The Great British Bake Off 8:01

People do not like change. After the rhubarb of the programme being moved to Channel 4 (adverts! Noel Fielding!), like a recipe passed down from generations they have mercifully not tinkered too much. The theme tune and illustrations remain the same and it began with Cake Week, as is tradition.

A family sized Fruity Cake was the first challenge and a chance to get to know this year’s batch. There was Finance Manager, James, with his Rhubarb, Orange and Ginger Crumble Cake. Apparently it was "just a sponge, no-ones going to die" yet he managed to slice the bottom clean off as the cake was almost drowning in its own moisture. Stay at home Mum, Stacey, and her unconvincing Granny Smith Apple and Walnut Cake. Nineteen year-old student, Liam, and his stodgy and somehow boring Apple and Almond Crumble Maple Loaf. Scouse Grandmother, Flo, was one of Paul Hollywood’s new favourites with her bold Citrus Layer Cake.

First day nerves clearly got to a few contestants. Russian born, Julia, forgot to squeeze out the moisture in her Courgette and Lemon Cake which resulted in a heavy, sunken bake which she did own up to. IT Manager, Peter, threw in too much baking powder for his Coconut Cake and Biomedical Scientist, Yan, failed to turn on the oven for her Windfall Apple Crumble Cake.

Some had come more prepared than others; Software Engineer, Chris, used a spreadsheet to calculate his Tropical Fresh Fruit Cake, obviously. No fat and only two eggs but no holding back on flavour. Health and Safety Officer/Blacksmith, Kate, topped her Moroccan Strawberry and Rose Cake with blitzed freeze-dried strawberry pieces. Despite that Prue believed it was all rosewater, not actual fruit, style above substance. Architect, Tom, went full hipster with a gold leaf Gilded Pear and Cardamom Cake. Then there was Steven who got everyone talking and even inspired the first cheeky comment of the new season with, “I don’t know what he’s doing but I want to stick my finger in it”.  The Marketing Executive got the décor spot on with toffee apples and crystallised citrus rind for his stunning Bonfire Night Cake which was rewarded with the first handshake of the new regime from Paul. This was soon followed by a second for former Army officer, Sophie, and her silky, neat Pineapple and Coconut Sandwich Cake.

If you thought that was devilish the technical challenge was even more so; 12 Chocolate Mini Rolls. Yes, they may look familiar but the recipe was tellingly vague (no change there then). Apart from knowing to check if the icing closely resembled toothpaste there was a lot of room for disaster. There was the rolling of the sponge, the exposed bottom of the sponges and nervous, shaking hands. Chris did not even whisk his egg whites then realised something was amiss, too right as it was still raw which left him in last place. Julia already looked close to tears even though she finished third, as if a gambling debt rested on her winning the entire competition and Kate finished top for her neat efforts.

The ante was upped yet again for the showstopper challenge; an Illusion Cake which is a baked creation that fools onlookers into believing it cannot be an actual, edible cake. Sophie’s Champagne Bottle and Bucket had fooled bouncers and you could imagine Noel opting for ‘full on innuendo mode’ but he held back when the top of the bottle was being skilfully moulded. However, Stacey’s Black Evening ‘Moist Clutch’ Bag failed to fool the judges but at least the flavours were there.

Tom’s Stack of Books looked a bit basic compared to the competition which was saying something. Even James’ Mock-accino and Croissant Cake showed some imagination as a marriage of his baking and work life. Liam’s Stackin’ Sunday illustrated the weekend tradition of a pile of pancakes with his Mum, even Prue invited herself round. Chris tried to go after Paul’s heart with his favourite; a Raised Pork Pie and Egg Surprise but it was too dense. Then there was Flo’s One in a Melon which was so vividly bright it was as if she had just plucked one off a shelf.

Katie’s Chocolate Terrarium came complete with glacier mint glass, even if it was left exposed it still impressed Prue. Yan had brought a pasta machine to make noodles for her Banana-ramen Cake complete with a quick science experiment for her salmon roe and such attention to detail really showed. Julia made a ‘Proper Siberian’ Russian Doll cake, because of course, yet the cake itself was a tad plain. Peter had his own mould for a knife for his Bread on a Breadboard, though it was judged simplistic and with that his journey was over as he was the first one sent home. Two kilograms of fondant icing had gone into Steven’s A Baker’s Lunch, and all of it was used expertly for a stunning effect. Imagine a sandwich as depicted in plastic in a restaurant window and you are nearly there. Paul called it perfect and we had our first Star Baker.

The Great British Bake Off

Initially broadcast on BBC one, but now on Channel 4, The Great British Bake Off is one of the biggest shows on UK television

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