Wednesday night saw the return of Paul’s steely glare, Mary’s adorability, and Mel & Sue’s witty innuendos. Yes, that’s right, in case you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, it was the eagerly anticipated return of the much loved The Great British Bake Off. From humble beginnings on BBC2, the show has grown to become the nation’s favourite; with this first episode being watched by 9.3 million expectant viewers.
“Twelve fresh bakers are preparing to battle like warriors of old” introduces Sue.
“Warriors?” queries Mel.
Now, there’s an idea for a spin-off series: a mixture between Gladiators and The Great British Bake Off maybe with Mary Berry and The Wolf to judge. The comedic piercing of any kind of pretention is one of the elements that has made Bake Off one of the most popular programmes on British television.
So no warriors in this group of contestants. That doesn’t mean, however, that the contestants don’t face a gladiatorial battle ahead.
This year’s contestants include a Lithuanian bodybuilder, a nurse, a student, the Dalai Lama’s photographer and a prison officer. Child welfare officer Sandy describes her cookery style as random; “I’ll be making a cake and you can have a meat pie by the time it finishes”. I’m not quite sure what Mary and Paul would make of that.
This year’s series is kicked off by the cake week. The first signature bake is a Madeira with Paul looking forward to ‘break in’ the new bakers. They’re not your new pair of brogues Paul! Mary wants the cakes to “not be too far away from the classic”.
Ugne, the bodybuilder, is making a lemon & thyme Madeira; “Let’s hope that my crack will show!” Let’s hope not, Ugne! It is a family show. Nadia meanwhile is making her cake with cardamom, which brings out the first glare of the season from Paul, who’s not quite sure.
“Time to reveal your cracks” announces Sue, obviously not being able to resist a good old innuendo. Photographer Ian’s coconut Madeira is “like chewing on wallpaper”, Mary can’t taste the gin in Matt’s Gin & Tonic cake, while Sandy has luckily delivered a classic Madeira as opposed to a meat pie.
This week’s technical challenge is Mary’s ‘quintessentially British’ Walnut Cake.
“If you cut a walnut into four pieces, that’s too big. I would say half of that” says Paul.
“An eighth” reply Mel and Sue.
Mel and Sue do seem awfully interested in the size of Paul’s walnuts.
For the showstopper, they rewind to the 1970s, a time when “Mary was rocking out to Boney M and Paul was on his own listening to the Nolan sisters” according to Mel and Sue. The contestants are tasked with baking a Black Forest Gateau.
Paul and Mary aren’t sure about hipster Stu’s beetroot concoction, while Mel is looking forward to ‘romping in’ Ian’s forest, and Flora’s enormous cake looks more like a heart-stopper than a showstopper.
The showstopper led to the first tears of the season from Dorret as her mousse failed to set, leaving her cake looking more like a mudslide than a gateau, according to Paul. However, learning from last year’s ‘bin-gate’ she still brought it up to show the judges. “This doesn’t mean that you’re going home” counselled Mel. And she was right, as hipster Stu was shown the door.
Well, the programme is back and it looks like it’s going to live up to expectations; there’ll be no shortage of drama, innuendos, and Paul’s steely glares. What we are not yet sure of however is who is going to be this year’s front-runner or the dark horse. All will be revealed in due course and I for one can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Right, I’m off to the shops, all this cake talk has made me really hungry.