The Great British Bake Off says goodbye to the BBC, and goodbye to the original dream team of Mel, Sue, Mary and Paul – we'll have a good, absorbent sponge ready to dry up our tears – this Christmas on BBC1. It's the first time the show's done a seasonal special, so what's the deal with The Great Christmas Bake Off?

The format will have GBBO super-fans drooling: lots of your favourite contestants from previous series of the Bake Off are making a comeback! 

Episode one: Christmas Day

4.45pm BBC1

Four bakers from past series of GBBO hit the tent once more. Here they are in this year's tent, with a reminder of their previous form:

Ali Imdad

Series: 4 (2013 winner was Frances Quinn)

Eliminated: Week 4

From: Birmingham

Follow Ali on Twitter: @AliImdadBakes

Previous GBBO highlight: Sadly Ali never won the star baker prize during his very short time in Bake Off. But he did plenty of other stuff. Stuff like, errm, using rose flavouring. And, um, coming fifth in the technical one week.

Yup, Ali didn’t really stand out in his four weeks on the show – but hopefully the Christmas special will be his time to whisk up an impression.

What he’s been up to since Bake Off: Quite a lot. He’s now the Host of Halal Kitchen on British Muslim TV, as well as penning a baking column in the Birmingham Mail. And just to add the icing on the cake, he’s just opened up a Cocoa Patisserie in Birmingham.

Cathryn Dresser

Series: 3 (2012 winner was John Whaite)

Eliminated: Week 8

From: Pease Pottage, West Sussex

Follow Cathryn on Twitter: @cat_dresser 

Previous GBBO highlight: It might be considered as a low point, but Cathryn is best remembered for lobbing a massive dob of dough onto the Bake Off tent floor. And then picking the hairs out of it.

Nice.

What she’s been up to since Bake Off: Not only has the self-confessed messy baker written her own kid’s bake book, Let’s Bake!, but she’s now opened up her own bakery too.

Norman Calder

Series: 5 (2014 winner was Nancy Birtwhistle)

Eliminated: Week 5

From: Portknockie, Moray, Scotland

Follow Norman on Twitter: @normcalder

Previous GBBO highlight: Wow, how do you pick one highlight for Norman? This is a man who labelled pesto “exotic”. A man who spelled out “bake” in semaphore. A man who could say the following in his amazing accent…

Don’t ever change, Norman.

What he’s been up to since Bake Off: Fantastic news, guys: Norman finished his autobiography called A Taste of Norman’s Life. He’s also launched a website where he says he’s pleased “he had Mary Berry taste his cakes without throwing up”.

Just in case that’s not enough Norman for you, he also uploaded a Youtube video of all the objects in his shed called – WAIT FOR IT – stuff from the shed.

He also recently uploaded this video entitled “Irises Bathroom & WetWall” under Youtube’s comedy category. 

Mary-Anne Boermans

Series: 2 (2011 winner was Jo Wheatly) 

Eliminated: The final (week 8) 

From: Kidderminster, Worchester

Follow Mary-Anne on Twitter: @wotchers 

Previous GBBO highlight: Reaching the final. Despite never winning the star baker award, jolly girl Mary-Anne still baked her way to the final three and blew away the judges with her Blackcurrant Meringue with Everlasting Syllabub.

What she’s been up to since Bake Off: As well as setting up her own blog that’s now been active for FIVE years, she’s released two cookbooks all about Great British Bakes.

Episode two: Boxing Day

7pm BBC1

Another batch of four returning bakers, pictured here cooking up a storm for Christmas. Where have you seen them before?

Howard Middleton

Series: 4 (2013 winner was Frances Quinn)

Eliminated: Week 6

From: Sheffield

Follow Howard on Twitter: @HowardMiddlebun

Previous GBBO highlight: Having his custard stolen. While Howard claims to be an expert in crème anglaise, his dessert failed to impress Mary and Paul after fellow contestant Deborah accidentally used his custard in her trifle, leaving him with her underwhelming “slack custard”. This daylight robbery led to “Poor Howard” trending worldwide on Twitter and the incident has since become known as "Custardgate".

Custard-gate

What he’s been up to since Bake Off: Howard has released a book called Delicious Gluten-Free Baking, let's hope there's a chapter on how to stay in possession of your custard…

Chetna Makan

Series: 5 (2014 winner was Nancy Birtwhistle)

Eliminated: Week 9 (Semi-finalist)

From: Kent

Follow Chetna on Twitter: @chetnamakan

Previous GBBO highlight: Cooking a Povitca in a signature bake, then finding it was that week's technical challenge. A Povitica, by the way, is a traditional Eastern European sweet bread filled with walnut paste.

What she’s been up to since Bake Off: Chetna has a YouTube channel, Food with Chetna, where she shares recipes and tips. She also has a book called The Cardamom Trail which combines traditional British baking with Eastern flavours.

James Morton

Series: 3 (2012 winner was John Whaite)

Eliminated: Finalist

From: Glasgow

Follow James on Twitter: @bakingjames

Previous GBBO highlight: Making a colossal pastry bicycle. The task at hand was to make a choux gateau. Everyone made a St Honoré, the classic puffy ring with little puffy balls on. Everyone, that is, except James, who went for a Paris-Brest, which is normally a choux bike wheel. James went for the full bike, and it won him star baker.

What he’s been up to since Bake Off: James has his fingers in many pies: he’s a doctor, a baker, a brewer and an author. He recently released a book called Brew, a guide to making beer at home. 

Janet Basu

Series: 2 (2011 winner was Joanne Wheatley)

Eliminated: Week 7 (Semi-finalist)

From: Liverpool

Follow Janet on Twitter: @JanetBasu

Previous GBBO highlight: Creating an enormous rhubarb and ginger cheesecake.

What she’s been up to since Bake Off: Janet is still cooking up a storm and enjoying speaking French.