to be fair, yoghurt can work as a kind of wet cream of tartar, so fair enough). Kimberley made strawberry cheesecake muffins because she is a goddess, and VCM made Bloody Mary muffins, involving celery (meh) and vodka (get in). VCM is ace, and should be my best friend and teach me how to play poker.

VCM spent a great deal of time staring worriedly into her oven. Perhaps she should have ditched the muffins altogether offered Paul and Bezza several shots of vodka instead. Everyone knows Bezza likes a drop of the hard stuff.

Judging time. “The muffins should be well-risen, beautifully flavoured, and neither tough nor soggy,” intoned Jen. Chris presented his muffins (no innuendo).  My daughter looked at them with disdain. “Sultanas ruined everything.”  Paul wasn’t impressed either. “They taste like paint.”   Ed’s were more successful. “A pretty good muffin.” Meanwhile, Kimbers’ efforts had sunk, but nil desperandum. “The flavour is FANTASTIC,” Paul announced, ignoring the muffin and looking adoringly at Kimberley’s false eyelashes.  VCM was told her muffins did, actually, taste like a Bloody Mary.

Technical challenge: football pies.  Football who the what now? Double crust, filled with mincemeat, onions and peas, with a football “design” on the top, apparently.  Everyone looked taken aback, but carried on gamely.  Meanwhile Bezza and Paul discussed supporting Liverpool (Paul) and Everton (Bezza).  Nobody had any idea how to make pastry well, apart from Ed.  “Add two egg yolks, and small splash of water,” said Kimberley, reading the instructions. “How much is small splash though?” wondered Chris.  Ed looked smug.  Chris didn’t know what clingfilm was. Seriously? No, he didn’t.

VCM said her eyes watered when she chopped onions, and so donned a huge pair of sunglasses, immediately resembling Roy Orbison in a kitchen.  Ed baked his pastry case blind “just for five minutes.” (No need Ed.  Just saying.) and pratted about with hexagon-shaped bits of pastry that looked like flowers, not footballs, but I like Ed so I’ll say no more.  Ed’s pies experienced spillage (still no innuendo), and VCM’s pies looked as pale as a Jane Austen heroine with consumption, because she’d forgotten to glaze them.  She slapped on a bit of egg yolk glaze which worked a treat.  Alas, Chris’s pies looked like roadkill, several days after the Ford Fiesta had flattened the carcass.

Kimberley’s pies had what she described as a “sort of” football on the top, with nice and thin pastry. Chris’s roadkill was under-seasoned. VCM’s were described as “a nice bake” and poor old Ed’s were both under-baked and collapsed, and lacked seasoning. Ed looked as disappointed as the other Ed just after David Dimbleby announced the winner of the General Election.

Ed came fourth, Chris third, Kimberley second and VCM in first place. Who would win the whole thing overall?  It was all down to the show-stopper, a three-layered cake representing an extreme sport.  Chris started making an “extreme bodyboarding” cake. Riding shallow waves is the most extreme of all the water-based sports, innit. His boarder looked like a corpse on a banana.  Kimberley recreated Mount Kilimanjaro in cake form, in memory of her Sport Relief climb a few years ago. It looked sensational.  Ed made a complicated ski jump cake, complete with a fondant Eddie The Eagle and a snowman that resembled a penis.  VCM went for a “round the world sailing” cake with, she explained, “the taste of the sea”.  This turned out to be nothing more sophisticated than insane quantities of salt in a blue mess.  “I’ve done a slightly rubbish cake,” she said, ruefully. Stick to vodka and cards, Vic.  That’s a winning combination in anyone’s book.

The judging.  “All of them have been baked beautifully,” smiled Mary.  Kimberley won and everyone applauded heartily.  You know why Bake Off is such a success? Because nobody is mean, or needlessly cruel.  Everyone has a laugh, helps each other, and treats it as the good fun it is.   I love it.






The Great British Bake Off – the final


The Great British Bake Off

The final of the Great British Bake Off did not disappoint.  More than 14 million viewers tuned in to see Tamal, Nadiya and Ian bake, among other things, classic British cakes.

