The Great British Bake Off/Baking Show – Week 1 – Cake Recap

We are back in the tent and hopeful about the show’s new direction this year. (That’s a great name for a band.) To prepare for the new season I have updated the Which Great British Bake Off Contestants have written books post so it is current. Many GBBO bakers are coming out with books next year!

The contestants from the Great British Bake Off Series 14: Nicky, Tasha, Abbi, Cristy, Josh, Amos, Rowan, Matty, Keith, Saku, Dana and Dan. Photograph: Photographer: Mark Bourdillon/Channel 4

For the first time in years, after watching the first episode, I am excited and loving this group! The opening was fantastic and not overly campy. The Breadfather was a short Godfather inspired skit bringing Alison into the “family” and I actually chuckled a few times.

Paul was very likeable this episode leading me to believe that he had an epiphany over the break. Prue was great, Noel was funny and I like Alison and think she will be a great fit.

Signature: Two hours to make a vertical layer cake, rolled.

Rowan is the youngest baker this season at 21 years of age. This year there is a BSL interpreter in the tent for Tasha (Tasha’s BSL name for Paul is Polly and she did a great impersonation of Paul’s menacing look). Saku was extremely nervous and Paul, yes Paul, gave her a long hug to calm her nerves. I laughed when two of the bakers came up from looking in the oven with foggy glasses (I can relate). Better foggy glasses than soggy bottoms (I think I need to make a t-shirt with that saying). I thought all the bakes looked fantastic – Paul did ask Tasha if she sat on her cake.

The signature challenge reminded me of Irvin Lin’s Chocolate and brown sugar buttercream rolled cake with crushed pistachios that I attempted and messed up royally – the design that is – but not the taste.

Darcie: The show lifted my spirits and does seem like a return to the ‘good old days’, especially having a few more vignettes about the bakers – I love that feature.

A vertical layer cake is a pretty tall order for a first signature challenge, but the bakers mostly proved that they were up for it. I worry about Paul’s tastebuds, because it seems like if you don’t punch him in the face with flavor he is disappointed. (Maybe he and Guy Fieri can meet up in Flavor Town.) I feel that a delicate whisper of flavor can be just as satisfying as one that is bold and brash. Then again, no one has asked me to judge a baking competition so maybe I’m all wet.

Technical: 2 hours to make the chocolate fudge cake with raspberries – Paul Hollywood’s Fudge Chocolate cake. This is the cake that is shown at the opening of each show.

It was wonderful to have the bakers working on something that everyone is familiar with.

Darcie: Am I the only person who never noticed the missing raspberry on the cake in the show’s credits? In my defense, I always skip the intro on Netflix, so I have not looked at the cake that often. Some of the bakers let their nervousness about time sabotage them, adding the ganache to cakes that were still warm, leading to a bulge between the layers. Those who were more patient performed better, but with only two hours in which to complete the cakes, I understand why some bakers rushed it.

Dana, Tasha, and Nicky landed at the bottom of the judging while Abbi, Amos, and Dan were third, second, and first, respectively. Paul and Prue both commented that it was difficult to rank the bakers because all of them performed well in the challenge.

Showstopper: An animal cake in 4 hours.

Again, praise the baking gods – a showstopper that was doable and not a request for a multiplex theatre cake with an actual moving picture show.

Best lines: “I don’t know what a beaver looks like” and “Nicky tell us about your beaver”.

The showstoppers all looked “showstopping” except for Amos’ whale. His whale looked like it got caught in a tuna net. Paul and Prue thought the cake was doughy, oversweet and “tough as old boots”.

Nicky’s beaver cake looked amazing but was overbaked and “bone dry”. Matty’s cake looked like it was run over, according to Paul. Dana’s was “quite flat”. Josh was told he had a lot of buttercream. I was so happy that Tasha redeemed herself with a beautiful robin cake that was very delicious.

Darcie: I was pleased to see many bakers opt for buttercream over fondant, which can look great but can actually compress the cake with its weight and tastes about as good as waxed cardboard. This played out in the judging because the fondant cakes overall were judged more negatively than the buttercream ones. I once made a rooster cake for a friend’s retirement party and went in a different direction, using white and dark modeling chocolate for the feathers (see below). It took longer than four hours to make, however.

The Primus song Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver song played in my head during this entire challenge.

I had high hopes for Amos after the technical, but his orca cake was not killer. Without being there to see the entire judging or taste the cake it can be hard to know all the details, but I thought the judging for his cake seemed a bit harsh compared to other cakes at the bottom. Matty’s cake did not look good, and I’m sure with a lot of black food coloring in the icing it didn’t taste great. Dana’s flat dog was less than stellar and because of her poor performance on the technical I thought she was the more likely candidate to be sent home.

Results: A blind squirrel (or beaver) knew that Dan was going to be star baker. And it broke my heart when Amos cried at going home.

Darcie: The first elimination is heart wrenching. I wish they gave all of the bakers at least two weeks in the tent before sending anyone home; they could send two the second week and at least they would have a buddy to share the sorrow. I was happy that Tasha redeemed herself, and sorry Paul and Prue, but I’ve been using tahini in desserts for ages, it isn’t novel. Ever heard of halvah?

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  • Jane  on  October 1, 2023

    I loved this “back-to-basics” GBBO. I don’t remember ever laughing as much during an episode (rather than groaning at awful jokes). I also loved all the contestants and the challenges all seemed doable. I hope this carries on. And Darcie – your rooster looks GBBO worthy (if you were allowed extra time).

  • ldyndiuk  on  October 1, 2023

    Junior Bake Off doesn’t send anyone home the first week, and I wish they’d do that on this show. It takes time to settle in and these are people who probably haven’t been on TV before. They’re all probably very nervous!

    I was sad about Amos because he seems to have a really fun personality and I would have liked to see more of him, but I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season. I do wish they’d just cut the silly opening skits and have more content about the contestants.

  • fayegibson  on  October 3, 2023

    I’m probably odd viewer out here, but I think I liked the original shows better because I thought they were more about actual baking skill than about sculpting and engineering, or about rising to the tests that involve no baking at all! And yes, I know they continually say “it has to taste good, too,” but there seems to be so much emphasis in the later seasons on challenges that can so easily result in form over substance. I mean, a 3-foot-tall DNA helix made from cookies is impressive, a cake carved to be an animal is clever, and an interactive toy cake with balls that roll around a billiard table or a gigantic gingerbread castle with revolving turrets may evoke memories of childhood, but I loved it when the show highlighted basic baking. That being said, I really liked the iconic chocolate missing raspberry cake in this episode, and, truth be told, a couple of the animals were absolutely adorable. I agree with Darcie about Paul’s taste buds. I often prefer subtlety to “punch.” I really enjoy the vignettes about the bakers and wish they would include more. I do get upset by Paul’s curt comments and often wonder what he says in addition to some of the heartbreaking, devastating remarks we, the viewers, get to hear him make when judging. Of course, given that they film over the course of about 16+ hours and we see an edited one-hour episode, there is obviously so much behind the scenes that we don’t see. I can only hope that some of that includes comments that are constructive as well as demeaning. It appears that this season might be less filled with nonsensical skits and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, even if it is, I won’t miss an episode! (Darcie, I do love your rooster and I have a significant passion for halvah!!)

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