So the Bake Off is over for another year, and what an unexpected finish it was. The bookies’ favourite, James, failed to live up to expectations and John came from the back of the pack to be crowned this year’s winner.
To a lot of viewers this was a surprising result. Brendan had arguably been the most consistent baker throughout the show, something that stood him in good stead going into the final round. But the result teaches you a very important lesson about the format of the Bake Off – it’s the best baker on the day who takes home the trophy and John was a deserved winner.
The first challenge was a pithivier – a classic French pie with a normally sweet filling, but for this challenge the bakers were required to make a savoury version out of rough puff pastry.
Sadly this spelt the start of James’ downfall as Paul tested his pie’s bottom and declared it “soggy”. To my eye Brendan’s potato and pepper pithivier looked the best, rightly earning high praise from Paul and Mary. John’s Italian sausage and roasted vegetable pithivier prompted the best innuendo of the entire series as Mary uttered the words “your lovely sausage!”
Moving on, the technical challenge was another retro bake – the fondant fancy – and it seemed fitting that a series packed full of retro recipes should end with this choice. Unfortunately all the bakers struggled at this point. Their cakes were fine, but none of the contestants managed to glaze their fancies to a standard that matched Paul and Mary’s lofty expectations. In a Bake Off shock, Brendan’s uncharacteristically sloppy effort finished bottom of the pile, while James pulled it back to be named top of the shop.
So going into the final the competition was wide open. The final showstopper challenge was a chiffon cake – a tricky bake made with whipped egg whites to create a very light finished cake.
John opted for a beautiful heaven and hell concoction – an elegant and delicious-looking chocolate cake. Brendan went for simplicity with a classic flavouring of raspberry and almond, meanwhile James decided one or two cakes wasn’t enough – he would make five! But alas, disaster struck as one of his works in progress met its fate on the floor, and he was left scrambling to finish on time. Unfortunately the judges weren’t impressed by the result – the finish was a little messy and I think if he’d concentrated on just one or two cakes the final result could have been even closer, if not different…
In the end, each of the three contestants could have taken the title had they performed to the best of their ability in the final. Brendan is a solid and talented baker, whose creations always manage to look delicious. James was the renegade, taking risks and breaking rules – his food was exciting and when it was good it was brilliant.
John, the ultimate winner, had a rollercoaster series and came close to being eliminated on a couple of occasions, but in the end he proved himself to take the title. His final bake was brilliant and in my opinion he was a deserved winner.
If you have been inspired by the series and want to apply for next year’s show, download the application at bbc.co.uk/bakeoff
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.