The theme tune, the tent (or the 'marquee of madness' as it was quite rightly described last night), the judges and the irreplaceable Mel and Sue...the stage was set, and I felt those GBBO butterflies all over again!
The signature challenge was for the bakers to make their ‘drizz the shizz’ (lemon drizzle cake, to you and I) – and I was thrilled to see something familiar become the first bake of 2016.
Some of the flavours were bold, if a little unusual - Cointreau and lemonade stuck out to me as unexpected - but I loved that Louise chose it because her mum likes to drink it at Christmas, and I also enjoyed that she then went on to make it look like an orange too!
Andrew took drizzle penetration a tad too seriously, perhaps, and I noticed that Candice saved Selasi, who was on cake number two, by suggesting he put his forgotten cinnamon into his drizzle (now that’s what being British is all about!)
Kate ‘likes the flavour of a cox’ (steady…) but I thought spoilt the look of her apple cake by adding a blackberry drizzle, which the judges couldn’t even taste. Tom added too much gin (if there is such a thing), but Lee’s cake seemed to come off worst after judging, and he was told the texture was not good, which I had guessed would be the case after Mary spotted his curdled mixture. Benjamina and Jane did well in this challenge – if I was going to eat a slice of one of the cakes mind, I’d probably go for the ‘puddingy’, gluten-free rhubarb and custard one.
Next, the ingredients for a super-fun technical challenge lay cheekily beneath the gingham tea towels. Jaffa cakes (for me, a cake by name and nature) whisked sponge, orange Jelly and chocolate, hooray!
Lovely Candice was the first baker to go bravely but worryingly off-piste in the technical challenge, by adding orange juice to her jelly. But she got away with it...phew. Andrew, Jane and Val were upside-down at times, but trust me, you question every small decision in that tent. Tom and Selasi’s Jaffa cakes were the tops.
Then came a shiny showstopper challenge. I liked this challenge a lot too. Olga Noskova is the queen of the mirror glaze cake and I have spent many hours gazing in wonder at her works of art on Instagram (olganoskovaa).
This wasn’t an easy challenge at all and saw a lot of bakers starting over again from scratch with many different elements. I am a Matcha tea lover, so was excited to see Michael’s Genoese – but I just want to add here that Ryan Chong made one in series 3, so in fact the judges have tried it before, despite what they said.
Jane was jaff-at-it again with huge success. I really felt the tension and the tears of the bakers in this showstopper. Benjamina fretted unnecessarily as her simple white chocolate cake turned out beautifully. I have to put it out there, though, that I hate blue food, and this meant I was sad again with Kate for her finished bake. Her cake did however sound lovely, as she has opted for the humble and underused gooseberry, which I love love love! Andrew snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a cake that (like his hair) was clean, neat and even – good work!
My not-so-secret fav’ baker Val (who, like my very clever GBBO buddy John Whaite, listens to her cakes to know when they are done) was told “see me” by Paul – yikes! But it seemed to be Lee who had a bit of a ‘mare again, as his ganache split and he had another dry cake. It’s always a worry when you question your ideas with the judges: “Should I add cream?” he asked... “Yes”, they thought, BUT DID NOT SAY! I must confess I don’ much care for strawberry and chocolate as a combination either (unless it’s a strawberry crème in a box of Roses, for which I’ll make an exception). Sorry Lee.
So, in the end, I agreed that Jane was the star baker, and although I was really sad I was resigned to say a fond cheerio to Lee.
This looks like a cracking series with 12...oops now 11...lovely new bakers. I can’t wait for episode two, but already feel sick having seen the trailer. It makes me reminisce about my ‘crumby’ biscuit week exit and a regal gingerbread structure that will haunt me forever – sorry your majesty!