The Great British Bake Off 2016 – Episode One – Cake Week

At the end of a fraught day/week/year you sometimes (always if you’re me) need something to soothe your soul. You need something simple, friendly, joyous, uplifting and sweet. You know what I’m going to say now.

You need The Great British Bake Off.

I am possibly, with the exception of my middle child, the most cynical woman alive, but when that music starts, and the tent flaps ripple in the breeze, and I spot the camera man’s wildlife of choice (pheasants this year) tarting about at the back of the shot, all my cynicism melts away and I find myself in my happy place, which happens to be in a large canvas tent with twelve amateur bakers, up to my eyebrows in icing sugar.

This year I was rather panic stricken before it began. I started to wonder if they were going to change it, tweak the formula, replace Paul with a robot and Mary with Craig Revel Horwood in drag. I wondered if they’d try to make it more competitive with, I don’t know really, the addition of obstacle courses created out of giant baking equipment or something. I just feared. The fear was real for me, because let’s face it 2016 has been an absolutely shit year up to now (with a few notable exceptions), and television networks are known for fiddling with perfectly acceptable shows when they’ve been running for a long time.

And the tension got to me rather, leading me to shout rude words at Angela Rippon and Gloria Hunniford as they wittered on about mosquito repellent on  the consumer advice programme that was on before Bake Off. I wasn’t the only one. My Bake Off partner, Nicki, texted me to say: ‘OH BOB OFF ANGELA!”

But as soon as Mel and Sue paraded up the grassy knoll, my heart filled with gladness and a bit of SQUEE.

It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. In the first thirty seconds one of the contestants said: ‘I have shouted at a pie.’ My heart then burst.

I have to confess to a moistened eye when I realised that all was well, and all manner of things would be well, because Bake Off is just Bake Off.

Let’s get down to it shall we?

Firstly it was cake week. One of my favourites. In fact I like cake week so much I secretly think they should do it twice. Once at the beginning when things are a bit dicey because everyone is under pressure, and once at the end when things are a bit tense because everyone is baking for victory. If it weren’t for the fact that they seem to end up cooking cakes 90% of the time anyway I’d probably write to the BBC about this.

The technical challenge was a drizzle cake. Regular readers will know that using the power of technology (text messages) my friend Nicki and I collaborate in our Bake Off watching. We agreed that Nicki could do this round if we ever entered. We might enter as one, really tall woman called Kanicky (Nickaty?) wearing a huge raincoat. Between us we stand a chance. Drizzle cake is Nicki’s signature bake.

In terms of cake based efforts, Tom’s attempt to get Mary leathered before the technical by pouring seventeen litres of gin into a mould and baking it, did not go as planned. Mary likes a drink, as we all know, but even her eyebrows actually lifted up, flew around the tent and got trapped by one of the cameramen in the mistaken belief they were a really rare moth. It was fierce. Tom, it appeared, wisely learned from his mistakes, and only used fourteen litres of kirsch later in his show stopper black forest Genoise, at which point the Hollywoodinator said sternly : ‘You could have done with more alcohol in this’, and thus Tom learned the the third rule of Bake Off.

It’s more of a pet theory of mine actually, which is that the tent is actually parked in a parallel dimension in which normal baking rules don’t apply. Or possibly it’s pitched on ley lines.  Whatever you did at home won’t work here, sums it up nicely.

In other drizzles, mournful vicar, Lee, stared dolefully into his mix as it split into seventeen consecutive parts just as Mary hoved into view to point it out. It didn’t so much drizzle as pour for him. Candice of the startlingly precise lipstick bailed out the unflappable Selasi, who simply shrugged when he realised he hadn’t put his cinnamon in his cake. She suggested he put it in his drizzle syrup and Mary was wowed. Candice made rhubarb stodge, which although not drizzly enough for Paul, looked lovely to me, arch rhubarb fancier.

Special mention must be given to Louise’s orange drizzle cake. Opinion on our sofa differed as to whether the finished result, which was supposed to look like an orange, looked like Zippy’s head, a slightly porous Pac Man or the Death Star with a stalk. Basically, it was quite frightening, as cakes go.

