Before we go any further – this article does contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen the first episode of the new series, look away now!
On paper, a BBC programme, filmed in a tent, with some amateur bakers attempting to make their best Victoria Sponge, doesn’t exactly scream amazing TV.
But any Bake Off fan knows it’s just so much more than that.
Crowned the biggest entertainment hit of 2014, The Great British Bake Off is finally back with us once again. Now in its sixth series, baking legends Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood will be gracing our screens every Wednesday night, alongside comedic duo/hosts and innuendo masterminds, Mel and Sue. Not to mention twelve eager bakers, all looking to become 2015 champion.
“On your marks, get set… BAKE!”
Meet the contestants
As always, this year’s contestants are a very mixed bag. Each week, they’ll face each other in three challenges, with the overall winner being crowned that week’s ‘star baker,’ and the worst hanging up their apron and being sent home.
The youngest of the bunch, Flora, is just 19 years old and works as a gallery assistant at home in Scotland, whilst she waits to start her History of Art degree. She comes from a big family of bakers and doesn’t ever remember not trying things out in the kitchen, so could easily be a real contender. Hot on her heels for contendership is the oldest baker this year, Marie. At 66 years of age, this Grandma is a well-travelled baker, who moved to Paris in her thirties and fell in love with French Patisseries.
The rest of the girls include 53 year old Dorret, who has been baking for the last 40 years, 30 year old full-time Mum, Nadiya, who hopes to make her family proud and 49 year old child welfare officer, Sandy. The last lady of the tent is the one who intrigues me the most at the moment, 32 year old Ugne. Seems to be a bit of a wonder-woman, being a mum, baker and bodybuilder – what a package.
As for the guys, we have 49 year old prison governor Paul, who looks remarkably like a certain Mr Hollywood, minus the piercing blue eyes. Then there’s Ian, a 41 year old travel photographer, who just so happens to be the Dalai Lama’s personal photographer whenever he’s in the UK. Fire fighter Mat is a 37 year old Londoner who only began baking three years ago and Stu, who has been named the show’s first hipster, is a 35 year old musician from Surrey.
There’s also 37 year old Alvin, a nurse from Berkshire, who is a bit of a self-confessed perfectionist and 29 year old Tamal, who regularly bakes cakes for family and friends, his largest being five tiers high.
Week 1: Cake Week
This week’s theme was one of my favourites – cake week. I mean, who doesn’t love a cake? After a quick introduction to the newbies we got straight into this week’s challenges.
Signature challenge: Madeira cake
The worst thing I find about the first few weeks of Bake Off is there’s simply too many bakers. We get a brief glimpse of things, a rushed introduction to what they’re about to make and we just don’t really get to know who to love or hate yet.
With that being said, we saw some interesting takes on a classic Madeira, with many contestants trying to spruce it up with figs, thyme and even rum. It was those who kept it plain and simple who ended up faring better in this challenge. Flora used a blood orange and was told by an adoring Paul that her flavours were ‘stunning’, whilst Tamal received an equally pleasing, ‘I love it’. It was Marie who came out on the unofficial top however, producing the ‘perfect Madeira’, whilst Stu sunk straight to the bottom of the pack after annoying Mary with his Jamaican inspired cake, which she deemed not to be a Madeira at all.
Love Madeira x
— Paul Hollywood (@PaulHollywood) August 5, 2015
Technical challenge: Frosted walnut cake
The technical challenges are designed to test the bakers to the max. You’d think in the first episode they’d try and ease the contestants in slowly, but no, they don’t. Following one of Mary’s own recipes, the twelve bakers must create a perfectly sculpted frosted walnut cake, with very vague instructions as to how long to bake it for or how to decorate.
Walnut cake traditionally requires three even layers, with the key being to finely chop the walnuts to ensure they don’t all just sink to the bottom. Knowing this gave the contestants some serious size complexes as they had no idea just how fine, fine needed to be. The more the contestants stress, the funnier Mel and Sue seem to become. I’m not sure if you could strictly say they help in any way shape or form, but they try. Kind of.
I couldn’t love Mel and Sue any more. Dream team! #GBBO
— fearne cotton (@Fearnecotton) August 5, 2015
In last place we saw Nadiya, after she was the only person not to cover the sides with frosting. Tut tut.
