If you’re anything like me (and frankly I’m taking the fact you’re still reading these recaps as confirmation), you probably use the Bake Off as a form of rudimentary calendar.
Bread week: back to school! Pastry week: one last picnic! The dough proves, the batter rises, the earth goes round the sun and we all grow 10 weeks older before the gingham altar of time itself.
Now it’s episode seven, six bakers left, and we are beyond the halfway point. Over the hill, sliding toward a murky ditch. Winter is coming. You’ve probably had the heating on at least once by now, haven’t you? It’s time to get your big coats down from the loft and find a pair of tights without a hole in. It’s time to start planning your meals by starting with custard and working backwards.
It’s time, guys, for our just desserts.
Roulade in the deep
Desserts are famously "stressed" spelled backwards, and mounting tension in the tent means this could be an accurate omen. Meanwhile ‘pudding’ is "gniddup’"backwards, which is the noise I make when I see a trifle.
The signature challenge is a roulade, or a Swiss roll with delusions of grandeur. The most important thing is to bake the fatless sponge to a point of perfect pliability – too much, and it’ll split when rolled. “We don’t want to see any cracks!” says Mary, casually working an Aztec boucle jacket that’s soon to end up the subject of a thousand requests from a thousand mums asking someone to get them one "off the eBay".
With chocolate, hazelnuts and a healthy glug of booze, Jane is making what can only be described as ‘Mummy’s special Nutella’, while Benjamina likes pina coladas – but not getting caught in the middle of Paul’s Club 18-30 nostalgia sesh, inspired by synthetic coconut. Still, the promise of rum earns her the super rare Berry Wink!
If the Hollywood Handshake is the Jigglypuff in the game of Bake Off Go, then the Berry Wink is basically Squirtle.
Desserts are famously ‘stressed’ spelled backwards, and mounting tension in the tent means this could be an accurate omen
Both Andrew and Candice are paying tribute to family members, again – what is it with this season and all the parental arse-kissing? Is it a King Lear situation? Does Andrew stand to inherit a castle in County Antrim?
To cool his cake, Tom is using one of the handheld fans menopausal ladies buy from markets. “I’m not hugely happy with that sponge,” he admits, rolling up what is clearly an omelette. “I took it out of the oven probably a minute too early.” You don’t cook omelettes in the oven, you silly! Anyway, he’s starting again.
Candice must be confident that the We Want Plates campaigners have moved onto other pursuits, because she’s serving her roulade on a rustic metal… thing. A cake cage? A piece of antique farming equipment? Nobody knows, but I will try to buy one on Etsy before the month is out.
Selasi, in what might be a perfect metaphor for their respective levels of shits-given, has parked his on an empty photo frame – but he has the last laugh, as the judges declare his strawberry roulade a resounding success while Candice’s is a rubbery mess.
Andrew and Benjamina have both made perfect spirals, and Tom has made a giant Cadbury mini roll! It’d be a big hit on Pimp My Snack, but Paul and Mary are less impressed with his ‘informal’ finish. And Jane, benevolent Jane, has rolled her roulade up the wrong way round so that it’ll feed more people.
It’s OK, Jane – you may not have a perfect swirl but you’ll get bonus points in heaven.
After weeks of technical challenges that could have rolled straight off a Mr Kipling production line, it’s nice to be back on familiar ground with a totally unfamiliar cake: a marjolaine.
A triple-layered French gateau made with hazelnut dacquoise, ganache and praline buttercream, topped with extravagant piping and a coated with chopped nuts, it’s a big job for three hours – but not everyone’s anticipating gateastrophe. “You’ve got your meringue, your cream, your meringue, your cream, your meringue, your cream. Ganache. Nuts!” recites Benjamina, like beautiful poetry. How can we all be more Benjamina?
(Find out the answer in the forthcoming audio book ‘Be More Benjamina!’, including daily affirmations, smile-brightening tips and Benjamina’s patented 10 steps to make a daft cake without losing one’s dignity – yours for just £29.99.)
