The Great British Bake Off 7 – Botanicals

You what mate?

1. Yes, “Botanicals Week”. Never mind that I haven’t got a proper “Pie Week” since the days of Brendan and his Disco Dips, apparently we have to sit through a theme that sounds like a type of sodding shampoo. Never mind hopping off to another channel, with froo froo themes like this, it’s starting to feel like the show’s sponsored by Goop. What next? 5:2 Week where the contestants do a full Signature Bake, full Technical Bake, and then for the Showstopper everyone gives Paul & Mary a Ryvita with a bit of honey smeared on it? Yogic Cleansing Week, where Benjamina is unfortunately sent home because her showstopping Raspberry Pavlova unfortunately has a deep jade aura? Conscious Uncoupling Week, wherein the bakers mourn the show’s departure to Channel 4 by stripping to the waist and wafting it off with some palm fronds whilst Mary does some icelandic throat singing and burns some sage? The theme doesn’t even make sense. It’s just plants. It’s Bake Off, everything’s a sodding plant! Chocolate’s from a plant, flour’s from a plant, sugar’s from a sodding plant, BRING ME MY PORK PIE CHALLENGE. The one true upside of “Botanicals Week”? Selasi wore this

what a man.

2. The first challenge the bakers faced in “Miscellanous Week” was to make a “citrus meringue pie”. And again, not to labour my problem with this week, but Mel tried to gimmick the round up by saying “we all know a classic lemon meringue pie, but the bakers can zhush up their bakes by including anything that grows”. Like you’d stick anything in a lemon meringue pie that doesn’t grow? What, Candice was stood there going “oh no, I wanted to stick a great big joint of beef in mine but it goes against the theme ho hum” *pout pout innuendo about her stiff peaks*. Happily, eveyone avoided lemons entirely for the production of their curds, with Andrew and Jane picking limes, Rav picking mandarins, Tom selecting oranges (BLOOD oranges natch), Benjamina and Selasi going for grapefruits, and Candice selecting

Aquafresh 2-in-1 duel action whitening. This…interesting tart decoration was carried out by Candice in a fit of panic, as apparently the meringue was coming out of the nozzle a little bit too lumpy, and it made for an unpleasant swallow. You can tell that Candice was truly panicking here, as I’m the one making that innuendo, not her. With Candice out of the innuendo game due to flapping, it was left up to Selasi to lift up the baton, as he flirted quite WANTONLY with Mary Berry, complimenting her on her top, telling her he was going to give her many little meringue kisses, and chuckling deeply under his breath that he must avoid saying “syphilis” instead of “physalis” (which he was using to top his pie).

Look at her face. You can feel the warmth rising in parts she hasn’t felt warmth in since Rob from Series 2 bent over to pick up the 5th cake he’d dropped on the floor that week. It wasn’t enough to break Mary’s heart alone though, it also appears that Selasi is building up a bit of a flirtmance with

Benjamina. What a player. This is them casting coy glances at one another and giggling because they’ve both picked the same citrus fruit (we’ve all been there haven’t we?) and this

is Selasi testing the stiffness of his meringue by holding it over Benjamina’s head. I know he’s got a girlfriend (TRUST ME, I KNOW HE’S GOT A GIRLFRIEND!) but they really are very cute together. Almost as cute as Jane and Candice. I guess we might as well get a torrid love melange going on in the tent before the series is off air for good. Jane meanwhile, making a lime and coconut pie, and still spending a lot of time giggling to camera about how fabulous Candice is bless her, told us a much more staid story of romance. Basically it went like this :

“I’m making a lime and coconut pie and the inspiration is the Harry Nilsson song “You Put The Lime In The Coconut” and when I met my husband whenever one of his would talk about limes or coconuts we’d just go YOU PUT THE LIME IN THE COCONUT”.

Sometimes, and no offence meant, Jane is so divinely dull that I think I can see through time.

(Oh, and if Selasi and Benjamina, and Jane and Candice are pairing off, that just leaves

these two. Start writing your slash-fic now, giant Satanic bread penises optional)

3. Candice’s nude!

LIPSTICK THAT IS! Not sure I’m a fan, it’s the lip equivalent of how Spencer Pratt’s beard is exactly the same colour as his skin.

4. But enough about sex. No really. Whose citrus meringue pies were bestest? In the battle of the star crossed lovers grapefruit meringue pies, Benjamina just about came out on top, because whilst both meringues tasted nice, Selasi’s curd filling was just a little too stiff and dry. Not that Bejamina took any pleasure in this of course

