Dumped meringue, unruly dough slashes and camouflage cakes - welcome to the first ever Bake Off botanical week.
“Anything that grows, goes,” said Tom at the beginning of Botanicals Week on Bake Off – which was helpful to those of us who weren’t sure what it meant. What would we be getting? Samphire scones? Buttercup buns? Baobab biscuits?
The signature bake
Turned out it was nothing quite so exotic for the signature bake: our bakers had to knock out a citrus meringue pie. It's something you imagine them doing in their sleep – but as we know, nothing is ever quite that simple on Bake Off. Which meringue? French? Italian? Swiss? Do you pipe it on top, or dump it? Do you bung it in the oven or blowtorch it? Do you trust your judgement with the consistency, or do you upturn the bowl over a fellow baker’s head to check? All of these things happened, and all laden with sufficient double entendre to populate an entire season of Carry On Films.
As we reach mid-series, we’re starting to see one-to-one battles; Benji and Selasi ended up head to head over their grapefruit curd, while Candice and Jane went down the lime route, the latter inspired by Harry Nilsson’s song “Coconut” (although music buffs will be aware that consumption of lime and coconut in the song leads to stomach pain and a late night call to the doctor.) “I know who my rival is,” said Jane, “and she’s right behind me.” In the event, Candice came a cropper with bright green swirls that, in her own words, “looked horrendous”. Paul, in a sinister all-black outfit reminiscent of a Star Wars Imperial Officer, gave his adjudications – and the men were to be found wanting. Rav, despite having laid on margarita cocktails for Paul and Mary, failed to persuade them of the merits of his mandarin creation, Tom’s was low on citrus, Selasi’s curd too thick. Benji, meanwhile, “smashed it out of the park”.
The technical challenge
Going into the technical the men had everything to prove, and proving was on the cards, with two herby French fougasse the requirement. Selasi looked dubious. (“I’ve heard of it, but never made it.”) The challenge required the bakers to interpret some vague instructions on how to slash the dough, but barely any of them got it right. Some fougasse ended up looking like trendy jeans, others like distressed stingrays after a narrow escape from a fishing boat. “I’ve never been so stressed about dough in my life,” said Tom, while Selasi sprawled on the floor, having decided that wasn’t “going to rush it”. But for once, his laidback demeanour didn’t pay off; he came last in the technical, just below Andrew, leaving them both in a difficult position going into the showstopper.
It was Rav who immediately showed vulnerability when faced with the challenge of making a three-tier floral cake. “I’m not much of a floral guy,” he admitted, as he half-heartedly piped flower shapes from buttercream, a look of sadness across his face. Jane, meanwhile, sporting a gaudy floral shirt, set about making a cake that was so visually similar to her creation that it may have been intended as camouflage. Selasi also began to haul himself out of relegation with some staggering floral piping work worthy of a regal ballgown.
This was an intense showstopper. Andrew was surrounded by five digital timers, like an enthusiastic rookie minicab driver dealing with multiple satnavs. Meanwhile Candice went one better than everyone else with a four tier construction, recreating the four seasons with as much panache as Vivaldi. “I don’t do pretty,” said Rav – but unfortunately pretty was what was required this week, and that ultimately sealed Rav’s fate. We’re sorry to see him go; his spicy flavour combos won’t be forgotten in a hurry (especially by Mary).
Star baker? Well, it certainly could have been Candice again, and Selasi’s cake was so astounding that he might even have leapfrogged her into first place, but ultimately it was Tom, accelerating from a slow start, who won the day – and his reaction was similar to a welterweight boxer having been awarded the bout on points. Tom wants this. Badly. But there are five incredibly talented bakers still standing firmly in his way.