The Super-Secret Ingredient of the week is………RHUBARB! EVERYBODY TO OCADO, NOW!
1. Previously on The Great British Bake-Off : Former Law Student and Man-In-Flux John Whaite triumphed against all the odds and his passive aggressively disapproving family to emerge as the Bake-Off champion, as part of the greatest All-Male Final 3 in reality tv history (it was! You name a better one!). He went on to study in France, write a book, and endlessly tweet that picture of him as a Butler-In-The-Buff, normally accompanied with such sentiments as “OH I’M SO FAT BOO HOO!”, “HAVING A BLOATY DAY TODAY TWITTER AND REMEMBERING HAPPIER TIMES!” and “I’LL NEVER FIT INTO THAT PINNY AGAIN!”. Knitwear Superstud James meanwhile…probably went on to form an indie band named after a Don DeLillo novel or something, I don’t know, and Brendan no doubt retreated to his secret underground layer to create a giant robotic glitterball tarantula to trample all over the contestants cowering in this year’s marquee like the end of Wild Wild West. (Meanwhile Dr Danny stood at the back waiting for one of them to cut themselves so she could apply a plaster to their boo-boo, cause that’s what women are for #everydaybakeoffsexism). Most importantly of all though, Paul Hollywood buggered off to Actual Hollywood to try to crack America, failed (although I hear the Great American Bake-Off was almost as good as the real thing), and possibly/possibly didn’t diddle his co-host, who looked a bit like a cross between the slutty daughter from Modern Family and Boo from Monsters Inc. Britain’s housewives were OUTRAGED, mostly because they’d expended so much energy pretending Paul didn’t have a wife, to fuel their own masturbatory fantasies, and didn’t appreciate her being WAGGLED IN FRONT OF THEIR FACES LOOKING ALL SAD AND SHIT, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. All this means that Mary Berry now very much holds the whisk-hand of the Bake-Off, and I hope she is incredibly smug about and exerts her iron will and floral C&A blouses over all the land.
2. For its very first challenge, the Great British Bake-Off anchored itself to its roots, and set the most basic of cake-related challenges – the sandwich sponge cake. A challenge so easy, that even twinkly traditionalist “core skills” exponent Mary Berry was all “if someone just does a basic bog-standard Victoria Sponge I’mma cut them on the spot”. Of course, any regular watcher of reality tv will know that a statement like this can only be followed by a jump-cut to some poor lunk right in the middle of constructing a basic bog-standard Victoria Sponge. In this case, said poor lunk was Glenn, a twinkly English teacher, who was baking his bog-standard Victoria sponge because it was the first cake he ever learnt how to make. Nobody cares about your first cake ever Glenn (until the “Bake Your First Cake Ever And Throw In A Tragic Nan-Related Story Whilst You’re At It” round in Week 6, obviously). The first cake I ever made was a Rice Crispie cake – I’m not about to smother that in edible glitter and ask Paul Hollywood to nosh on it. I’m not saying this batch of contestants seem like complete noobs, but at one point Mary actually uttered the words “a great tip is to cook it in the oven”. Fortunately, early Monkseal favourite and phlegmatic Northern miseryguts Howard (he works for the council) decided to put everyone else to shame by making a gluten free passion-fruit and coconut sandwich cake out of rice-flour and xantham gum. Sure it ended up the texture and colour of Ambrosia Tinned Dessert, but it tasted great, and if James’ stupid abandoned gingerbread barn from last year taught us anything, that’s the main thing. Other standouts from this round include Ali‘s Rose & Pistachio Cake, a beautiful cake born of pure indecision; Beca‘s Grapefruit Sandwich Cake, which moved Paul to his first wanky half-compliment of the series (“Annoyingly, I really like it”) ; and Frances‘s sandwich cake MADE TO LOOK LIKE AN ACTUAL SANDWICH OMG! We’ll get to her later.
3. A highlight of this episode, if you’re of a morbid frame of mind, was the sheer volume of blood spraying everywhere at all times. Christine, Ruby, Toby, Lucy and Howard all opened a vein at one point or another, spurting their juices all over the bake-off’s marquee. At one point you could actually see more blue sticking-plaster than you could flesh. Whilst none of them quite reached the heights of John’s glorious gusher from last series, you have to wonder if we’re going to make it to the end of this series without someone losing a kidney. Toby managed to take an early lead in the self harm stakes, managing to slice into both of his thumbs within the same challenge. Well… *I* say “thumbs”, Toby called them his “thingies”. As with Frances, we’ll get to Toby later.
