I was particularly excited about this week’s The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer. Why? I freakin’ love Tim Minchin. The wild ginger hair, the accent, the attitude… it works for me.
“I’m the clown in the tent,” he jokes. “I’m aware my job is to be an idiot.” More on that later.
Joining the Australian comedian in the tent were Ruth Davidson, head of the Scottish Conservative Party; singer-songwriter Ella Eyre; and Jamie Laing, known for TV series Made in Chelsea. Jamie’s other claim to fame, it transpired, was that his grandfather invented the digestive biscuit… a fact he refused to shut up about.
The contestants’ first task was to create a loaf cake. By Bake Off’s standards this should be relatively easy, but if this series so far was anything to go by, it probably wouldn’t be.
Ella, whose mum is a professional baker, whipped up a banoffee and walnut loaf, complete with salted caramel buttercream and praline shards. Jamie also used banana in his loaf cake, while Tim went for an ‘Apricotta’ (apricot and ricotta) cake, which he said the judges would view as ‘bravely elegant or lazy’. Given that he spent half the time chilling on the counter – “I can’t generate heat so I’m letting my oven bake my cake” – it would be easy to go with the latter. But the judges ultimately gave him a pass, even if the texture of his loaf proved a tad rubbery.
Ruth earned praise from judges Prue and Paul for arguably the most ambitious loaf cake in the tent – a chocolate orange marble cake. She even got a Hollywood handshake (although I reckon he’s getting way too generous with these… even if it is for charity).
Jamie, meanwhile, was ripped apart by Paul from the off, who questioned why he was using a food processor for his mix. My main question, meanwhile, was why did he put a phallic symbol on top of it? But not even that could save this monstrosity. After proclaiming it to look like a pork pie (and not a good one), Prue took a small bite and promptly spat it out. “It’s the worst cake that has even been baked in the tent,” Paul said. That’s something of an achievement, albeit one Jamie’s granddad probably wouldn’t be too proud of.
I waited to see if his baking genes would prove more useful in the technical – creating eight tiramisu biscuit sandwiches. Given how bamboozled he seemed with the recipe, this seemed unlikely, but as things turned out, it was my beloved Tim who failed spectacularly here.
“I’m technically challenged by the challenge,” he confessed, presenting what could only be described as a Jackson Pollock biscuit – a mass of splodges drizzled with some chocolate and cream. It was, at least, a tasty mess.
Ella came third, with biscuits so delicate they couldn’t even be picked up, followed by Jamie with his skinny sandwiches. Ruth scored the top spot after presenting the only ones that looked anything like Prue’s creations.
And so on to the showstopper: creating a celebration meringue tower in honour of a loved one’s birthday. The glint in Prue’s eyes as she said, “Not everything will stick”, suggested it was going to be fun to watch. And, as someone who is too scared to make meringues, I was nervous for them.
Many of the bakers struggled with their first batch – Ruth even had trouble getting them in the oven, dropping one lot while trying to put them on the shelf. For many, this would be game over, but not Ruth. She simply wiped down and whipped up another batch for her strawberry-tastic Wexford Wonder in honour of her Irish partner.
Ella, meanwhile, was busy creating a pineapple party tower for her friend, while Jamie and Tim went for similar flavours with an Eton mess and pavlova-inspired towers. They were made even more similar when Jamie copied Tim’s idea for using meringue as the glue. But that’s where it ended.
To the judges’ genuine astonishment, and my annoyance, Jamie triumphed. His pink and white meringue tower stood proud while Tim’s meringues slowly, but surely, slipped. As did he, settling into a comfortable position on the ground. Like Nick Hewer last week, Tim did his best to sell it: “It’s a symbol of the uneven distribution of wealth in society.” His meringues were wonderfully light, according to the judges, but alas, a tower it was not.
Ruth also suffered a bit of slippage, but not to the same degree and her “superb” meringues, a bold look featuring the colours of the Irish flag, and technique allowed her a little bit of slippage. Ella’s was the most stunning – the bright green pineapple tower, complete with real pineapple top was a triumph – even if a few people on Twitter said her meringues looked more like Brussels sprouts.
It was a close call, but Ruth’s consistency clinched her the win. However, for entertainment value alone, Tim was definitely the winner in my eyes. I’d happily watch an hour of him and Noel frolicking. Over to you Channel 4.