Ding Ding! It’s Round Two of The Great British Bake Off and our high hopes that the bun fight will hot-up with the addition of tears, hugs and handshakes are realised, despite it being Mundane Cake Week.
The big news in the tent is that it’s hot. So hot, in fact, that it not only plays havoc with the bakes but has transformed Noel’s coiffure into a limp basin cut - he was definitely more Ringo Starr than Elvis this week, with a shirt that made him look like one of the Banana Splits. Bizarrely, Sandi was wearing a woolly jumper.
Now, until earlier this week, the best cakes I’d ever eaten were the madeleines that are baked to order at the iconic St John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields in London which arrive at your table some 12 minutes after ordering, fresh out of the tin. They just pipped a slice of Battenberg, one of Mr Kipling’s fondant fancies (not the brown one) and Norwich’s very own Figbar Financiers to the top of my cake chart. Then I found a cake that went straight to the top of the charts, an enormous slice of something very chocolatey from Dents Farm Shop in Hilgay near Downham Market. Well worth the three-hour round trip.
As with most things in life, it’s usually a case of the simpler things are the better they are. However there can be nothing simple in the Bake Off, even a tray bake has to be trying. This week's efforts were variously described as bland, tough as old boots, dry, raw, and under-baked, yet Dan still managed to get the first Hollywood Handshake of the series for his Black Forest Gateau.
I did hope that contestant Ruby would have given him an alternative hand signal when he accused her of stealing his idea: chocolate and cherries together in a cake? Wow! How did he think of that?! The Black Forest Gateau dates back to 1934, I don’t think it was Dan the Man’s idea do you?
This week’s technical challenge was a new one on me. Monet was a man of great taste (I know, I’ve been to his garden in Giverny and bought a postcard of one of paintings) but he obviously left that taste in his potting shed when it came to cake. Rather like those mad parents who hide beetroot in their offspring’s brownies, his predilection was for a cake that contains everyone’s favourite sweet treat, er, spinach. Yes his favorite cake - Gateau Vert - was a pistachio-flavoured Genoise sponge with pistachio marzipan topped with spinach icing. Spinach is the sort of thing you hide in a smoothie (I do every day, like Popeye for the 21st century) not decorate a cake with. The gateau is also dressed with edible flowers. Yawn. Note; just because something’s edible, doesn’t mean it will taste nice.
As it was the hottest day of the year (did they mention it was hot? Only eight million times) the showstopper involved chocolate. We had the sublime and the ridiculous. Lovable old Terry, who keeps bees, brews beer but has struggled to make anything edible so far, went for an understated number, deciding to recreate the Eiffel Tower in chocolate, with predicable results, meaning he created the Leaning Tower of Eiffel. Luke’s effort resembled some of the wedding cakes we have delivered to The Assembly House from mothers or friends of the bride, and last week’s winner, Manon of the red lipstick, wisely chose to serve her cake with its acetate still in place.
Most attempted to decorate their ‘showstoppers for all the wrong reasons’ while the cakes where still warm. You can guess the rest. Despite the drooping layers, the melting collars, the red-faced teary contestants, the collapse of an iconic piece of French architecture, the insanity of basing a cake on whipped cream in a heatwave and a host of other nightmares, the judges were impressed.
Paul was like a Dad at a wedding, dishing out handshakes to all and sundry, and in doing so devaluing the currency, much like I do with swearing (“I’ve let myself down,” he said later). Briony blubbed, and then blubbed some more. Terry somehow escaped and Luke got his marching orders because his Bakewell didn’t, ahem, Bake Well.
Sweet Rahul seemed shocked to be awarded Star Baker, although not as shocked as blood courier Jon of the Hawaiian Shirts who thought he had it in the bag. He may have missed out on Star Baker this week, but an opportunity has definitely opened up for him to share a wardrobe with Noel.