4. This week’s first challenge was of course immediately followed by this week’s History Bit. Always a highlight. This week’s tale was an erotically charged saga of subsumed lust across a divide of Industrial Revolution segregation. Back in the 19th century, men traditionally worked in heavy industry, breaking rocks and killing dinosaurs, whilst women worked in wussy industry, like in textile factories or up in T’ Mill (as showcased in the light-hearted Channel 4 sitcom of the same name). The only way they could ever meet was via “The Promenade”, a romantic ritual where women walked up and down the street whilst men grabbed at their tits and then eventually asked them to marry them. The woman’s role in this ritual? MAKE A CAKE OF COURSE! Called “A Courting Cake”. There was one rule to a courting cake – the more cream smushed between your layers, the better. And so say all of us. Apparently Kate Middleton has recently reignited the trend for courting cakes, just like she has the trend for having babies, wearing clothes, and being insipid. GAWD BLESS YOU MA’AM.
5. Speaking of sexual tension, the universal reaction to the men of the Bake-Off this year seems to be of derision and scorn. WHERE ARE THE FITTIES? After last year’s orgy of testosterone, apparently the sniffy gays of the Internet have weighed up this year’s men and found them wanting. P’shaw, I say. Ali‘s a sweetheart and Glenn is charming. Stop being so picky. Besides, this year’s Bake-Up Ladies are a bumper crop (no offence to last year’s stock obviously). What about Beca, the raven-haired military wife with the voice of an angel? Lucy, the blonde bombshell who is this year’s official I Went On Holiday To India Once And Will No Doubt Not Shut Up About It For The Next Three Months contests? Frances, the Manic Pixie Dream Baker? (We’ll get to her). Christine, the Glamorous Granny who has timing issues but can still knock together a decent sponge? Smiley Kimberley, who was nicknamed “The Cake Angel” at school (and is therefore possibly a recurring serial killer on Criminal Minds). Dentist for those with special needs (and therefore walking human Victoria Wood sketch) Deborah, if you’re into uniforms (also winner of this week’s Innuendo-Off with “I’m still wet inside!”). And, my own personal favourite, Ruby. This year’s youngest and most emo contestant, Ruby is doing a degree in Art History & Philosophy, cries a lot (luring Sue Perkins into copping a “sympathetic” feel, WE ALL SAW YOU SUE), and is generally too brooding and emo to function. Olive skinned, dusky eyed, curly haired, like a marginally less feminine Harry Styles. If you’re not happy with the men on offer this year, why not consider turning lezz for Bake-Off?
6. The technical challenge this week was to make Angel Cake with passion-fruit frogspawn on it. Regular readers of the blog will know that I’m not a fan of cake in general, and to be honest, the words “it contains no fat” are not the way to turn me on to them. Apparently the secret to this stupid boring cake is to not grease your rim beforehand, and also to leave it to set upside-down, because the whole thing’s so full of air and NOTHING that if you left it up to nature it would destroy itself just sitting still. Basically, this cake does not deserve to live. More or less everybody in the cast worked out what “upside-down” meant, apart from Mark who is a carpenter, and therefore this year’s token rufty tufty son-of-the-soil heterosexual male contestant. Presumably Mark builds furniture solely for The Twits. Despite all this he managed to finish 5th, which…gives you some idea of the glory of this cast before we’ve barely begun. He managed to beat Howard (slopey sides), Frances (messy and dense), Beca (thin curd, too tight), Deborah (too thick a meringue) Kimberley and Ali (both greased their rims unnecessarily), Ruby (not iced, no rise, messy, too runny), and Toby (Toby). Finally, in this challenge we learnt that Mary Berry can’t remember the 70s (because of all the LSD she dropped I’m guessing) and Paul Hollywood is, according to Sue Perkins, a “size queen”. Try to look surprised.