(so cute!). Rav’s Mandarin Margarita Meringue was passable but failed on two grounds – firstly that it

was all slopping out all over the sides, and secondly that Paul couldn’t taste the tequila. PAUL was complaining there wasn’t enough booze. Lord knows what Mary was doing, they probably had to edit out her smashing the plate into the SMEG fridges and yelling “DO IT AGAIN!”. Andrew’s lime and ginger meringue pie, inspired by his mother (I’m really surprised the show didn’t make more of Andrew explicitly baking with ginger, and by the show, I mean “Mel & Sue”, maybe I underestimated them) had a nice curd, but the pastry was too thick and not cooked through, and Candice’s toothpaste(/lime and coconut) pie, although it looked a mess, tasted great. Sitting at the bottom and top though, respectively, were Tom and Jane. The former, having suddenly decided in wk 6 that he doesn’t like sweet things (on the Great British Bake Off featuring the occasionaly savoury thing if we really have to once every 3 episodes) made a bland and evil looking pastry with a curd that tastes only of pumpkin, and the latter winning Mary Berry over forever by being the only baker not to use a blowtorch to brown her meringues. Stereotypically Mary may not have been the biggest fan of the older female contestants (I’m sure Christine can still tell you a thing or two), but if you stick to the old ways, you’ve still got an in. Seriously, she was ranting so much to Paul I think blowtorches are to Mary Berry as wire hangers are to Joan Crawford.

5. If Tom was bottom of the heap in Round 1, he caught a lucky break in the Technical Bakes, as the bakers were asked to make what turned out to be Tom’s favourite cinema snack. Popcorn? Nachos? A handful of cola bottles that he found on the floor all melted together into one giant jelly mass in the shape of the face of the Great Dark Lord Pod? NO! IT’S FOUGASSE! You know, fougasse! You can get it in all the multiplexes! The herby (BOTANICALS WEEK!) French bread associated with the Provence region, often also flavoured with olives, cheese and anchovies! FOUGASSE! No me either, although I am greatly enjoying the thought of Tom wandering into a showing of Batman vs Superman with a fougasse in one hand and a full bottle of red in the other. And a knife and fork. Metal. Wearing a Panama hat and wearing a scarf. Then scrawling a pentagram on the floor…

This all left the round feeling like a bit of a fait accompli from the start, with the best anyone else could serve up in opposition being Rav sort of knowing what a fougasse should look like (Hint : VAGINA). At the core of the fougasse there appeared to be two questions – as it so often is with bread based challenges “how long should the fougasse be left to prove?” (Tom stating an hour, and as Tom is King Of Fougasse, I’m guessing this is correct) and also, oddly enough, “what does consecutive actually mean, in the context of cutting my fougasse into the shape of a leaf (/LABIA).” Andrew and Tom earnestly pondered away whilst Selasi

just drew a leaf and shrugged. Many different shades of manhood on offer in the Bake Off Marquee, as usual. I don’t think, all said, I could offer a better visual representation of this round than this :

Tom gleefully wafting his almost finished fougasse two-handed, with a big contented grin on his face as he sighs to camera about how much he loves fougasse (and bread in general) whilst Benjamina and Andrew miserably flap away, only doing so in the first place because they’ve seen Tom do it. Tom of COURSE came out on top in this round, with Benjamina and Rav (breaking his streak of three consecutive last places) sharing the podium, with Candice, Andrew, and Selasi all taking demerits for their work, and Jane sat in the middle. And this is why we learn what “consecutive” means kids. Not that Selasi cares

He’s got fuchsia socks and the soul of a coquette. What a man. The post round chat here then decided to take a GURLS ROOL, BOYZ DROOL line, even though Tom just won the Technical and Candice had so far finished near the bottom in the last ranking and in the first round produced a meringue pie that looked like it had been dropped on the floor. DOWN WITH MISANDRY! (If you’re interested in Monkseal’s Patented Overall Technical Round Ranking at this stage – Tom > Benjamina > Candice > Jane > Andrew > Selasi > Rav)

7. Was there a more mournful sight this week than Paul Hollywood sat

manspreading on a worktop, no there was not.

8. And so it was that Botanicals Week reached its mimsy apex in Mary’s request that contestants blow her away with FLOWERS. ON A CAKE! WITH THREE TIERS! AT LEAST! I mean, I’m on record (repeatedly) as not being a huge fan of cakes in general, but even I have to feel sorry for those of you who’ve been waiting for your first cake challenge since week 1 and then got presented with scenes like this :

mmmmm. Looks like something in a Christmas market you’d run away from before you had a free sample forced upon you. Very fast before it stained your top via osmosis. This concoction belonged to Candice, who was going for yer classic four-tier gimmick cake : one where each layer is based on one of the four seasons. Yes, Frankie Valli, Tommy DeViro, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio! Oh ok not really – spring (chocolate and orange), summer (raspberry and rose), autumn (carrot), and winter (fruit). Jane meanwhile, decided to win me over for good by saying (metaphorically) that to be honest, Botanicals Week was stupid she wasn’t going to be flavouring her cakes with fupping FLOWERS when she could be coating them in chocolate and sugar, and if anyone called her on it, she was just going to claim “orange” as a floral flavour and hope for the best. In the end this cut no ice with the judges whatsoever, and shredded her otherwise good chances of winning Star Baker into hundreds of pieces, but anything to undermine “Botanicals Week” is a good idea in my book. Benjamina also stumbled here, as nobody really liked the idea of a “semi-naked cake”. Or at least they possibly did, until it turned out this just meant she wasn’t going to bother finish icing it, not that she was going to produce something in the shape of Pamela Anderson with half-strawberry nipples. Oh and she tipped

an entire heroin bust’s worth of poppy seeds into her mixture. Which is obviously not nearly enough to blast through the tolerance for the stuff that Mary’s built up over the years. This, combined with Candice’s carrotcake letting her down meant that the girls had promptly the thrown away the lead granted to them over the first two rounds and gave room for the men to take them over. And Selasi seized this opportunity with both hands, producing this

his three tier OMBRE CAKE, complete with lots and lots of individual flowers, all piped by hand in a way that definitely didn’t show off his arms at all in a pleasing way no madam. And as per the judging it was incredibly moist and one of only two cakes in the round they couldn’t find major fault with. Still, it was down to one of the other men to seize Star Baker…


