Bake Off is back, and once again inspiring people in offices and other places of work up and down the country to reach for their mixing bowls and wooden spoons in honour of the new series. Last week my office was treated to not one, but two delicious chocolate cakes to mark the start of series 6, which returned this week, pulling in over 9 million viewers and proving once again that we’re a nation of bake-lovers.
Round one saw the bakers attempt a traditional Madeira cake, a plain cake flavoured with citrus fruits and known for that all important crack across the top.
No sooner had the words ‘I don’t want it too far from the classic’ left Mary’s lips, than most of the contestants reached for some less traditional ingredients, including coconut, figs, and gin and tonic (not all in the same cake, thankfully).
Surely if we’ve learnt anything from past Bake Offs, Masterchef, and the like, it’s to keep things simple, especially in those early rounds, and to stick to the brief. If Mary and Paul want a traditional madeira cake, then don’t expect anything less than disappointment when you present them with something that barely resembles one, as Stu quickly discovered with his chocolate and lime concoction.
Round two, the technical challenge, was to bake a walnut cake. The biggest topic up for debate here was the perfect size of a chopped walnut (an eighth considered ideal by Paul Hollywood). Stu got into a sticky situation (sorry), with his caramel, which left him with just one lonely caramelised walnut to put on top of his cake.
By the end of this round, Marie, and Flora, this year’s youngest contestant were both in a strong position, with Stu looking like he was in trouble.
The final showstopper round took us back to the 70s with the challenge of making a black forest gateau. As usual, this round is a chance for the contestants to show off a little, with a bake they’ve practiced plenty of times at home, whilst keeping the traditional elements of the bake. Flora got this spot on with her (very tall, but beautifully presented) variation, including a cherry sponge, as did Marie with her simple yet perfect attempt. Ugne’s theatrical looking cake with impressive chocolate work on top turned out to be all style and no substance however, while Stu, much to Paul Hollywood’s dismay, decided to use beetroot in his mix which didn’t hit the mark at all and showed no attempt at the required chocolate work.
But, it looked for a moment that Stu might be saved, when the first major disaster of the series saw poor Dorret’s mousse collapse her gateau into a runny mess (at least she didn’t hurl it into the nearest bin).
Despite this catastrophe, Dorret had done enough in previous rounds, and it was Stu who (rightly, in my opinion) made an early exit.
The first rule of bake off: don’t go to big too early, there’s plenty of time for that later.
The second rule of bake off: never include an element that you need to set in a short space of time. It won’t.
I can see why Bake Off has become such a British institution, and will be settling down with a cuppa next week to watch more drama unfold. I can only hope that as the series goes on, my colleagues will continue to be inspired by the elaborate creations, and there’ll be cake-a-plenty in the office for the next few weeks at least.