7. Mel & Sue are very excited to inform you that this year, because of the larger than usual cast, horror upon horrors, there’s a guarantee that there will be a…wait for it…hug a loved one close…DOUBLE ELIMINATION. DUN DUN DURRRRRRRRRRRRRN! (Fun Fact : every single series of the Great British Bake Off so far has had a double elimination in it. Series 1 and 2 had two of them).
8. This week’s Showstopper challenge was to create a chocolate cake, using at least (AT LEAST) two different types of chocolate. This news was anathema to Howard (who works for the council) who told us all, in a voice that Alan Bennett himself would dismiss as a parody of a phlegmatic Yorkshireman, that chocolate gives him a headache, so he doesn’t eat it. As I said, blog favourite. His black forest cake had a bear on top of it, presumably to keep Frances bloody squirrel away. Yes, the talking point of this round was undoubtedly Frances’ “Secret Squirrel” cake. Yes, Frances is a “whimsical” baker, who likes to make all her cakes “humorous”. Hence the sandwich cake wrapped in pointless icing made to look like a paper bag, and this round’s giant chocolate mess, looking a bit like Thorntons burnt down its own closing-down sale for the insurance money, built around the concept of there being a HIDDEN SQUIRREL inside. A HIDDEN SQUIRREL with giant Bake-Off Bollocks, in honour of the show’s accidental mascot from series past. I have a feeling that Frances might get quite tiring, quite quickly, although I must admit to a morbid curiosity as to how she’s going to try to make a whimsical pork pie whenever that round comes. Other highlights from this round include Ash’s awful Anniversary cake, which got snorted at as being too childish (in a round containing a cake with a secret woodland creature inside it) ; Mark’s profiterole cake, which looked a prolapsing brown cauliflower; Ruby’s emo night-sky cake complete with asymmetrical collar and philsophical waffling; and Glenn, who somehow took the pretension a step further by making a cake based around the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. It was quite probably this that prompted Mary Berry to mutter darkly to camera that this year’s batch were trying far too hard for her liking. Bodes well. Personally I’m grateful for Christine, who just made a lovely shiny cake in the shape of a hat. That’s about the level of whimsy I can handle.
9. This week’s Star Baker? Robert. Whose hook is that he is a SCIENTIST devoted to the art of technical precision and perfection in baking. He aced all three rounds, easily coasting into the Star Baker position with little competition to speak of. The closest was Lucy, who was sadly bested at the last when she failed to finish her thyme infused chocolate forest in time (AND THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR BEING WHIMSICAL). He won the technical challenge easily, he created chocolate balloons, and his mastery of the baking form even led Paul Hollywood to panic-flap “you’re not a scientist, you’re a BAKER!!!”. Personally I’m not feeling incredibly inspired by Robert yet, but there’s still time. Given the…existence of other contestants, I doubt he’s going to Victoria himself out any time soon.
10. At the other end, and leaving us first in a not-shock not-double-elimination was Toby. Toby was such a tragic woobie, capping off every self-deprecatory remark with a manic giggle and a flip of his messy hair, that it almost feels wrong to list all his failures. But…he cut himself twice (on his thingies), he confused salt with sugar, his technical bake ended up raw and inedible, his showstopper cake looked like it had been decorated with a water pistol, he forgot to set his timer so just had to guess how long his cake had been in the oven, and was generally so inept that Mary Berry actually ruffled his hair as he was eliminated. Toby departed, shrieking that he was going to become some sort of ANTI-BAKING MONK, and went back off home to live with his dad and make him cakes. Here’s a sampling from his post-show twitter feed :
“do the opposite of everything I do!!”
“she was so lovely and made me feel better!”
“I will never make angel food cake again, so there, its loss!! *stamps foot*”
“I’m so sorry I was rubbish guys”
“May cake was meant to be so pretty :(”
MAY CAKE! Bless him. He’s practically Dumper.
Of course the best part of Toby’s elimination was it immediately being followed by a shot of Mark (who had already pissed off the SNOOTY TWITTERATTI by…I don’t know, being loud and stuff) cheerfully bragging to his son that he’d got through. Which to be honest, since he’d beat Toby, felt a bit like Michael Schumacher getting on the phone to brag that he’d beaten Ayrton Senna in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
NEXT WEEK : Steve talks about bread.