Guys… it’s back! And it’s CAKE WEEK. I can’t promise my recaps will be well-timed, but they will be presented beautifully. And that’s the nearest you’re going to get to a pun from me (he lies).
Things kick off, as usual, with Mel and Sue hamming it up and generally pinching themselves that they get to waffle nonsense on camera for a living. That beats flogging Warburtons, doesn’t it, ladies? Said nonsense includes (unless I am being prurient) a coded reference to sex toys… Yep, guys, they’re back with a vengeance and it’s like the Carry On films never left us.
We start to be introduced to the bakers, accompanied by sweeping aerial views of an unidentified stately home, and various contestants stand in isolated woodland and tell us that it’s exciting to be there. ‘There’ being, presumably, the competition – rather than the woodland. Though Val looks like she’d be thrilled to be anywhere – and is mostly excited that the tent is real. Here speaks a woman who has never fully trusted television.
Lots of early impressions are flying around. I had – but of course – already scoured the line-up and descriptions, and have Kate in the office sweepstake. But my first thoughts are that everyone seems pretty fab – even (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the P.E. teacher. I didn’t know it was in me to like a P.E. teacher.
Shall we gloss over Mel’s list of ‘Kates’? I feel like it’s a pun we’ve had before, and it wasn’t welcome then. What IS welcome (I can only assume) is Blazer Watch. As the summer gets warmer, will we see these disappear?
The first challenge is a goody. It’s drizzle cake. And Mel adds to the stores of my undying love by saying “no presjz” for “no pressure”. If GBBO has done anything, it’s made abbrevs socially acceptable. Right? It has, right?
The bakers start by urgently moving things around their counters in a way that looks entirely like over-enthusiastic extras pretending to be busy in the backdrop of a soap opera. Somebody (who?) just mutters “Scissors, scissors”.
I like that they’re making a drizzle cakes, because that’s something that somebody might conceivably want to do. As Paul acknowledges, the challenges have got a bit eccentric over the years – remember that dry-as-the-desert pancake-sponge-cake they had to make one year? – so Well Done Bake Off Team.
Bakers tut and sigh and show us whether or not their hands are shaking – presumably prompted by the production team, since I can’t imagine anybody would volunteer the numbingly dull information that their hands weren’t shaking – and we’re flung into activity. All is not quite well in the world of hands, though; Jane is our first blue bandage of the night.
Mary is, of course, banging on about lemons – but she is ‘expecting the unexpected’. And I can only hope that she is talking about Val and her genial insanity. She struggles with opening a jar, and seems to believe that Paul and Mary have come over with no other purpose in mind but helping her get the lid off.
I love Val: she uses margarine in cakes rather than butter (as do I), she’s from Somerset, and apparently does kitchen aerobics in her slippers while somebody stoops to take creep shots from the doorway.
One downside to a good, simple recipe is that there aren’t huge surprises. People are grating oranges and lemons, creaming butter and sugar; the usual. Until we get to Louise, whose chief and best quality is being Welsh. Love to hear a Welsh voice on TV.
Mama didn’t raise no fool with this one, as my friend Adam would say – she knows the way to Mary’s heart and that is through soaking everything indiscriminately in booze. Orange liqueur it is. And… lemonade? Let me tell you, I put lemonade in a cake once – aged about eight – and the unpleasant taste is still in my mouth.
My favourite bits of GBBO might be the at-home segments, where people tell us that they are married to their husbands or work in their workplaces. As the selfsame Adam pointed out (or was it you, Rachel?), they ain’t writing the Dictionary of National Biography. Having been told that Louise is a hair stylist, we get video proof for the avoidance of doubt. Which is just her murmuring ‘roots’ at this unsuspecting lady.
Paul H has found his first nitpicking to do: drizzle or icing? The gameshow writes itself. It then also rejects itself, screws itself up into a ball, and throws itself into a recycling bin. As Louise astutely notes, Paul does know what he’s talking about, because he’s a professional. He is no longer eligible to bake in the Olympics.
Lee’s butter is too clumpy, and I marvel afresh at the number of people who apparently cream their butter in a food mixer. I was brought up to use me ‘ANDS. ‘ARD GRAFT. &c. &c. Lee is a builder-turned-church-minister (the repeated use of ‘church minister’ rather than ‘vicar’ – and the fact that he is dressed super casjz while giving his split-second talk – leads me to assume that he’s non-conformist. HE CERTAINLY IS WITH BAKING AMIRITE.)
Mel assures Lee that he’ll be all right – which, hmm – and (as if realising her mistake) quickly waffles about consistency and the need for it to taste like cake, and “the perfect ratio of wet to dry ingredients”, which sounds rather as though you were trying to describe a shopping list to a synaesthesiac. Then we zoom in on this rather dramatically.