After a short interlude to learn about which French dude first candied his nuts, it’s assembly time – and our bakers are praying their marjolaines turn out looking even marginally like a marjolaine is meant to. Or according to Andrew’s vision, “like a Viennetta but posher.” I find I am suddenly worried that Andrew might be deathly allergic to nuts but simply too polite to mention.
Time for judging, and Mary is readying her gateau-blaster. Marjolaine, jolaine, jolaine, jolaine... they’re begging of you, please don’t break this Nan.
You’ve got your meringue, your cream, your meringue, your cream, your meringue, your cream. Ganache. Nuts!” recites Benjamina, like beautiful poetry. How can we all be more Benjamina?
For a pudding that nobody has seen or eaten and might not even definitely exist, our bakers have done amazingly well. Andrew is first and Candice second, with only minor faults for Benjamina and Jane.
Tom proves to be the pie-eyed piper of ham fist with his basic decoration, but it’s Selasi that ends up in last place, because his cake is sweet on the inside but looks ugly and misshapen. It’s a regular Dacquoisimodo.
Dessert island risks
Because apparently the GBBO producers are as susceptible to Disneyland ad campaigns as the rest of us, this week’s showstopper challenge is 24 Minnie Mouse cakes. Sorry, mini mousse cakes. They need to feature sponge, a flavourful mousse and twiddly decorations – but no ears or polka dot bows, because that would be taking the Mickey.
Tom has chosen ‘hipsters’ as his inspiration, which he’s pulling off with the casual credibility you’d expect from John Humphreys interviewing a vlogger on The Today Programme. Andrew, just to ring the changes, is using his Gran’s margarine chocolate cake recipe. “You could say it’s a bit old-fashioned, but actually I think the flavour’s great,” he insists. Calm down Andrew, you’re already in the will! You can have the Wedgewood tureen! Give it a rest.
It’s a hot summer day, back in the Bake Off time tunnel, and with limited time for their mixtures to set in the freezer that can only mean one thing: there’s mousse loose aboot this… tent. While Jane pulls out all the stops with a fleur-de-lis pattern baked into her sponge, Selasi pulls out all the stops in his own way – by unleashing a choco-mint reservoir.
“Disaster,” he whispers. Is this… are we… seeing Selasi flustered? Selasi in full panic mode is admittedly about on par with me after half a small latte, but still, it’s unnerving to witness. If he can make this stuff set on time, we shall call him Mousse-lini.
Aerated and slated
Once their cakes have been trussed up and trotted out in a variety of adorable real-life scenarios (a ferris wheel! A picnic bench! A cocktail glass, like a teeny burlesque dancer!), it’s time for the final reveal.
Tom has chosen ‘hipsters’ as his inspiration, which he’s pulling off with the casual credibility you’d expect from John Humphreys interviewing a vlogger on The Today Programme
Benjamina’s cakes are drippy but too delicious for it to matter, while golden boy Andrew has scored a hat trick of perfect results (Granny, call the solicitor). And Jane has achieved “great things” with her mini mousses, even if her blackcurrant cakes are “in their own way, quite startling” – which funnily enough is the same compliment people give me each time I try to copy Candice’s lipstick.
Meanwhile the Queen of Pout has made too many moussetakes – one cake too melty, one too firm, which is no good when you’re dealing with the Goldilocks of dainty baking. And Mary.
Selasi’s hulking mint monsters don’t go down well, but front of the firing line are Tom’s hipster picnic mousse cakes. They’ve come out looking like the prawn mayo sarnies left on the platter at the end of a wake, which isn’t entirely the witty artisanal effect he was hoping for.
And so, Tom is banished from the tent. Farewell mate! He also incurs a lifetime ban from warehouse pop-ups in Hackney Wick, though I can’t imagine he’s too bothered about that.
Next week: Andrew fashions his entire family tree out of breadsticks and Jane feeds the five thousand with a single bap.