Richard Osman’s ode to The Great British Bake Off

"Few things move me to poetry – love, of course, and Fulham Football Club. But when it comes to television and cake..."


My favourite show has returned to the screen
The Great British Bake Off of 2014.
A warm welcome back to Mel and to Sue,
To the great Mary Berry and to Ol’ Blue Eyes, too.


The ovens are waiting, contestants revealed
And all in a blooming great tent in a field.
Buns in their hundreds, cakes in their oodles,
Lakes of warm custard and mountains of strudels.

The first round is always the signature bake,
The choice is all yours, but what will you make?
Something traditional? Something more niche?
A parmesan, garlic and rosemary quiche?

(My signature bake is easy to do
First get some flour, some brown sugar, too.
Make sure you have chocolate and four free-range eggs,
Then ignore it and buy a doughnut from Greggs.)

Back in the tent the signature’s done,
Now time for Mel or Sue’s brioche-based pun
And time for the bakers to stand by their bakes.
Their stollen, their muffins, their upside-down cakes.

Excitement looks to be reaching a plateau
As Mary starts tasting an aubergine gateau:
Mary detests it, but Paul thinks it’s good.
Mary won’t serve it, but Paul Hollywood.

They cast their pronouncements, announcing the scores,
They simply adored Sarah-Jane’s petits fours.
It’s amazing the difference a brilliant judge makes,
Without them we’d simply be looking at fudge cakes.

The winner is smiling, the loser is glum.
He should have known brie wouldn’t complement plum.
But all is not lost, as they 
each have three chances
To bake and to win, and become this year’s Frances.

The technical challenge is their chance to gain stature:
This week’s task is a pudding focaccia,
From Mary’s own recipe – don’t 
make a mess!
But how do you make it? That’s anyone’s guess. 

The technical round’s always ripe for disasters,
Contestants in tears, and thumbs in blue plasters.
(And all of this action, of course, intercuts
With footage of squirrels protecting their nuts.)

When the focaccia’s been baked – and then tasted
And a contestant from Hull has been forked and basted,
The showstopper final will round off our hour –
This week please make us a biscuity tower.

Whatever the challenge the tension now grows
At the end of this bake we know somebody goes.
Sue gets more quiet, Mel gets more manic,
As everywhere bakers are starting to panic.

My oven’s too hot! My soufflé won’t rise!
How do I crimp the edge of these pies?
I promise my buns would be simply amazing
If I’d known that the flour I’d used wasn’t self-raising.

Times up, but my macaroons cannot be rushed!
My chocolate won’t melt and my raspberries are crushed!
My filo has failed and my roti looks tatty
And the less said the better about this chapati.

My crème caramel has dissolved into gunge
I forgot to put flour and eggs in this sponge.
My oven just let out a terrible bang,
Which doesn’t bode well for my lemon meringue.

But when it goes right, the results are immense,
It’s amazing what people can make while in tents.
Hot lemon tarts and hazelnut parcels,
Beautiful wedding cakes, gingerbread castles.

I think that this show is what telly is made for
What HD is bought for, and licence fees paid for.
So British and warming, a wonderful treat
And after each show you need something to eat.

So all thanks to Bake Off, this fine undertaking,
We can put up our feet and just watch people baking
And if you’ve not seen it, then join in the fun!
Each Wednesday at 8, now on BBC1! 


The Great British Bake Off returns tonight at 8:00pm on BBC1