It’s quarter-final week on Bake Off and the stakes are higher than ever. As the contestants feel the final getting closer and closer, their eyes are firmly fixed on the ultimate prize.
This week’s theme was the rather innocuous-sounding biscuits. Everyone makes biscuits – how hard can it be? But you never get an easy ride on Bake Off… Paul was first to pile on the pressure, as he decided to test the snap of every single cracker made in the signature challenge.
Two bakers seemed troubled from the start: Cathryn didn’t have her usual get-up-and-go, instead wandering around looking a little deflated, while James seemed unfocused - not his usual measured and accurate self. The resulting crackers all looked rather good to me, with only Cathryn’s cheese and pickle crackers falling below standard. James managed to pull it out of the bag, with his spicy recipe gaining rave reviews.
Moving onto this week’s technical challenge which was almost cruel. For once in this series the weather was wonderful, soaring to 35oC at one point, according to James’ thermometer. So setting a challenge that requires tempering chocolate for a teacake was always going to be tricky...
Unsurprisingly no one was particularly successful, but Paul and Mary were understandably generous with their judgments. Unfortunately Cathryn suffered some construction issues and came bottom, leaving her pretty much a goner before the final challenge had even begun. Meanwhile wily James managed to put his earlier issues aside as his teacakes finished top of the pile.
Next up was the showstopper challenge which this week was a Bake Off curveball: gingerbread. The base recipe isn’t difficult - gingerbread is a very simple dough, but of course the contestants weren’t just required to make simple houses. Oh no, they had to make an ominous-sounding gingerbread ‘structure’.
Bake off is, in some ways, all about the preparation – the more you practice the better you should do, and John came into this challenge very well prepared. He was attempting to make a gingerbread Colosseum and he had his graphic design partner draw up proper architectural plans – it paid off, too, with his finished construction looking fabulous.
James played dangerously, and his resulting ‘barn’ looked like it had been hit by a rather bad storm. But thankfully once the judges tasted the gingerbread his flavours saved him and he was named star baker.
This week's departure was a forgone conclusion as even a gingerbread version of Buckingham Palace couldn’t save Cathryn and she made a tearful exit leaving Danny, John, James and Brendan competing next week for a place in the final.
Edd Kimber's first book The Boy Who Bakes is out now, with his second - Say It With Cake - to be released on 25 October.