We’ve seen Louise and Lee at work, but nobody is interested in seeing a financy something or other at their desk. Luckily Selasi rides a motorbike and, in his spare time, pretends to be a superhero.
Selasi is the chillest contestant ever to be in the tent. He’s entirely unflappable, and the show knows it. Several times in this episode we have little montages of bakers shrieking or announcing hysterically that they’ve never been more nervous in their lives, before seguing to Selasi murmuring that he’d be quite happy to take a quick nap any time. He also has a tea towel around his neck, or over his shoulder, at all times. Why? Nobody knows, least of all Selasi.
Colouring Pencils Man! He’s back, he’s not changed, and he is nothing if not hazy in where he believes cinnamon might be on this drizzle cake.
Kate is putting apples in her cake – which doesn’t win her points with me, I’m afraid, as I’m no especial fan of the cooked apple. Particularly in a cake. In a crumble, and we’ll talk. She apparently picks them from her orchard – or, indeed, gets her two children to do it gratis. They’ve also picked the blackberries. Said children appear, complete with unexpected flapper haircuts, flinging flour at each other instead of rolling out the curiously tiny lumps of pastry in front of them.
Candice is making a gluten-free cake (oh lord, why) but is rather adorable when describing how she’s going to poke in the custard, giggling away while she earns our first Mary Berry Reaction Face of the series. Which looked lovely in passing, but is a trifle terrifying in still.
Dear Mel and Sue – could we go through one episode without you telling us that putting food in the oven at the wrong temperature is wrong? It sort of goes without saying, right? The only catastrophe is Jane forgetting to add ground almonds, so she busies herself with starting again. Forgetting is catching, as Selasi has omitted the cinammon – suddenly the vagaries of Colouring Pencil Man’s artwork are explained – but he is less panicked. Instead he wanders over to Candice (who is doing washing up, which I’d always rather assumed was done by the production minions) and… well, I don’t remember precisely what he said, because I was too busy concocting a tent romance between these two.
I’m going to have to get pacier on this recap, particularly with so many bakers in the tent, but we can’t ignore the baker who is putting gin in his drizzle. Because:
This is Tom’s handiwork (I realise now that I had amalgamated Tom and Michael in my head) – he’s also using boiled-down tonic to make some sort of… well, I’m not sure what, because presumably boiled-down tonic is just sugar?
Yes, Val listens to her cakes. There was rather a hullabaloo about this, but I’m sure other bakers in previous series have also given their cakes a good listen? I’m not gonna lie; based on how she does this week, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as best practice.
Louise steadfastly refuses to join in Sue’s attempts to innuendo her cake out of existence.
Rav is using yuzu, and seems astonished that Sue hadn’t heard of it. Since this is a lady who, seven series in, tends to need the rudimentaries of self-raising flour explained to her, it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise. His description of it as being “a cross between a lemon and lime” does beg the question whether he wouldn’t have been better off with… a lemon and a lime.
Now, Andrew seemed perfectly likeable. I was prepared to cheer him on. But then this happened:
I realise that it looks like he’s snorting something, but he is (in fact) chopping up rosemary. He believes that infusing his drizzle with rosemary will ‘give it a bit of a twist’. Well, I’ll give you a twist in a minute, Andrew, because NO. Every year somebody starts doing this, and I think I summed it up best on Twitter:
STOP PUTTING ROSEMARY IN CAKES. THIS IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO ALL. #GBBO
— Simon Thomas (@stuck_inabook) August 24, 2016
With roast potatoes – yes please; I’ll be offended if you don’t. In anything sweet? Absolutely not.
If you’re after close-ups of pastry brushes and dripping icing and (of course) drizzle, then you’ve come to the right place. Val manages to dislodge her edible primroses – an accident which can only be considered a blessing in disguise and a massive hint from Dame Gravity – but she obviously isn’t bothered, and decides ‘we’ll get away with it’. We being her and the cake which has been confiding in her, presumably.
“You’re the first,” says Mary to Benjamina, who nervously says “Yes”, and it feels like some archaic version of YouTube comment threads. Benjamina is also involved in an elaborate discussion of whether a section of cake is undercooked or drizzle-soaked. Spoilers: it’s fine.
