Bake or Bust

The Great British Baking Show | Netflix | W1: Cake Week

The kindest competition on Earth is back! The Great British Baking Show (known across the pond as The Great British Bake Off), returned on Friday with a brand new season. As with everything else this year, the show has been modified behind the scenes to take necessary precautions for a certain virus that shall not be named.

For the uninitiated, the baking competition and filming are usually done inside a massive white tent on the weekends, and the bakers go home during the week; they are able to do their day jobs and practice for some of the upcoming challenges.

The 12 bakers in this year’s competition essentially volunteered to be quarantined, and live in (as baker Peter put it), a “wee Bake Off village” for the run of the competition. Ultimately, it seems that in front of the camera, everything will be business as usual.

Paul, Prue, Noel and newbie Matt

Also new this season is comedian Matt Lucas (Little Britain, Bridesmaids), who takes over co-hosting duties from Sandy Toksvig, along with the returning Noel Fielding. Judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood once again rate the bakes.

As usual, there are 3 parts to every episode (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Signature Challenge: This challenge is for the amateur bakers to show off their tried-and-tested recipes for bakes they might make for their friends and family.

Technical Challenge: This challenge requires enough technical knowledge and experience to produce a certain finished product when given only limited – or even minimal – instructions. The bakers are all given the same recipe and are not told beforehand what the challenge will be. The finished products are judged blind and ranked from worst to best. They place their bakes behind the person’s photo.

Showstopper Challenge: This challenge is for the bakers to show off their skills and talent. The judges favour a bake that has a professional appearance but is also outstanding in flavours.

Kicking off the competition is Cake Week. Who will be the competition’s first Star Baker, and who will be sent packing?

Signature Challenge

I couldn’t do this in 2 years, let alone 2 hours

The first Signature Challenge is to make a Battenberg – a rectangular cake covered in marzipan – with 2 complementary flavors, in 2 hours.

As usual, the bakers have mixed results.

Baker Loriea’s bubblegum and cream soda Battenberg was flavorful but, as Paul put it, “bone dry” and there were quite a few more dry cakes. Though the bakers mostly knocked it out the park, design-wise, Linda’s ambulance-shaped Battenberg was interesting, but unfinished.

Overall, though, these were beautiful Battenbergs all around even if the flavors didn’t always hit the mark for the judges.

Technical Challenge

Paul’s challenge for the bakers is to make 6 miniature pineapple upside down cakes in 90 minutes. Some bakers said they’ve made them before, but others said they’ve never even eaten one.

What they should look like

In miniature molds, the bakers put cherries and pineapple rings; they then have to make caramel – an always dodgy process – to put on top. Afterwards, they prepare a cake mix, layer in and bake.

Most bakers manage to get their upside down cakes out of their molds properly, but poor Linda’s are a mess. Most bakers also put whipped cream on top of hot cakes, melting the cream all over.

As they’re bringing their cakes up to the front table to be judged, baker Sura is shooing away a fly and accidentally knocks into David, sending most of his cakes flying to the floor. #Gutted! She apologizes profusely, and they pick up the cakes. Matt says they’ll explain what happened to the judges, and that the first two on the plate were fine, so they can judge based on those; which they do!

Paul and Prue rank the cakes, and Rowan, Peter and Sura take 3rd, 2nd and 1st places, respectively.


The first Showstopper tasks the bakers with creating cake busts of their personal heroes, in 4 hours. It must have a head, and must be made mainly from cake.

Some bakers tackle musicians: Marc is going to attempt a David Bowie Ziggy Stardust bust, Linda will attempt a lemon and orange Bob Marley, and Laura will create a Freddie Mercury. Other famous busts include Sir David Attenborough, Charles Darwin, Marie Antoinette and Lupita Nyong’o.

Sura’s Attenborough bust falls over as the bakers leave the tent, and her fellow bakers give her suggestions on how to keep it upright; she opts to lean it on a roll of piping bags.

The ambitious busts are something to behold, including a mouth-less Bob Marley:

After the judging and some deliberation, Matt announces this week’s Star Baker: Peter! Noel then reveals the baker who is eliminated: Loriea.

So the season is off to a great start, and it’s very nice to have this show back in my life. It’s comforting TV, and really is the nicest competition out there – the bakers genuinely help and root for each other while creating some of the most impressive creations out of cake, bread, and anything else that can be baked.

Matt Lucas fits in well with Noel and the judges, and I found myself laughing more at his commentary than I did last season with Sandy; though I think many English comedians could fill the role, he did a great job in the first episode.

After the past 6 months, I for one am looking forward to soggy bottoms, Hollywood handshakes, and all the British humour I can get – and maybe I’ll be inspired to try baking things, again; thankfully, the fire department is only a few blocks away. M

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