Ugne took first place, with her bake being the most technically correct out of the twelve.
Showstopper: Black Forest Gateaux
As Mary Berry says, the showstopper has got to be ‘special’. This is where we see the bakers creative sides come out, trying to turn a classic, retro Black Forest Gateaux into something spectacular.
Being the oldest of the bunch, you would assume that Marie has an edge here. Her recipe certainly had my mouth watering, but didn’t exactly wow me design wise. Stu definitely tries a bit too hard to be different, and I’m not just talking about that hat. He strayed away from a more conventional recipe yet again in this challenge, aiming to make the sponge moister than usual, much to Paul’s distaste. Is it bad that I kind of want him to do badly now?
Ian decided to chuck some elephants on his gateaux, because ‘forest’ screams elephants, right? He won the judges over, however, with his taste and texture. Alvin’s design was also a bit pants, but he managed to impress the judges with taste too. Stu on the other hand definitely didn’t impress, with his use of beetroot spoiling the bake and Paul claiming it had a ‘raw texture’. If only he’d listened, eh?
Nadila pulled it out of the bag after losing the last round, with her show stopper not only looking ridiculously good but tasting great too. Flora made a monster of a cake… I mean, it was HUGE. It also looked amazing and made me so ridiculously hungry, but sadly Paul and Mary weren’t really impressed with how it tasted.
Yet the real drama of the evening belonged to Dorret, with her cake literally falling apart in her hands, after basically none of the ingredients setting. Now when I say it fell apart, it was basically a puddle on a plate.
Star baker: Marie. Despite her shocked reaction, I could’ve put money on this after her success in the first challenge and equally good show stopper. She impressed the judges with her clear talent in cake making and technical knowledge, which undoubtedly comes from her years of experience.
First to leave: Stu. I cheered. Sorry, not sorry. Even after Dorret’s disaster, he just didn’t show the judges enough skill during all three challenges to get him through to next week.
Speaking of next week, the remaining bakers will be facing biscuits on next week’s show. 8pm, Wednesday 12th August, BBC One.
The Top 5 Most Memorable Bake Off Moments
Sad the first week has come to an end already? Let’s take a look at the best bits from series past…
Also known as #BinGate – there has never been (quite possibly in the whole history of television) a scandal quite as quintessentially British as last year’s ‘incident’ involving a Baked Alaska and a freezer.
We saw Belfast born Iain Watters go into a complete meltdown after Diana Beard took his bake out of the freezer to make room for her own. Cue one melting dessert, a massive temper tantrum, a bin and an absolute freak out from Twitter.
— Charlotte Hadfield (@LottieHadfield) August 28, 2014
— Lord Love Beard (@DonkeyJohnson) August 28, 2014
— Louisa Roberts (@louroblourob) August 27, 2014
— Becca Ameson (@thalweg91) August 28, 2014
— Aston (@astsc92) August 28, 2014
We all love a dessert, but with ‘dessert week’ only comes drama. Before BakedAlaskaGate/Bingate we had ‘CustardGate’, which saw 2013 contestant Howard Middleton, who might just be the nicest man on the planet, have his custard accidentally stolen and even used by Deborah Manger in her own triffle. How could she?!?
You can’t talk about Bake Off without mentioning the ridiculous innuendos it’s brought us. There’s just something about baking that brings out the dirty old man in all of us. Here’s a selection of my own personal favourites from past episodes:
“You have got two hours to pop Mary’s cherry…”
“Stop touching your dough balls!”
“Stand away from your hot baps!”
“Some of them have got a good forking.”
4) Soggy Bottom
The greatest innuendo of them all. Mary hates the thought of it, Paul loves to mention them and we can’t just get enough.
Make sure you don’t have a #SoggyBottom!
5) Salt spitter
Let’s not forget that episode where series 3 winner, John Whaite, managed to mix up his sugar and salt. A simple mistake to make, with awful consequences, resulting in Paul Hollywood having to spit out his Rum Baba everywhere. Yum.
GBBO Series 6 Episode 1 is available now on BBC iPlayer.