This week’s episode of the The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up 2 Cancer was like a happy trip down memory lane for me.
Not because I have a particular fondness for meringue or cream horns, but because of comedian James Acaster’s tribute to the most glorious theme park in Kettering – Wicksteed Park. I spent many happy days there during my childhood, so to see it encapsulated in meringue was something special.
James was joined in the tent by actor Russell Tovey (pictured below with Noel Fielding), actress Michelle Keegan and TV presenter Rylan Clark-Neal, who were first tasked with making a batch of 12 topped flapjacks for Paul and Prue.
“It’s about having fun, even if you’re bad at it,” chirped Rylan. Someone should have mentioned that to James.
“I’ve never baked before, let alone competitively, let alone on Bake Off. It’s the worst idea ever,” he said. Judging by his bakes it may well have been.
His cherry Bakewell flapjack was too runny before it went into the oven, and didn’t improve much afterwards. “I wish I were dead. I’m not taking that out of the oven, it’s like a soup,” James moaned. “This is supposed to be encouraging people to bake for charity. It’s the worst experience of my life.”
Rylan’s lemon and white choc offering looked pretty decent… until he attempted to cover them with a mixture that frankly looked curdled. Russell’s flapjacks were topped with peanut butter & raspberry brownies. I’m not normally one for hybrids, but I would eat a tray of those. And, despite her earlier scepticism, it seems Prue would too. Michelle’s after-dinner mint flapjacks also caught the judges’ attention thanks to their likeness to after-dinner mints.
On to the technical and this batch of celebrity bakers had their work cut out for them, as Paul said it was “one of the most complex challenges a group of celebrity bakers has ever faced”. Eek! The challenge was to create six cream horns from scratch.
The Bake Off innuendoes ensued, particularly when the contestants had to prepare the metal cones around which they would wrap their pastry.
“I’m coating the instrument with lubricating butter,” Russell said, while staring straight down the camera. “I’ve never greased a horn in the past, but I’m definitely enjoying it,” Rylan added.
It was at this point that James (pictured below) started to irritate me. I couldn’t tell if he was being purposefully useless or just inept in the kitchen, but either way I wanted him to try a little bit harder. He produced one, yes one, attempt at a cream horn filled with essentially orange-flavoured scrambled egg – a far cry from the perfection the judges were hoping for.
That, however, was delivered by Michelle with “exceptionally good” pastry and filling. Rylan also produced a decent cream horn. It certainly impressed British Baker editor Vince Bamford who declared: “I would have Rylan’s horn any day.”
Last up is the showstopper and James’ depiction of Wicksteed Park in meringue to fulfil the brief of a 3D meringue depiction of your happy place. Clearly, a theme park in the Midlands is the key to unlocking his enthusiasm as James actually seemed to try in the final round, producing an “absolutely remarkable” 3D scene of the rollercoaster, complete with park mascot, Wicky Bear.
In fact, all four of the bakers put their best food forward for the showstopper, with impressive results all round. Russell recreated a sunrise he experienced with his French bulldog while camping, Michelle made a mountain skiing scene and Rylan made a poo emoji. Ok, so it wasn’t a poo emoji, it was a rock in Ibiza, complete with a meringue sea and shortbread beach.
Ultimately, however, there could only be one winner and the accolade of star baker was rightfully awarded to Michelle Keegan (below). James was clearly robbed.