Let us pause for a moment to talk about Val. Val is one of those contestants who is either going to soar to dizzying heights of previously unimagined baking prowess, or crash into a heap of icing sugar in round two. Here are some things you need to know about her. She cuts her own hair with her baking instruments in a style previously made popular by Alfred the Great. She chats casually to her cakes to see when they’re done, and what’s even better, listens to their answers. She also does aerobics whilst baking. Not, I hasten to add, in a Green Goddess, lycra clad way. More of a Victoria Wood, village hall sort of way. I am watching her career in the tent with interest.

The technical this week was Jaffa Cakes. Fiendishly difficult, unspeakably British. Who but us would dream of eating slightly stale cake/biscuits with orange jelly and chocolate on them? Who but us would use them in a ground breaking legal case to ascertain whether they are in fact cakes or biscuits and thus figure out if VAT has to be paid on them? Who but us still argues about it, even though the case has been over for years?

I think, given that they were included in the cake round, that should this thorny issue ever raise its head again, all the lawyer would have to do would be to produce a large, glossy picture of Mary Berry tucking into a Jaffa Cake while Paul glowers in the background. Job’s a good un.

What surprised me in this round was how few of the contestants knew anything about Jaffa Cakes. I don’t even really like Jaffa Cakes and I’ve polished off thousands in my time (they are very moreish). Yet still, contestants (Jane I am looking at you here) managed to put them together upside down. UPSIDE DOWN? No wonder this country is going to the dogs.

Let us move on to the show stopper. This was to create a mirror glaze cake with Genoise sponge.

I whimpered.

Regular readers will know that I attempted Genoise earlier in the year, and after making four that all looked like Candice’s frisbee’d offerings, I gave up. There is a knack for creating a Genoise. I do not have that knack. It appears that quite a few of the contestants didn’t either. Although they probably did before they went into the tent (see rule three, above). At one point, so many were going wrong it looked like a production line for those little carpets you get in car footwells.

Special mention goes to Michael in this round, a bit of a flavour maverick, who completely horrified Mary by using Matcha green tea powder in his sponge, and creating something that tasted like a slice of Glastonbury field after the second day of the festival. Also Kate, whose attempt to create a beautifully elegant, sky blue mirror glazed cake with chocolate swallows swooping across it, looked more like two flattened pegs holding together an alien’s skin just before it exploded.

In summary. Lee the sad vicar did not have his prayers heeded this week, and ended up being the first to leave the tent. Jane, despite creating the world’s first upside down Jaffa Cake, got star baker.

In terms of my contestant choices, I am loving Benjamina and am in awe of Selasi, who is so laid back he actually has to be picked up off the tent floor by a team of runners every time the camera pans off him. I have great hopes that either Tom or Andrew, or ideally both, will go a bit Heston on us as the series progresses. It is all marvellous as far as I’m concerned.

You can catch up with episode one, here.

Next week is biscuit week and I have already spotted Viennese Whirls. Be still my beating heart.





29 responses to “The Great British Bake Off 2016 – Episode One – Cake Week

  1. I’ve already established a list of People Who Have To Go because they’re too irritating for words. Here is my list. Val.

    Who am I rooting for at this early stage? Selasi and Benjamina I think, and I hope they’ll still be around when we return from our mega-trip abroad which will see us missing four episodes of GBBO. Should we cancel, do you suppose?

  2. many thanks for drying up my tears of yesterday, chuckle, chuckle x

  3. I have been known to go a bit Lady Bracknell when asked if I have been following a reality show, but obviously TGBBO cannot be called a reality show as it exists in a parallel universe in a marquee. Did anyone else notice that all the exterior shots of peacocks etc are in glorious sunshine, but shots of the world outside from the interior show the rain lashing down? That is definitely my sort of parallel world. Also time is quite different inside the marquee; Sue or Mel shouts “You have 1/10th of a second left, bakers” but they still manage to get the icing and decorations on their failed Genoese. And why doesn’t my kitchen clean itself up in a nanosecond like the marquee? Biscuits next week, Bliss! Though Paul will probably include Jaffa Cakes to remain impartial in the debate that has split the country.

