It’s hard to believe your eyes when watching episode one of The Great British Bake Off.
And it’s not because Noel Fielding is in the tent with his shaggy black ‘do and a shirt covered in crows. It’s actually all down to the bakes.
After seeing the initial signature, technical and showstopping creations whipped up by the brand new batch of 12 amateur bakers, it’s simply staggering what they’re making given it’s only week one.
The showstoppers in particular really do stop you in your tracks. Someone attempts to create a glass terrarium (like a miniature greenhouse for plants), another makes a cake that looks exactly like a melon and one baker creates a cake that looks like a Champagne bottle in an ice bucket, complete with edible ‘ice cubes’ and napkin. Recalling a previous time in which they made the cake, they explain how they were stopped in a bar whilst carrying it as someone mistook it for an actual bottle of booze.
Essentially, the standard is phenomenal. One contestant even starts to wonder if they’ve peaked too soon.
Paul Hollywood says that the high standard of the bakers has made this “the best year yet” and Channel 4’s chief Jay Hunt admits that this series features “some of the most difficult challenges we have ever seen on the show.” Judging by this first episode, they’re not wrong.
But is it a bit too tough? There’s a mini roll technical that involves the incredibly careful rolling of sponge to avoid cracks (it’s scuppered many a Bake Off hopeful in the past) and a fruit cake signature that some bakers struggle with as they throw everything including the KitchenAid at their creations.
The pressure leads to multiple bakes going straight from the oven to the bin, others collapsing, instructions not being read properly and bakers forgetting to include – or omit – some ingredients.
When it comes to the judging, Paul says one has style over substance, another has apparently used far too much baking powder and someone else overbakes their cake.
Obviously, watching stacks of intricate bakes collapse (with some of the bakers threatening to follow suit) makes for great TV in a way that watching multiple perfect Victoria sponges being made can’t quite match up to.
A look back at the GBBO canon shows an almost deliberate change from too-tough bakes to slightly less complicated creations during the BBC era.
In earlier years, bakers in week one were asked to whip up Angel food cake with lemon curd, rum baba and a coffee and walnut sandwich in the technicals. But the most recent series have featured slightly simpler technical challenges including frosted cakes, walnut cakes and Jaffa cakes in week one.
Perhaps that’s because in 2014, Mary Berry said she thought some of the previous challenges on the show had been “too hard, too complicated.”
“Even midway through, our technical challenges were too hard,” she said. “The bakers achieved them, but I’d rather they had made something simpler but absolutely perfect.”
We have to agree.
With so many of the bakes in episode one being absolutely stunning and such a high standard set from the beginning it makes you wonder where they have left to go in subsequent weeks.
One thing’s for sure, if the series opener is anything to go by, this is going to be one of the toughest – if not the toughest – years the GBBO tent has ever seen.