Is it just me, or is this year’s GBBO lacking something? I want my cake with a cherry on top but this season I’m not quite feeling it.
The innuendos seem forced. The bakes could be more imaginative. And as we went in to dessert week, I found I struggled to remember all the contestants’ names.
Here were the twee twosome Alice and Rosie, and the interchangeable trio Henry, David and Michael. Note to self, Henry’s the one in the not-quite-zany shirt and tie combo. Plus, we have two-time star baker Steph and questionable survivor of past exits Priya.
I miss last season’s quirky Kim-Joy and humble Rahoul.
As the episode opened, Michael shuddered: "It’s like being picked off one by one, like in an Agatha Christie novel." If only it was so thrilling.
But let’s focus on the desserts, and the first challenge of creating a meringue cake.
Prue warned that the simplicity of the task could lull contestants into taking dangerous risks by over complicating their bakes.
Only David fell into this trap, with a spiced surprise, whose clove, star anise and cinnamon flavours ruined the otherwise beautiful cake.
Prue let rip at Priya’s family favourite cake, declaring: "The colour of your blueberry cream is horrible." Priya had also used too much amaretto and overbaked her meringue.
Rosie’s cake looked wonky but was delicious, according to Prue. However, Paul felt Rosie’s choice of chocolate didn’t go with the raspberry and cream. Controversial? Rosie plainly didn’t agree.
It wasn’t a great week for chocolate as it also overwhelmed Alice’s Black Forest meringue.
Paul said: "The chocolate is there, but you are hunting for another big flavour and it doesn’t arrive." Prue suggested the use of Morello cherries would have given it more punch.
A thick coat of chocolate encasing Michael’s entire cake caused his meringue to "sweat". Bleurgh.
Steph went nuts by adding too many pistachios to her Eton Mess-style meringue, but it was deemed a "yummy celebration of cake" nevertheless.
Henry was criticised for stacking the layers in his towering cake in the wrong order, resulting in a messy appearance. Paul’s query as to whether Henry had made the raspberry jam himself was met with an indignant "cheek" from the doubted contestant.
After recent technical challenges left many bakers deflated, this week’s task was a less inspiring verrine – a layered dessert in a glass. This was to be no sloppy trifle or parfait, however, as Prue demanded identical layers of mango compote, coconut panna cotta, raspberry jelly and streusel across six glasses, topped with a Sablé biscuit.
The trick is to chill each layer before adding the next... something Priya sorely lacked as she watched her jelly fall through her panna cotta.
There was an odd moment when Michael lost himself in The Sound of Music and confused ’streusel’ with a Von Trapp child. Oh the tent was alive with sound of Liesl laughing.
Not to be outdone in the silly stakes, Henry declared he couldn’t carry his tray of verrines to the judging table, but then got over himself and did it anyway.
Everyone managed to pull off the technical challenge with aplomb. Even seventh-placed Priya delivered a "delicious" but not-quite-set pud. Michael came sixth, Rosie fifth, Henry fourth, Steph third and David second. Which left Alice’s "near perfect" verrine in first place.
As we headed into the final round, Steph and Alice were in line for star baker while Priya and Michael were at risk of going home. Surely they wouldn’t axe Michael on his 26th birthday. Would they?
If Noel’s offer of a Paul and Prue stripagram to mark Michael’s birthday wasn’t enough to put contestants off their stride, the bakers would be busy turning out "celebratory bombes".
Or not turning out, as the case may be.
The judges wanted luxurious desserts with many layers and textures, created in domed moulds, running a high risk of collapse. Assuming successful spheres or semi-spheres were plated, these should be highly decorated.
While most bakers lined their moulds with sponge before layering their fillings, Steph took a greater risk and lined hers with chocolate mousse. Her idea was to coat the turned-out bombe with a mirror glaze. David also upped the ante by adding a layer of sorbet to his creation.
As with the verrine, the sensible idea was to chill each layer before adding the next. Henry bucked this trend by layering his fillings with cardboard in order to set the whole bombe in one go. The plan was to remove the cardboard and restack the layers to create the finished dessert. This proved a messy method, but successful.
As bakers balanced chilling time against decorating time, the Henry-David-Michael ensemble clustered around a fridge and debated the setting time of gelatine.
"Welcome to the least laddy lads’ club," Henry told Sandi.
The only baker who struggled to unmould their bombe was Alice. After much banging and, close to tears, she wrestled it out and went on to present a tiramisu-flavoured "triumph".
Had she upstaged Steph, whose mirror glazed bombe shone and nearly earned her a Hollywood handshake (of which there were none this week)?
Even so, Paul told her: "It’s one of the nicest things I’ve had to eat for a long time."
Having taken a blow torch to the cream covering his bombe, Henry unwittingly presented a "scorched igloo" that was stodgy and bland, despite its flavours of cinnamon and spiced honey, and left him expecting to be sent home.
More successful was David whose beautifully scorched rose design encased "delicious" lemon and shiso leaf sorbet, with raspberry and rose jelly, and a white chocolate and rose mousse. Sadly his jelly was so rubbery that Paul feared it would bounce if dropped and hit him in the face. Some things are just not meant to be.
Rosie presented a gaudy red bombe to celebrate her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, filled with lemon and hibiscus mousse, honey cake and mango bavarois. Her flavours were interesting, but the mango "didn’t go with the others".
The chocolate curse didn’t seem to adversely affect the taste of Michael’s Black Forest bombe, which had four chocolate elements in addition to cherry jelly and cheesecake but looked like "the Queen Mum’s hat". Not in a good way.
But it was Priya’s summer fruit bombe that came in for the harshest criticism. Despite shards of raspberry meringue giving an "elegant" appearance, her flavour profiles disappointed, with a raspberry bavarois failing to hold up against a too sweet chocolate mousse.
Finally, time had run out for Priya and she was the baker to be sent packing.
Steph, meanwhile, took star baker for a record breaking third time in a row.
Here’s a few titbits based on this week’s episode:
Most likely to win: Steph
Who should have gone home: Priya
Most fun to watch: the fridge
Quote of the week: "I had worked out what I was going to nick from the tent. I was going to take an apron, a spoon, a bowl, maybe a whisk" – Henry