Great British Bake-Off Review: We Loooove The Cake!

GREAT BRITISH BAKE-OFF: Tuesday 20th September, BBC2, 8pm

“They’re overworked…and so are their spongesâ€? quips Sue Perkins about the contestants of BBC2’s hugely popular Great British Bake Off. But after viewing the much anticipated quarter-final, overworked seems to be an understatement.

This week’s baking contest was filled not with jam and buttercream, but with ruined roulades and contestants crying over croquembouches. What the hell is a croquembouche, you ask? Well, it is everything good about life: Profiteroles (108 of them), crème patissiere (loads of it) and caramel (in diabetes-inducing proportions). Oh, and all the little choux buns have to be built into a two foot high tower of glistening perfection.

No mean feat for our aspiring bakers. And with the King and Queen of baking talent, Paul Hollywood and Merry Berry, casting their expert eye over the efforts of the four remaining amateur bakers there was plenty of room for error.

This week’s technical challenge, the terrifying chocolate roulade, tripped all the bakers up with wrinkles and cracks turning the contestant’s efforts into a “best of the worstâ€? scenario.

The so called “Kingâ€? Hollywood (if Philip Schofield is a silver fox, this man is a silver lion) makes some typically biting remarks about the bitterness of some caramel and the flaccidity of a sponge. These are obviously the best bits of the show. Everyone would like to be good at baking, me included, and it is cruelly entertaining to see the hopefuls faces fall faster than an over-whipped meringue when they are told they can “have their cake, ‘cos no one else will eat itâ€?.

Another highlight this week was the truly horrified look on Queen Mary Berry’s face when one bumptious baker ditched traditional cream for her own concoction of neon pink gloop to inject into the profiteroles.

The information interludes which provide facts about the background of British baking are jolly enjoyable and this week’s look at the rise of convenience baking is no exception. Hearing about wartime “mockâ€? desserts such as apricot flan featuring ingredients of carrot and potato, and the use of liquid paraffin instead of lard (until it was discovered to have a laxative effect) also made for memorable viewing.

The Great British Bake Off is a mysterious tour de force when it comes to popularity. There is no reason why a show which is essentially about eggs, flour, butter and sugar should be this popular. Is there?

OK so it is pretty gentle viewing and the tension is hardly unbearable when it comes to booting a baker off the show, but despite myself I find the draw of cutesy British humour – “we don’t do soggy bottomsâ€? (tee-hee) – and pastel utensils impossible to resist and end up tuning in every week.

It was a shame, however, that the previously diverse bunch of bakers has now been narrowed down to a group of women. Sue Perkins and Mel Giedoryc lead will lead “Team Oestrogenâ€? to the penultimate sugar showdown next week.

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