Here in our house, we played Bake Off Bingo.  Devised by my daughter, it is a fiendishly quick game and involves knocking back one measure of gin and tonic for any of the following:

• Any contestant stares despairingly into their oven
• Sue/Mel make an innuendo-laden remark
• Sue/Mel nick some of the bakers’ food
• Mary looks quizzical (think Clint Eastwood staring into the distance)


• Paul or Mary says “that’s a good bake”
• Paul puts his index fingers in his jeans pockets and stands with his legs astride, as though suffering from painfully enlarged testes
• Mary says “I can really taste the lemon”
• Paul says “I’m not getting any lemon”

They kicked off with filled, iced buns, two flavours, their choice, completed in three hours. Pfft, that’s not difficult, is it? “All of them must be IDENTICAL,” declared Mary, sternly. “Just make sure that the shape and the icing is all perfect,” warned Paul. Oh. Tamal chose cinnamon and apple, and toffee and marmalade. Toffee and marmalade? Seriously? (It turned out that Paul and Bezza loved it, which just goes to prove how little I know.) Nadiya made nutmeg fingers with sour cherry filling, as well as cardamom and almond flavour buns.  “Will your buns be touching?” enquired Paul, as she worked the dough. Nadiya’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline. “Er, not when I bake them, no.” Paul looked disappointed. “I like my buns to be touching.”  TMI, Paul. TMI. Tamal and Nadiya made one batch of dough but Ian, surprise surprise, made two batches, one with fresh elderflowers, and one where he forget to put any sugar in it.  Bad luck, Ian.

The technical challenge was one of Paul’s devising: six raspberry millefeuille.  Hey, I can make millefeuille, why am I not a contestant? Paul confided that the reason he had chosen this recipe was because all three contestants had struggled with the pastry before.  Swine.

paul hollywood gif

There was much opening and closing of the only freezer cabinets in existence without at least half a dozen peas encased in two inch thick ice. Nadiya triumphed. Would she emerge the overall winner?  It was time for the showstopper challenge.  A single-flavoured, but multi-tiered British cake. Four hours. Who would emerge victorious?

Paul, whose hair gel had now solidified so completely not even an expert in fracking could have removed it from his perma-tanned head, explained that that each layer “had to be identical”.  Tamal made a sticky toffee pudding fruit cake, with decorations based on an abandoned fishing village in China.  How can you not love the utter randomness of Tamal?  Ian made five cakes (of course) which he described as looking, when finished, like a “kind of cascading carrot”. Er, okay. Nadiya made a lemon drizzle wedding cake decorated with saris, and confessed it was the one she would have wanted had she got married in the UK rather than Bangladesh, where they apparently don’t do wedding cake. She even included some of the jewels from her wedding dress.  There was a brief VT of her three adorable children and unfeasibly handsome husband. Nadiya has it all, folks.  Winning #GBBO would simply be the icing on the cake.  See what I did there?  Oh please yourself.

Nadiya’s cake was spectacular.  “The lemon comes through beautifully.” DRINK, EVERYONE.  “Nadiya,” said Paul, seriously. “That’s stunning.”

Tamal’s fishing village cake featured breath-taking sugar work. “This is genius,” said Paul, and it really was.  “You’ve done exceedingly well,” added Mary, possibly revealing she was secretly sponsored by Mr Kipling.

Ian’s cascading carrot was, frankly, unbelievably.  “That’s one of the best carrot cakes I’ve ever had,” confessed Paul. Wowser.  The three came out of the tent carrying their cakes to loud applause from family, friends, and the other contestants.

Nadiya won, of course, and burst into happy tears. Her family went loopy, and the other contestants hugged her with genuine warmth.   It was almost impossible not to have a little cry at the loveliness of it all, and thus the incredible success of such a simple programme was revealed.


The Great British Bake Off – episode six


This week is pastry week.  The signature challenge was an open-topped frangipane tart made with shortcrust pastry, and a topping of the baker’s choice. For the uninitiated, frangipane is not only Paul Hollywood’s porn name, but also an almond cream that tastes like hell and when the day of my Glorious Rule dawns, will be banned from baked goods forever.

The seven contestants all declared themselves to be lacking in confidence, and Mary Berry said they needed to avoid a soggy bottom.  Those playing the #GBBO cliché drinking game knocked back two shots of amaretto and then spat them out because ALMOND FLAVOURED STUFF IS VILE.

Alvin chose to make a plum frangipane tart; having decided against poaching his plums, he remained confident they would look nice fanned on top of a tart.  Those viewers also playing the #GBBO innuendo drinking game were now lying in an alcoholic coma underneath the sofa.   Ian confided to Sue that he was using eggs from his own guinea fowl.  Hey, he’s Lord Grantham!  Flora made a tart with apricot and rosemary.  Perhaps she was planning on stuffing it into a leg of lamb later.   Paul pronounced it both burned and bitter.  Miserable sod.  For good measure, he informed Alvin his plums were uncooked.  Alvin looked crushed, as well he might.

There was a dull bit in Denby Dale where Sue stood in a field whilst a local bore informed her that there was a pie buried somewhere underneath it.  Sue heroically managed to look interested.