    • Exactly, that’s how I see it too. It isn’t real reality. it’s the best sort of alternative reality. I love the Jaffa cakes turning up in the next round thing. That would be genius.

  4. I too was pleased to see Bake Off back without, apparently, having been tweaked/improved (aka ruined). However, I have read a nasty rumour that it is gong to transfer to ITV. I have no idea how solid this info is, hopefully not solid at all. I for one would almost certainly stop watching if it did change channels, unless it went to BBC4, which could only be an improvement.

  5. Absolutely agree with you about Benjamina and Selasi. What about Mary’s hair though? A meringue?

  6. Oh Lord, I was so worried that being in Singapore and too cheap to find a way around getting access to BBC iplayer by using some sort of VPN mask to pretend my computer is in the UK, that I would be dependent on some You Tuber uploading episodes in 6 months time, and therefore would have to wait for the fun. But thank the You Tube God someone had already done so. I love GBBO – it is so kind in a world of total gobshitedness. I tried watching the Amercian version and was gagging after 5 minutes of posturing. I haven’t yet fallen deeply and instantly in love with a baker the way I did with Flora. I was totally justified in my Flora Baker Crush when Flora stated after bread week “Paul Hollywood was punching bread and shattering dreams in there. It was nasty.” If I had her address I’d send her a cheque with all my worldly worth. The closest I’m getting is a crush is Selasi. He is so laid back that I wouldn’t be surprised if half way through next week’s technical challenge he ends up in the small tent with Paul and Merry Berry sipping a cup of tea, having forgotten he is supposed to be baking. Speaking of which I loved MB’s disgusted look at Paul dunking his Jaffa (see we can do innuendos too Sue and Mel). And speaking of Sue and Mel and kindness, it was lovely to see Mel reassuring Benjamina and reminding her to breath. I don’t cook, I don’t bake, I don’t even really have a sweet tooth, but the magic of GBBO is a true boon. I once had to do the most boring 13 km run on a treadmill and only got through it by watching GBBO one episode after another on my iphone. 10 weeks of 1 hour a week knowing the world can be a soft and cuddly place. Bring it so ON!

  7. I have to say I am monkey sick of the pheasant already and it’s only week 1. There is much less to the pheasant than there was to, say, the squirrel from a few series ago.
    Three cheers that Bake Off is finally back, although I thought that it was a bit off that they had to make Genoese sponge twice – I have made it a couple of times but I always feel the result is never exciting enough to justify all the faffing about. Plus I too was amazed at how people put their Jaffa cakes together upside down! I did think they overhyped the difficulty of drizzle cake out of all proportion, I make a very nice lemon drizzle myself without problem time after time but in no way count myself as anything special as a baker.

  8. Hello. Good to have your Bake Off blogs back. It’s not the same without your take on it. They had me at “I shouted at a pie” too.

  9. Brilliant! Simply brilliant Katy! Thank you.

  10. Think Candice has a plan to decorate a showstopper with those lips at some point; or maybe just stop the show.

  11. I confess that I too spotted the swirls in the next episode, and I am eagerly awaiting the results! I will always have a soft spot for GBBO, and now I have your commentary to look forward to as well. : )

  12. so I am making Lee’s St Clements drizzle cake. It has taken me the best part of two days, on and off, and I’m still not finished as the home made candied peel isn’t quite ready. I am on my KNEES people! I don’t know how they could do that in a morning, make Jaffa cakes in the afternoon and then a showstopper the next day. Respec’. as possibly the kids don’t say any more. I was thinking about making one thing from each program this year, but I’m rapidly losing my enthusiasm for that!

    • We are always going to save our pudding on Bake Off night, so we can eat it in front of the telly. We never make it! Hats off to you for making your own candied peel though.

  13. as it happens it was horrible! not just the peel, the whole cake. the top layer is salvageable if we eat it with custard. the rest is gong in the bin.

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