It’s like a portal into floral hell isn’t it? Shorn of the ability to give Star Baker to someone whose cake tasted of nothing much (Benjamina) or which resembled mashed potato (Jane), the judges had to look down for someone with a spottier record in the earlier rounds to award the trophy to, and in the end Tom’s win in the Technical Round probably pulled him up over Selasi for the overall win, as they credited him with really bringing out the individual flavours of each of the three types of tea he used to flavour the cakes. It probably was not his attempts to mimic Selasi’s flirting with Mary Berry as, whilst in repose Tom can affect a certain Byronic brooding quality, when trying to actively be genial

he looks a bit like a strangling vicar from a Midsomer Murders. It’s odd, because with two Star Bakers under his belt, it feels like in this competition Tom is slowly actualising and coming into his baking destiny. It’s just that baking destiny seems to chiefly involve only wanting to bake bread, and if asked to move outside that niche, producing something involving tea or unsweetened pastry. I guess if he wins, his book could called “Tom The Baker : Things You Don’t Actually Want To Eat”.

10. At the other end of the table, you have to say that if this had been Week 1, Andrew would have gone home. For all that Paul claimed he outpointed Rav in the Showstopper, they didn’t have one positive thing to say about his cake, and Rav outpointed him fairly clearly in the other two rounds. But Andrew had two things on his side – firstly that over the course of the competition he has been a repeated Star Baker Bridesmaid whereas the best you could say about Rav (other than randomly declaring him KING OF FLAVOURS for no reason) is that if you were generous you could say he peeped into the top half of the leaderboard in a couple of weeks. And secondly

an array of woobie faces and near-tears and sniffles to camera about just wanting one more chance the likes of which the Bake Off has rarely seen. And so goodbye to Rav. Pretty much all of your bakes were a mess, but some of them tasted good apparently. We’ll always remember your cheerful face and…erm…your notorious love of travel and…erm…you were always crap at the Technicals?

Next week : Steve does puddings and Andrew is either Star Baker or his journey arc becomes so ramped up and strangulated that it loses a testicle.


16 thoughts on “The Great British Bake Off 7 – Botanicals

  1. Claire

    I wonder if Norman’s LAVENDER meringue would have been received differently if it had been presented during “botanical” week…

    1. monkseal Post author

      I can only imagine what Norman’s face would have been like as he was informed it was Botanicals Week.

  2. Scott

    I was initially a Tom fan, not least because in a very thin field he was the closest to hot the show was giving us this year. As weeks have gone on, his desire to be “different” and “innovative” has made him such a try-hard I can’t empathise with him any more. I feel like he’s pitching for a very special cookbook aimed at people who *want* Weetabix in their Danish pastries and who decide to bake with stupid flour where it doesn’t taste as nice just to be INNOVATIVE. He is basically that man from last year who cooked with hedgehogs he scraped off the tarmac and who I’ve forgotten the name of because I’d much rather remember Nadiya and Tamal.

  3. FuTeffla

    ‘and then for the Showstopper everyone gives Paul & Mary a Ryvita with a bit of honey smeared on it’

    Don’t give Tom any bloody ideas.

  4. ChaChaChavvy

    Only Selasi could wear that shirt and not look like creepy Noel Edmonds.

    I hate to sound judgey but people without a sweet tooth are all latent serial killers. Think about Tom’s bakes; snakes, hammers, perilous mountain climbs, more snakes that he’s unconsciously made look like the fag-ends he stubbed out on that homeless man in the park. Look at those dark, dark eyes.

  5. Sue Howarth

    First round sea buckthorn meranguie pie
    fougasse, no idea, and I lived in France for ages
    Show stopper, quite proud of this one. Moroccan inspired, mock orange, rose water and cardamon cakes. Cream cheese icing decorated with gold paint and berry jewels minaret style.
    Normally I imagine myself as a MOR contestant, but this year I think I would still be in with a chance,if my head didn’t turn into a red balloon whenever a camera is near it. Which probably indicates the standard is a bit low this year
    Much prouder of my sewing skills but I am first boot material on sewing bee.

      1. Sue Howarth

        Overambitious drag queen mode would be on maximum, plus I would get terribly overexcited in the haberdashery, lying on the floor demanding Claudia pours sequins over me. The end product would be a Yara Sophia fluff ball, I can picture Patrick handling it with tongs and a shudder.

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