Back in the tent, It was Technical Challenge time, this week Cyprus’ answer to a Greggs Cheese ‘n’ Onion pasty, the Flaouna. Apparently they’re like a cheesy scone, sometimes with sultanas in.  Everyone looked puzzled, and gagged when they smelled an ingredient that I think was called Masticate. Mastick? Masturbate. Whatever, nobody had a clue. They all schlumped up to the judging table with their cheese and sultana offerings; frankly I thought they did a bang up job but of course Paul thought otherwise.  Looking more and more like a badger recently introduced to VO5 Mega Hold gel, he grudgingly admitted “that could just about pass as a flaouna,” to Mat, who was declared the winner.  Big up to Mat, eh Paul?

Finally, Showstopper time, this week all about vol-au-vents. Why, Mary, why? The 1970s was a god-awful decade, not least because all the food was foul. Maybe the BBC was hoping for a wodge of sponsorship cash from Iceland.

Anyhoo, the contestants had to make 24 of two different vol-au-vent flavours.  Mary referred frequently to the requirement for creating distinctive lairs.  What, like a James Bond villain?  Oh. Layers.  As you were. Mat went for what he termed a Full English: “a fancy dinner party kind of vol-au-vont.”  Mat, love. You’re not starring in Abigail’s Party. Ian went for mushroom vol-au-vents, and scallops and squid ink.  “They look, er, interesting,” grimaced Paul. Flora made chocolate vol-au-vents stuffed with ganache, and some with asparagus and parma ham. Nadiya plumped for korma and quail’s egg, and another with cod and clementine, which sounded revolting but Paul said was “amazing”.  I’ll take his word for it. Everybody heaved and puffed and sweated and bashed and rolled and folded.  Seriously people, just buy some Jus-Rol.  Nobody with a brain makes their own puff pastry.  Alvin made a bollocks of it.  Mat won star baker. Alvin got the boot.  He was gracious and grateful to the last.  “I feel like I’m leaving the tent a better man.”  Aw, bless.

Next week is all about recipes from the past, which I’m guessing means they’ll have to bake something like sheep’s head roulade decorated with peasants’ fingers.  We’ll see.

The Great British Bake Off – episode one


Bake off is back, baby! 12 new contestants, Mel and Sue, Paul “Ronseal” Hollywood and St Mary of Berry who, in certain lights, bears a striking resemblance to Clint Eastwood.  Yes she does. No YOU shut up.

It’s Cake Week (isn’t it mainly cake week?) and among those hoping to bake an outstanding Madeira cake worthy of Mary and Paul’s approval was a Lithuanian bodybuilder, a fireman and, with wearying inevitability, a hipster in a hat. This year’s teen baker, a sweet girl called Flora, forgot to turn on her oven because she has an Aga at home and that’s always on. #middleclassproblems, anyone? Mat (fireman) baked a cake with gin and tonic in it.  Mat was immediately installed as my favourite.

Hipster-in-a-hat had, of course, invented an entirely new kind of Madeira cake ; the  chocolate and lime variety.  Mary’s mouth went all cat bum shaped at this innovation.  “It’ not really a Madeira cake, is it?”

The hell that is the technical challenge was set by Mary and was, we were told, “quintessentially  British.”  Confident that this would be a Chelsea Bun in the shape of Nigel Farage, disappointingly it was instead a walnut cake.   A walnut cake? Labouring under the illusion that walnuts originated from Persia,  a quick check of Wikipedia revealed that there is, in fact, such a thing as the English walnut.  Expect to see them on all UKIP merchandise tomorrow, folks.

Paul complained about some poor sod’s walnuts being too big.  We’ve all been there, Paul.

I forget who won the challenge – some try-hard woman who fannied about with spun sugar as though she was Hermione Grainger in Snape’s Potions’ lesson determined to win 10 points for Gryffindor – and poor old Stu the hipster was declared to be “in real trouble”.  Back in the tent Stu’s  hat drooped with shame.

The final challenge was to bake a Black Forest gateau, which is a fiendishly difficult cake to bake and not, frankly, worth the trouble as it always tastes like something with an Asda “Whoops” sticker on it.  Virtually everyone went for traditional chocolate and cherry, but Stu chose to include beetroot to make it purple, because he’s cool and different.  Just bake the cake, Stu! Always just bake the cake.  Marie, chatting to Paul, said she would make her icing “dribble down the side”.  Paul looked she’d suggested a stray dog  dribble down the side of his M&S chinos, but managed to burble something about this being “interesting”.  And it was; her effort looked fabulous.

Marie was Star Baker, and looked astonished at this accolade, bless her. Poor hipster Stu was ejected, and jumped on his unicycle back to Hoxton or wherever it is that hipsters now live.

Next week – biscuits.