Nobody does disastrously, though Kate’s “that’s disappointing” in response to unenthusiastic feedback is a little heartbreaking – and also an excellent idea for a serial killer’s catchphrase. If anybody writes this screenplay, I am more than willing to appear in the credits as an executive producer. Other highlights from this section? Tom/Michael’s gin is apparently powerful but tasteless, Paul comments of Candice’s cake “Fascinating that it’s gluten-free” (is it?), and Paul criticises Rav’s cake for not being quite lime or lemon enough. Which, considering it had neither lime nor lemon in it, is unsurprising. Most importantly: lingering looks between Selasi and Candice.
And… we’re onto the technical challenge! Mary’s only piece of advice is “It’s suggested that you do things in an order – keep to that order”. This nugget may not be helpful in and of itself, but at least she delivered it in the middle of a rap battle.
12 JAFFA CAKES. Do people have jaffa cakes outside of the UK? I’m going to be honest, I thought it was trademarked. They’re a fairly dry sponge, fairly unappetising orange jelly, and fairly uninspiring chocolate. Somehow, together, they are a Great British institution. They’re also about 65p for a pack of 12, so making them by hand is something nobody would dream of doing for a moment.
Paul helpfully points at the different bits of it and names them – “Chocolate on the top” – concluding with “that’s a jaffa cake right there”, suggesting that he mistakenly believes he has wandered into the world’s easiest version of Kim’s game. Oh, and a crisis was caused across the nation when this debacle happened:
“We don’t do that in the South, you know,” says Mary, and she is right. I’m anti-dunking in general, and certainly wouldn’t make an exception for jaffa cakes. What I love about our ridiculous nation is that the maker of Jaffa Cakes, McVities, actually released a statement on the matter.
Everyone starts with the orange jelly, and it’s nowhere clear for a moment how they’ve done it. We see them poke an orange or two, and then suddenly we have trays of orange jelly littering the tent. My question: did they use gelatin or pectin? Are these vegetarian? Why do we have to spend so long having the concept of stirring explained to us by a bevy of bakers, when this essential question is left unanswered?
People are spooning their sponge mixture into trays, and Val says she is going to try to “guess the time”, while prodding the timer enthusiastically and seemingly at random.
And then we segue, of course, into bakers staring into ovens. Oh, the eternal love between baker and oven. It makes the looks between Selasi and Candice seem almost not lingering. (But, to clarify, they definitely are lingering.)
My favourite moment of the first ep might be this one – Candice acknowledges that she has illicitly added orange juice to the recipe, against the instructions, and Mel sotto voce asks her where she got the orange juice from. “The orange,” says Candice, in the voice usually reserved for encouraging the first words of a recalcitrant infant.
Various bakers umm and ahh over the size of the jelly in a jaffa cake (fair enough), and then, less explicably, they debate which way up they should go. I mean, wut? Have these people never encountered a jaffa cake before? “Who knows what’s the right way round?” poses Jane, answering her own question with these monstrosities:
(Having said that, I can definitely see myself entering the tent and immediately forgetting every single thing about every item I have ever beheld.)
In the end, only Andrew is doing them the wrong way round. He whispers his every thought at the camera, and – for no obvious reason – does a quick impersonation of Lurch.
Oh, and we got our first glimpse of the pheasant that got, I feel sure, more screentime than a good half of the bakers. And then, with some quick chocolate spreading and piping and the minister saying (I think) “I don’t know what a cross looks like”, we’re done. And they all look pretty amateurish, I have to say – the chocolate let a lot of people down.
Highlight, of course, is Paul’s “They are all uniform… ly bad”. It reminds me of Simon Cowell’s endless “You have successfully… not… got through… to going home… because you’re through” style banter. Once we get to Andrew’s upside down jaffas, Paul explains that they are upside down – and then which the right way might be, for the avoidance of doubt.
We meander through all the contestants, and there isn’t a huge amount to say. Andrew comes last (Paul reiterates that they were upside down, lest anybody has forgotten), and Lee and Val also do badly. Obviously aiming to confuse me, Tom and Michael (or Michael and Tom) claim third and second place, while good old Selasi comes top.
There are so many bakers that we obviously don’t have time to discover the unexpected history of cake – we get, instead, another shot of a pheasant – and (after a quick debrief from Judge Corner) we’re into the showstopper. And it’s Mirror Cake! No, I hadn’t heard of it either.
What is a Mirror Cake? Mary just uses the word ‘polish’ and ‘glaze’ over and over – and follows the theme of the episode by never quite telling us how one goes about making a glaze on a cake. I thought it was just a very good ganache, but it seems to be separate from that. I suppose we’ll never know (unless, of course, we are willing to google it – which we are not). What I do know is that it must have given Colouring Pencils Man a bit of a headache – but he demonstrates glaze admirably.
