Great British Bake Off 2013 – Episode Nine – The French

Dear readers.

I have a confession to make.

Usually, by now (half eleven at night), I have written my Great British Bake Off Blog, edited it, tweaked it and posted it.

Tonight I have only just started it. My va va voom has va va went, and I am a little disconsolate about the whole affair.

Were I a parrot, this would be the episode where I stalk around the bottom of the cage, tossing lumps of Trill to the four winds and pulling my feathers out.

You see, for me, the tent is a bit of a lacklustre affair. Everyone is so intent on winning now – it’s all getting a bit too serious, and there is not enough joy to my viewing

and I love a bit of joy, and melodrama, and jam sponge.

There were bright spots, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted scintillation. I wanted titivation. I wanted things ending in – ation.

Sparkly things.

Instead I got four driven women wrapped in damp canvas making French baked goods with intent.

Mel and Sue tried to liven things up with a gallic shrug here and a bit of light opera there, and to be fair to Beca, she joined in with a marvellous contralto ‘banana’ – but it still lacked sparkle.  We needed Glenn, who I still sorely miss, with his petit fours the size of Belgium.  We needed another custard poaching incident, or a bit of light bun kneeling – although I suspect had that happened there would have been Violet Elizabeth style tantrums before bed time.

Instead we got the ghost of Howard, wafting around the tent in a denim shirt with fringes, singing sad songs about macarons of yore, and how his dog done gone and upped and went and died after drinking too much vanilla essence, and his woman left and took the family scone recipe with her…

Let us battle on through the gloom into the semi finals. You can watch the episode here.

Firstly, the signature bake involved making three different kind of canapes. I would add an accent to the e on canapes there, but I have no idea how to do it with WordPress, so you’ll have to imagine it instead.

I am torn about the world of canapes.  I love the idea of them, and the taste of them, and the fact that there are lots of different ones to try if you go to a truly proper and excellent posh party.

But there are two things that bother me.

Firstly, they are too small. I am showing my working class roots here, but I really do not understand the concept of the ‘nibble’ as an actual thing in its own right, which is effectively what a canape is.  A nibble is something you do to the edge of a 12 inch pizza, before you fall face first into it.  It is not something that provides any satisfaction in and of itself.

I only have two settings when it comes to matters of the appetite – bloody starving or bloody stuffed.  A canape/nibble does not help in either of these situations. It teases the starving, it is a waffer thin mint too far for the stuffed.

My friend Nicki and I were discussing this. We are in agreement on the canape question, and have come up with an invention, which is basically a Yo Sushi style conveyor belt, but straight – a superhighway of food, if you please – and one which delivers a never ending stream of delicious canapes straight into your pie hole.

Good, no?

My second issue with canapes is the vol au vent


That is all.

The ones on display in the tent were all ‘Yes’ nibbles. I could have cleared that tent of bite sized snacks in under five minutes, even with the distraction of being filmed.

Everything looked delicious.

The technical challenge on the other hand, did not look delicious.  It was called a Charlotte Royal – which I believe is a made up pudding.

I say this once every series when I am presented with something new and astonishing, and am inevitably proved wrong when it turns out that everyone else in the Western hemisphere has been hoofing them down with impugnity since time immemorial, but I did feel justified this week when Sue confessed she’d never heard of it either.

She also cheered me rather when she said what everyone was thinking, i.e. that it looked rather like a brain.

A gelatinous, oozing brain.

A Charlotte Royal is basically slices of swiss roll moulded into a dome shape, filled with fruit and bavarois, which is then left to set, and then glazed with some kind of jelly mixture.

I have never had one, although I am a devotee of the bavarois sans Swiss roll, in its naked state, and I have nothing against Swiss roll either.

I’m not sure about the gelatinous coating though.

I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to gooey things, particularly things that are or have been made out of boiled up animal hooves at some stage in their lives.

I once had a friend who worked in a pork pie factory one summer when we were at university, and his descriptions of a life in pie were vivid, and disturbing. Rather like a David Kronenburg film, but with more meat based jelly.

Hence my natural distrust of things like the Charlotte royal.

I did actually feel quite sorry for Ruby this week, during the technical challenge. She pretty much comprehensively stuffed it up, and even Paul didn’t really have much to say that could redeem the situation.

The show stopper challenge this week was to create an Opera Cake.  An opera cake is a many layered thing of wonder, usually tasting of chocolate and coffee and splendidness.

The key to an Opera cake, we learned, was not how squiggly your writing was on the top – which is a shame, as I could probably do squiggles – not legible ones, but certainly very squiggly ones.

No – the key to an Opera cake is clearly differentiated layers of cake and filling, preferably with interesting textures, so that one may, as in many an English A level essay of yesteryear, compare and contrast the different elements that go to make up the cake.

Even Kimberley, who up to this point, had been practically perfect at everything in a Mary Poppins way, managed to mess things up with this challenge. The crunchiness of her top chocolate layer didn’t sit well with the squishiness of her lime jelly layer, which you could see as it squirted out the sides of the cake, perilously near to Paul’s trouserage. It also tasted too ‘chocolatey’.

I cannot imagine this – but Mary was in agreement and I trust her, so I must try to picture the scene.

Ruby’s looked like an elephant had sat on it, but apparently tasted of cherub spit, so that was alright.


Frances made a thing of beauty, flavoured with lemon and lavender, which I imagined might come out tasting rather like a cross between my granny’s knicker drawer and a soap dish, but which turned out to be not that exciting in the end.


And this made Kimberley star baker.  Which she deserved, except that she knew she deserved it, and that made it less fun, and I wish they’d have been able to bring someone back in at the last moment as a surprise guest and say they’d won it instead.

Someone like Toby from Episode One, who would possibly have been wheeled in on a trolley, disguised as a giant cake.

I’d totally have been up for that.

And Beca, lovely Beca managed to stuff it all up this week because her flavours were, like me, rather lacking in va va voom this week – which meant goodbye from her, and goodbye from me until next week, when it is THE FINAL.




6 responses to “Great British Bake Off 2013 – Episode Nine – The French

  1. Katie, have you watched the Great Australian Bake Off? It’s not quite as good as GBBO, but still very watchable, and might help you come down as GBBO ends… 🙂

  2. there’s an Australian version? where can I find it? I watched the Danish one on the web somewhere when I was laid up with a broken ankle last winter, it really didn’t; matter that I speak no Danish.

  3. Ah. It lacked Comedy, then. That is a Very Serious Matter…

  4. Just Google ‘The Great Australian Bake Off’ on YouTube, Anne, and all will be revealed!

  5. Philippa – I shall try the Great Australian bake off. Thank you.

    Noreen. It is indeed a serious matter…

  6. thanks Phillipa I will give that a go. It can’t be worse than Australian Masterchef which my husband inflicts upon me. I know people moan about the tears on this years UK bake off, but they are as nothing to the sobbing that goes on on Oz masterchef.

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