Welcome to a brand new season of the Great British Baking Show, and a whole summer of borderline-vulgar recaps. Before we even get to talking about the episodes themselves, which will be airing every Friday this summer on your local PBS station, I need to preface this wild and crazy ride we’re about to go on together with some very important info:
If you haven’t seen this show before, I’ll try to do a little bit of explanation here in our first installment, but after this episode we’re going hard. You can catch up by watching last season on Netflix and using our recaps to help you through it.
This is the last season filmed before “The Happening”: the producers decided to leave the BBC, after which Mel, Sue, and our darling Mary Berry all quit. The show goes on with Paul Hollywood and some other people, but it will never be the same. This makes the entire viewing experience quite ominous and terribly sad, like bringing your childhood dog to the park before you head to the vet to put him down. But with frosting!
To the Brits who are joining us: We here in the States are just getting last year’s final BBC season right now. Sorry if we got you all excited for nothing. But please feel free to watch and follow along as we all experience this for the first time! Also regarding the name change: it is not called “The Great British Bake Off” as the Pillsbury corporation has a trademark on the phrase “Bake Off”, so don’t get all nitpicky in the comments this year, okay?
I use a lot of foul language and make dirty jokes in these things, so brace yourselves.
Now, onto the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Grab your cuppa and gird your loins because WE! ARE! BACK! IN! THE! TENT! Welcome to Cake Week!
Signature Round: Drizzle Cake
There are 12 new utterly terrified looking contestants in the tent getting himself emotionally prepared to be harshly judged by Paul, Mary, and now, me. Mel and Sue try to lighten the tension by reminding the contestants that the key to a good drizzle cake is that it needs to be moist, and then repeat the word moist as many times as possible. How could these idiot producers let these fine women walk out the door?
I don’t know who any of these people are yet, but before the cakes are even in the oven I know who the winner of the “Contestant I Would Like to Bang Award” is, so congratulations Selasi! I look forward to making many dirty jokes about you in the coming weeks.
Round one is not for winners or losers—it’s just to show how well you can tackle a classic recipe, and then be sized up by Paul and Mary. This is not the round where anyone should be taking insane risks or going off the rails. Which, of course, these people will do all season long.
Technical Round: Jaffa Cakes
The technical round is far different than the other two. For one, you don’t know what you’ll be making ahead of time, nor are you allowed to use your own recipe. Contestants are given a recipe written by Paul or Mary that’s pretty much just a list of ingredients and the barest of instructions. From there, they need to use their knowledge and skill to decode what’s been given and make it correctly. If there's ever a time for a contestant to lose their shit, the technical challenge is it.
This week’s recipe is for Jaffa Cakes: adorable little rounds of vanilla sponge topped with a firm orange gelée and coated in dark chocolate. They’re sort of like Oreos, in that they're delicious and no one ever makes them from scratch. Except for now, because drama! But absolutely nothing insane or dramatic happens at all, because this not American television and these people aren’t morons. Jolly good show, everyone.
Showstopper Round: Mirror Glaze Cake
This is the round where you play all your cards, where you go bigger or you go home. This is the round of tears and piss poor decision making. But, as this is the nicest show on television, we never hope anyone fails. We root for everyone to be a winner, except for the one contestant I decide we should all hate. That’s the real competition in this episode.
A mirror cake is a layer cake that is coated with a ganache glaze stabilized with gelatin which makes it so shiny you can see your face in it. It’s a nice softball for our first episode. Paul says that if it were him, he’d go small, simple, and flawless. Which is what most of the contestants do, except for a woman named Candice whose cake involves orbs. She also went gluten-free in the first round as a total suck-up move, so she’s currently in the lead for hate-watch status.
Some guy named Lee goes home, which is a shame because I was really starting to like him, even though he was a hot mess. But Paul reminds us all that there are no losers here, because out of the thousands of applicants, only twelve were deemed good enough to be invited into the tent, and that truly says something about their abilities. Hearing this inspires me to shake off the cloud of despair that’s been hanging over me all episode long and open my heart fully to this new crop of bakers. Sure, the end is near, but let's love these final episodes more than we’ve loved any other.
The next episode is biscuits, which are what British people call cookies. Tune in tomorrow for my recap, plus a lengthy discussion of Andrew.