Next stop, Louise. Hers sounds delicious – being based on a white chocolate trifle – but she has more or less ignored the challenge, and is just shoving buttercream on the outside. “And mirror glaze” adds Sue optimistically in her voiceover, though we remain none the wiser as to what that could mean.
Sue also gives her annual explanation of what a genoise sponge cake is (“added air… and keeping it there”). Meanwhile, Val has developed a crippling addiction to the timer. I have a sneaking suspicion that she believes it is counting the remaining moments of her mortality.
Selasi is whisking over boiling water (“I don’t understand it… I just bake it”) and has forgotten to include raspberry seeds. Seeds? That sounds gritty. Andrew, meanwhile, is making something with salted caramel and orange which looks and sounds delicious – even if Ultimate Indulgence makes it sound rather like the last meal of a convict on death row.
Michael is using Matcha Tea sponge, which looks revolting, but… no, it probably also is revolting. Mary seems pretty unimpressed.
So, here’s a question. Why is there a bunch of roses on one of the desk? Has Selasi been wooing Candice? Is Val going to sugarglaze them? Answer comes there none.
Speaking of our Candice, she is having trouble with her genoise sponges – which aren’t rising. It’s an issue, I’ll acknowledge, but nothing compared to the name of her cake. If Andrew broke my ‘no-rosemary-in-cake’ rule, Candice is playing fast and loose with my dictats on naming cakes. I.e. be simple and straightforward. Don’t call it ‘Chocolate Paradise’ or ‘Midsummer Dreams’ and definitely don’t call it…
But she gets her comeuppance almost immediately; she flings a sponge against the wall, and starts again. She’s not the only one. Val, Benjamina, and Tom/Michael (possibly Tom AND Michael?) are also starting from scratch. While Louise says she’s making a creme pat, but appears to be mashing raspberries. Er, good luck with that. (It perhaps explains the ‘disaster’ with it that she later mentions.)
I hadn’t spotted this name the first time around.
It’s an oddly pessimistic name for a cake, thinking about it, but it’s definitely on brand: Kate is wearing a swallow dress, has swallow earrings, and I believe – though I may not have been listening as attentively as I could have been – once married a swallow.
Val gets a visitation from Paul and Mary – not in a spectral way – but busies herself with tasting the contents of the unnamed jars around her, ignoring them as much as possible. She narrowly avoids adding cornflour – which does pose the riddle: why are these jars unlabelled? Is it to reenact some sort of Portia situation?
Incidentally, this still life was created by Luigi Lucioni.
“I’ve literally done everything twice,” says Benjamina, much like Mum did when she had twins. Lee has made a horror of a ganache, Candice is waiting for a jelly to set, and everybody opens and shuts freezers, trying to find an empty one. It’s clearly Portia week. Benjamina, meanwhile, has a little cry because her cream or ganache or something is too runny. She seems to think that continually mixing it will make it less runny?
We see lots of sugar thermometers. Guys, since last year I have actually been given a sugar thermometer! It’s very exciting. I can make things to exactly the right temperature – and have indeed used it for Extreme Baking. Maybe I’ll mirror glaze EVERYTHING this week.
Aaand, with one excellent use of ‘Mother Hubbard’ as an expletive from Candice, we’re done! There are some truly excellent-looking bakes out there. Here are some other photos of the ones I loved the look of:
Matcha tea, we learn, is unpleasant in a sponge cake. Poor Candice is a bit upset about the state of her genoise (but has served her cake on a huge ornamnetal mirror), while Andrew surprises the judges with his excellent cake. And as for Kate’s luminous blue swallow cake? “Blue isn’t usually a good colour for icing,” Mary notes kindly, having evidently not tasted my (third-place) award-winning swimming pool cake of 1995.
Special mention has to go to Louise, who seemed to disregard the challenge entirely – but let’s not be hasty. Perhaps she misunderstood, and thought she had to do a cake that seemed like a mirror – in the sense that her cake has the exact colours of her hair, face, and lips.
All of which, thankfully, are great colours for cakes and faces alike.
We barely have time for another couple clips of the pheasant, before we’re into the announcements. Star Baker is…
Jane – to her surprise and, I’ll admit, to mine (but only cos I thought Selasi had it in the bag). Leaving us, sadly, is…
Bye Lee – you seemed a delight, and I’m sorry that we haven’t seen more of you. In fact, this group of bakers might be the nicest bunch we’ve had yet – as of yet, I’m rather fond of all of them.
Next week looks like it’ll be stressful. Biscuit towers, Viennese whirls, and collapsing trays. Can’t wait!
It’s been fun to be back – hope you’ve enjoyed the recap. And thanks to everyone who asked about it coming back :)
One more time: