An unlikely success

Great British Bake Off cookbooks

We recently lamented the contrived drama of "reality" cooking shows and others have ranted about the declining quality of The Food Network, which makes us wonder what food programs, if any, are still worth watching? One worthy contender according to both The Telegraph and The Guardian is The Great British Bake Off, which is in its fifth season and has graduated from BBC Two to BBC One.

Originally created on a modest budget and based on the mildly successful Great British Menu and Great British Food Revival, The Great British Bake Off has become a sensation that has surprised everyone including its creators. Eschewing the trends of invective-spewing celebrity chefs and overhyped contestants, the producers opted for lesser-known, more modest hosts in Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, and Paul Hollywood. The contestants as well weren't flashy or full of drama, and the subject matter wasn't (at the time) wildly popular.

Yet despite, or perhaps because of, these constraints, the show worked. Eight million viewers tuned in for the premiere of the fifth season. Not only is the show popular, but it has inspired a renaissance in home baking in the UK. According to The Telegraph, "Sales of shop-bought cakes have slipped, but the number of people buying mixing bowls, rolling pins, loaf tins and cake decorations soars with each run of the show. Before last week's episode had even finished, Amazon reported that sales of the non-stick round fluted pan used by the contestants to recreate Berry's cherry cake had risen by 1,003 per cent."

The show has also reinvigorated the career of Mary Berry and spawned several popular cookbooks. Yet even though show winners might publish a cookbook or open up a baking shop, they don't stay in the spotlight. The Guardian quips that "the biggest star the show will ever produce is the eye-poppingly well-endowed squirrel who wandered into shot in series two and remains fondly remembered to this day." Retaining this quintessential British modesty is part of the show's charm. The Telegraph sums it up this way: "The Great British Bake Off is plain rather than self-raising."

Are you a fan of The Great British Bake Off? Has it inspired you to bake more?

5 Comments

  • Jane  on  8/10/2014 at 11:39 PM

    I love this show. I caught most of the last season when I was in the UK and got quite addicted. I was so sad when I was in the UK a couple of weeks ago and the new season started just after I left. I wish they would show it in the USA. The American copy - The Great American Baking Competition - is nowhere near as entertaining.

  • ptrefler  on  8/11/2014 at 6:07 AM

    I travel back and forth to London and always look forward to watching the show on the airplane. British air often shows three or four episodes at a time. It is disappointing when they don't have it on demand. The Great American Baking Competition isn't as good, but I enjoyed it. It is astonishing how good the bakers are, congratulations to all the competitors!

  • debbyc  on  8/12/2014 at 1:45 AM

    The Cherry cake used a savarin tin rather than a fluted one, and if you want to have a go at the recipe it is http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/marys_cherry_cake_17869

  • Melanie  on  8/12/2014 at 4:50 AM

    I really enjoy watching this show - although living in Australia I haven't seen too many episodes. I didn't get into the Australian version when it was on, I really love how British the original is!

  • eliza  on  8/14/2014 at 7:17 PM

    I love this show! While I find that it is a little bit contrived occasionally, it's a really enjoyable show. What makes it for me is the knowledge of the judges, and the humour shown by the 2 hosts. I love cooking and baking, and it's great to see the response to the show in the UK.

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