Four former bakers, three Christmas dishes, two grumpy judges and Noel Fielding in a green shirt.
The Great Christmas Bake Off – the first of two festive Bake Off specials airing on Channel 4 this yuletide – couldn’t have been more Christmassy if it was covered in marzipan.
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Past contestants Paul Jagger, Beca Lyne-Pirkis, Selasi Gbormittah and Val Stones, none of whom ever won Star Baker during their time in the tent, all returned for the chance to win that coveted Christmas cake stand.
Standing in their way was a Christmas yule log Signature, a mince pie Technical and eight snowglobe cakes for the Showstopper challenge – a first for Bake Off.
But it wasn’t just the yule logs that cracked. Like so many of us, Christmas proved to be the one thing that finally pushed Selasi over the edge. Famous for being so relaxed he was practically horizontal throughout most of 2016’s Bake Off, even he couldn’t handle the festive pressure.
When making the isomalt (sugar that could be moulded to look like glass) for his snowglobe dome, Selasi not only burnt himself but even uttered the phrase: “It’s actually really stressful.”
Both literally and metaphorically, the bakers were breaking their balls. As you’d hope, the episode was suitably and happily stuffed with innuendo. If Paul wasn’t asking Selasi how big his stump was, Noel was declaring: “That’s the best ball I’ve ever had.” And the less said about baker Paul dropping one of his balls, the better.
The infamous Bake Off squirrel – complete with giant, oversized nuts – made a comeback courtesy of Beca, while Val sung Jingle all the Way while roping in (at various points) Sandi, Prue and Noel to do her keep fit moves. Resident Scrooge Paul was having none of it, looking on witheringly as the rest of them had a jolly good jive.
Val, meanwhile, made us fall in love with her all over again. Whether it was calling Selasi her “favourite adopted son”, threatening to put Paul on the naughty step or speaking to her cakes, it was brilliant to see her back in the tent – despite the fact that most of her bakes were a total disaster.
Her domes shattered, her log was branded “a mess”, and she even managed to throw one of her melted cakes on the floor as it navigated the tricky path from bench to cake stand.
Not that she was worried. She had an ace up her sleeve in the form of a bottle of Prosecco for the judges, the second time in the space of an hour that Val had tried to bribe her way to victory after providing glasses of sherry alongside her yule log in round one.
For prison governor Paul, his lion bread from 2015 – dubbed “one of the most illustrious creations in Bake Off history” – seemed to hang like something of an albatross around his neck. He was back in the tent to try and be remembered for baking something – anything – else.
Although Noel helpfully suggested he create a ‘cheetah Naan’, what Paul actually had up his sleeve was even better but no less animal-themed – earning him the title of “the Attenborough of the cake world” from Noel. His showstopper – miniature penguins placed inside hand-blown snowglobes – were hands down the most impressive creation the tent saw this Christmas.
Not even Val’s bribery booze wasn’t enough to topple Paul from being crowned the winner and taking the Star Baker cake stand.
“I love the fact that you’ve taken your baking to a whole new level since leaving the tent,” said Paul to Paul. “You can tell.”
But the glacé cherry on top of the Bake Off tree was yet to come – and only marginally less bizarre than seeing Paul Hollywood’s beard festooned with glitter or that hilarious East 17-inspired trailer they released a week before the show aired.
Yes, Christmas ditty legend Roy Wood turned up to pump out some I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.
Everyone had clearly necked the sherry and Prosecco procured by Val, as Prue and Sandi excitedly jumped around as Noel gatecrashed the stage and did an impromptu duet with Roy.
Packed full of food, fun, chaos and sparkle, this Bake Off special had all the ingredients that makes Christmas just what it should be.