It was hard to tell whether I was watching The Great Celebrity Bake Off last night or Carry On Baking. With all the antics, the innuendoes and the buffoonery, I was surprised not to see Barbara Windsor make an appearance.
Instead, viewers were graced with the presence of comedians Lee Mack and Joe Lycett, TV and radio presenter Melanie Sykes, and actor Griff Rhys Jones. Being a Millennial, I didn’t know who Griff Rhys Jones was (for a brief second, I thought he was the actor who played Gimli in Lord of the Rings, but apparently that was John Rhys-Davies). As my editor has kindly informed me, Griff was a comedy actor in the early 1980s, somewhat before my time. That said, he’s now a total dish.
With a line-up like that, it didn’t take long for the antics to begin. Shortly into the signature bake, in which the celebrities were tasked with creating 12 blondies complete with toppings, Lee cut himself. “I managed to break the scissors and cut my finger and we’re 12 minutes in,” he says. And things didn’t improve for the Not Going Out actor any time soon.
As Noel and Sandi declared 15 minutes to go, and Lee finally put his apple and pecan blondies in the oven. Needless to say, they were basically raw when presented to the judges. Paul faked a Hollywood handshake in true playground style, while Prue tried to put a positive spin on the disaster, saying they’d be ok with yoghurt for breakfast. At a second mention of breakfast, Lee brazenly asked, “Are you coming on to me Prue?” And the flirting began.
The others fared better in the signature. Despite a sweaty bottom, the judges said Joe’s white chocolate, orange and macadamia creations tasted nice, but were a bit on the raw side. Griff’s white chocolate, apricot and pecan offering was declared delicious, while Mel earned a real Hollywood handshake for her peanut butter blondies. “You just wanted to touch me, didn’t you?” she said.
It got worse. When Joe asked if his rough puff pastry for the technical’s six apricot and raspberry turnovers was too rough, Sandi replied, “I’ve never had a boy ask me if it’s too rough.”
Thank goodness I was not watching this with my dad. I’d have had to leave the room.
As it turned out, Joe’s pastry wasn’t too rough, but it was a tad raw. And icing ‘I ️ Paul’ on the plate didn’t win him brownie points either, as Joe came in third on the technical. Griff did a good job, securing second place and Mel triumphed with her flaky pastry securing first. As expected, Lee failed miserably.
Going into the showstopper, Lee was a marked man.
“I dread to see what he will come up with,” said Paul. Particularly when tasked with creating a secret passion cake – oo-er missus. Turns out they meant a cake with a secret centre that shows a little-known hobby. Except, really, when you tell the judges exactly what’s in the middle of the cake before it has been made, it’s not that secret is it?
Mel went for a Frida Kahlo-inspired chilli and chocolate cake, complete with tequila buttercream and colourful decorations, representing her love of art. Griff, as a keen gardener, crafted his compost heap, including logs, mushrooms and soil with a hidden snake and ‘truffle’ eggs from chocolate, flavoured with quince.
Joe made a miniature version of himself in a bubble bath out of Victoria sponge and Champagne buttercream, with hidden bath bomb truffles made by his mum. Turns out, Paul also loves a bath. But “shower in the morning, bath at night” (obviously). “That’s why you smell so fresh,” says Joe.
Lee, it turned out, is something of a darts fanatic, even holding a Guinness World Record for the most bullseyes in a minute. So he made a lemon drizzle cake decorated like a dart board.
It was a challenging round for the bakers – well maybe not Joe, who seemed to spend a lot of time sipping on Champagne. It’s a hard life. A spot of champers went down well with the judges, too, with Prue openly admitting she was “appreciative of the bribe”… but not enough to let slide the fact that the cake was overbaked. Mel’s was also overcooked, but was undoubtedly representative of the Mexican artist with its colours, flavours and overall look.
Griff’s choice to use chocolate for his decorations over fondant icing added complications. Luckily, a compost heap isn’t exactly tidy and his extra attention to detail with handmade truffles went a long way to winning Prue over. As did their mutual love of gardening. “You can come over and see my compost heap any time,” he said cheekily. Please… make it stop!
But alas, it did not. “Your wife’s sponge is delicious,” declared Paul as he tasted Lee’s dart board cake. It was actually respectable, particularly given his harrowing start to the competition. Although his method of using an electric whisk to mix icing sugar and water seemed unorthodox.
But even a beautifully risen, moist cake couldn’t bring it back for Lee and a troubling technical wrote Joe off, leaving Mel to clinch the win over Griff.
But with all that tension building, what may have happened when the cameras turned off is another matter entirely. Bake Off After Dark anyone?