Last week’s excellent start to The Great Comic Relief Bake Off set the bar incredibly high, but tonight’s episode more than lived up to it.
Gok Wan’s “I’m really competitive and want to win” opener would usually be a warning that things were about to go wrong, but at least he sounded like he’d practised. Would that prevent a Bake Off disaster?
When I was in the tent, as soon as they said “On your marks, get set, BAKE”, my mind would go completely blank. I’d forget what an egg was or how to turn my oven on. But this week started with a fairly manageable challenge for even a novice baker: cupcakes…
For me, the signatures that appealed the most were Jonathan Ross’s and Abbey Clancy’s. The rainbow cupcakes are ones I’ve done a few times with my kids before (check out the picture) and they absolutely love them. I’d recommend doing these for a Red Nose Day Bake Sale – they’re definitely the ones I’d buy!
I really fancied Jonathan’s cupcakes – quite sophisticated flavours, and whisky buttercream sounds like it’s worth a try. I do a mean mincemeat cupcake with brandy buttercream. However, be careful adding alcohol (or too much of any liquid) to buttercream as it can split, as happened with both Jonathan’s and Zoe Suggs’s.
Gok set himself quite a challenge; fondant looks easy to work with, but the cutting out can eat into your baking time. If I were him, I’d have piped mine. It would have probably tasted a bit better and won some brownie points with Mary too.
This was a cruel technical challenge. One and a half hours to make profiteroles?! I’d give myself a good two and half hours at home. If there’s one easy thing about choux pastry, it’s that it’s easy to get it wrong.
It’s difficult to explain the right textures you need to achieve in words so if you know someone who can make it, get them to show you how. Poor Zoe had a bit of a nightmare scrambling her eggs in a too-hot mix so she was right to start again. Don’t do what Jonathan did and hope that the oven can work miracles.
I felt for all of them making their crème patissiere. It’s really easy to burn things in the tent – those induction hobs heat things up much faster than gas. I had my own fair share of technical disasters, like Jonathan’s ‘Yorkshire puds’. It’s a lonely place sitting on your stool waiting to be judged when you know you’ve got a full house of technical mistakes, but what a great attitude he had to it all – the only way to be. Congratulations to Gok on his awesome profiteroles though. All to play for on Day Two.
This was a great challenge. I love a marbled cake and this was right up my street as a builder too. I reckon I’d have gone for a red velvet and vanilla marbled Madeira cake; you can get a good swirl on the inside and Madeira is great for constructing. Cementing things with buttercream is also a good idea.
Mary’s suggestion of a garden shed for simplicity is a good jumping-off point: I’d have probably gone for the Reptile House at London Zoo – one of my favourite places in London. It’s also vaguely ‘hut’ shaped too, leaving less room for error.
When the challenges are set, you have no idea what your fellow contestants will be making, so it’s a bit annoying if someone else does something similar – two Shards is an unfortunate coincidence. It was good to see Gok rocking the classic pen-behind-the-ear during his bake though – even more difficult for a glasses wearer!
Zoe’s idea was lovely – a rainbow beach hut sounded great. I can’t help but be won over by Jonathan’s ambition. I mean really, the Royal Albert Hall? A shame he managed to grill his cake, but mistakes like that happen all the time when you’re flat out in the tent.
Watching Abbey’s cake slowly topple over reminded me of every Bake Off nightmare I had during the show. Zoe’s roof collapse was another of those nail-biting moments. The “beauty shot”, when you sit on the stool and look lovingly at your bake while the camera circles you, is always fun. I usually spent the whole time staring at all the things I’d done wrong.
When Paul and Mary actually say something good, it’s such a huge relief. While I reckon Gok should have points deducted for saying he gave “190%”, his abstract Shard was brilliant and definitely edged Abbey’s “chocolate covered rod”. Poor Zoe suffered with both judges choking on her cake – not ideal. But it did look really fun, from a distance it was as if the inside was made of Lego.
Jonathan’s Royal Albert Hall was ace. You could tell what it was supposed to be straight away and I reckon Paul was only being picky with the Italian meringue because he was surprised by how good it had turned out. For me, Jonathan had the right attitude and embodied the spirit of the Comic Relief Bake Off.
MY #GBBO tip
There was a whole lot of food colouring in this episode, so my final tip is to buy concentrated gel food colourings. You can get them online and need to add far less to get a vivid colour, so they last longer and don’t add too much moisture to what you’re colouring.