Not a baker’s dozen, but a dozen bakers, neatly apronned, perched on high stools and looking distinctly uncomfortable. At the end of the first episode of any series of Bake Off, the contestants barely fit into one camera shot; they’re all squashed up together like sponge fingers on a Charlotte cake while they await the final judgement. But rarely does the opening episode feature quite so many tears and quite so many cakes flung in the bin. It made for a distinctly tense hour. “It feels like I’m going into an exam,” said Lee, seemingly unaware that Bake Off makes the average exam look like a gentle trip down a canal.
The Signature Challenge
Drizzle cake was the signature bake, and for those of us with below-par baking skills that seemed like apretty easy task. After all, I’ve only ever heard of great drizzle cakes – I’ve definitely never heard the words “that was a terrible drizzle cake” – and yet some of our hopeful bakers managed to cause consternation in the ever-disapproving Paul Hollywood. “Is that drizzle?” he asked of Louise, “or is it icing?” You could almost sense Louise’s lower lip wobbling. Selasi, meanwhile, exuded the kind of laid-back, easy confidence you associate with a lounge jazz singer; all three of his bakes hit the bullseye or thereabouts, as he nonchalantly explained away his successes by saying things like “I don’t know how that happened”, or “I don’t understand.” Selasi already looks like a strong contender.
The Technical Challenge
Special mentions have to go to Val, a keep fit fanatic who combines the creaming of butter and sugar with a series of sideways dance steps; in doing so she manages to burn more calories than are contained within the cakes she’s baking. And then there’s Andrew, whose sunny disposition almost verges on suspicious; even when he came last in the technical challenge (his jaffa cakes were upside down) he managed to radiate the upbeat persona of a time traveller, who’s aware of the destiny of the human race and thus sees every challenge he faces as merely a joyous curiosity.
Andrew more than made up for his jaffa cakes in the Showstopper, a Genoise sponge with a mirror glaze –but four of his fellow bakers sponges’ were abandoned after an hour: Candice (“it’s like rubber”), Tom (“I hadn’t mixed in the flour properly”), Val (“I didn’t put the right amount of sugar in”) and Benjamina (“I’m going again – that’s quite a lot of people starting sponges again, isn’t it?”) Too right – the number of false starts was reminiscent of the Olympic men’s keirin final last week that pushed the Ten O’Clock News back by an hour.
In an audacious move, Candice attempted to make her mirror glaze look more like a mirror by serving it on top of a mirror, but this was trumped in the audacity stakes by Kate, whose chocolate swallows were placed on blue icing (“It looks like penguins on the sea” – P. Hollywood).
In a tense judging session that took place during a violent rainstorm, there were tears from Candice (the mirror idea didn’t really work) and also Jane, who seemed utterly convinced that she’d produced a stinker until she was told that it was brilliant. Perhaps surprisingly – because for a while it looked like Selasi would walk it – Jane won Star Baker, while Lee was asked to leave the Great White Tent. His fate was probably sealed in a rather moving scene earlier in the programme, when he had asked Paul for some friendly advice. Needless to say, he didn’t get it.
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