The Great British Bake Off: This is No Time to Riff

Who_will_win_The_Great_British_Bake_Off_series_six_The Bake Off is back! Hope you’ve all perfected your pastry and sponge because Paul and Mary have high expectations now!

Mel and Sue welcome us back with a little play on worriers/warriors that isn’t quite as funny as I hoped. Looks like it might take a little while to get into the stride.

Some of the new bakers talk about how shocking and scary this is. One of them is hoping just to serve non-raw food that tastes good. Those are good places to start. One woman tells us she’s quite random: she can start off making a cake, and then by the time she’s finished it’s a meat pie. Say what? That doesn’t sound random so much as…Mad Hatter-ish. And possibly magical.

We’re at Welford Park in Berkshire these days. Mel and Sue do some lunges and pick up cakes, because it’s cake week! Mmm, cake. Everyone’s arrayed in the tent and Mel and Sue introduce the first challenge: a Madeira cake.

Paul’s super excited about having 12 new bakers to break in. (Or break, presumably).

A woman named Ugne who’s apparently really into bodybuilding is making a cake with lemon and thyme.

Nadiya tells Paul and Mary that she’s making a cardamom and orange cake. Paul warns her to go easy with the cardamom. She knows. He always acts like these people have never made these recipes before. You’d have to be insane to go on this show and make something for the first time.

Ian’s up next. He’s mixing coconut, lime, and ginger into his ‘somewhere west of Madeira’ cake. Could be yummy.

Mat (did his parents seriously name him that? That’s shitty, Mat’s parents) is doing a gin and tonic cake, which Mary declares very original. He seems surprised to hear that. The glaze will have lemon and a bit of gin in it. How’s he getting the tonic flavor in there?

Other bakers are going full-on traditional with the classic citrus flavours.

Marie is our Scot this year. She bakes almost every day, so her grandkids love her. Start those diabetes young, kids!

Dorrett has truly awesome hair. She figured that, for the first challenge, the judges wanted to ‘get the cut of her jib’, so she’s not going fancy.

Flora is the youngest baker this year, at 19. She’s from Perthshire (so two Scots this year! Yay!). She’s using blood orange in her cake.

Alvin’s putting dried figs in his cake and leaving them whole. Paul asks if he’s ever considered chopping them up, which is PaulSpeak for ‘chop your damn figs up, those things are way too massive!’ Too late now, though.

Sandy, the random lady, is a child welfare officer, which must be a seriously depressing job most of the time, so my hat’s off to her. She’s also using chunky fruit: apricots.

Laurel totally forgot to turn her oven on, because at home, they have an Aga. We can now make all sorts of snap class-related judgments about her now. She pops her cake in, hoping it’ll have enough time to cook.

MelVO tells us the cake is typically coated with a glaze and brittle, candied fruit. The bakers get started on their glazes.

Let’s meet Stu, who’s a musician and is making a chocolate and lime Madeira cake. He’s making a sort of caramel for the top.

There’s a contestant named Paul, a prison warden with a penchant for sugarcraft. Hey, everyone needs an outlet, right? He’s making a lemon, ginger and caraway seed cake.

The last bit of baking is super important, because when the middle cooks, it’s supposed to crack across the top. Apparently this crack is the Madeira holy grail. Cracked cakes start coming out of the ovens. Some are more cracked than others.

Tamal is injecting a lemon syrup into his pistachio and rose cake. Mmm, good flavours. As long as he doesn’t go too heavy with the Rose.

Laurel’s cake isn’t done. She’s starting to get a bit anxious. Others are unmoulding their cakes and looking pleased, though Paul is disappointed with his cake’s colour. They glaze frantically. Laurel finally yanks her cake out with just a few minutes to go.

Time is called, the cakes are presented. Tamal’s cake has some lovely roses made from apple slices on the top.

Nadiya’s cake has the split and a lovely colour, as well as nice brittle, candied peel. Mary says she got the right hit of cardamom.

Ugne’s cake didn’t crack as well as she’d hoped, and Mary doesn’t get the strong thyme flavor. Paul agrees it’s overwhelmingly lemony.

Ian’s Somewhere West of Madeira Cake got stodgy because of the coconut. Paul says it’s like wallpaper paste. Ick.

Stu’s Marley Madeira Cake doesn’t go over well with Mary, who’s not convinced about the half chocolate half lime thing he has going. Paul takes a bite and asks what the hell is on the top of this. Stu admits his glaze kind of turned to caramel. Oh, he didn’t mean for that to happen? Paul’s teeth seem glued together and he says the flavours don’t work for him at all.

Flora’s blood orange cake is praised all around, so the stress about the oven was all for naught.

Predictably, all those damn figs sank right to the bottom of Alvin’s cake, though the cake’s texture is great.

Sandra’s apricots were small enough not to sink, so well done there.

Paul’s lemon, ginger and caraway cake didn’t really rise and is overbaked.

Mat’s gin and tonic cake doesn’t have enough gin flavor for Mary.

Tamal’s beautiful pistachio and rose cake goes down a treat. Paul loves it.

Dorret’s cake with candied lemons has a great colour but not very crisp peel on the top. Texture’s good, but the flavor is bland

Marie’s citrus cake looks so great Paul knows she’s an expert. Paul says it’s a perfect Madeira. She’s quite pleased.

Time for the technical. It’s Mary’s challenge, and she suggests they read the recipe at least twice, and weigh carefully. They have to make a walnut cake. That’s not so terribly hard, but it is the first episode.

Paul asks Mary where she thinks the bakers could go wrong. Well, they need to make sure the walnuts are chopped small enough not to sink in the sponge, for starters. Paul cuts a piece of the example cake and points out that you can see all three layers and the buttercream and an even layer of frosting made over hot water. Oh, I think I’ve heard of that. I might have done it once. Not as difficult or strange as it may seem.

The bakers chop walnuts, worrying about leaving them too big. They cream butter and sugar, then go to add eggs, except Paul just creamed everything together at once. I’ve honestly not found that it typically makes that big a difference. Might make the sponge a little heavy. Cakes go into the oven and the bakers start making caramelized walnuts. Ugh, caramel. Kind of a pain in the ass. Some of them do just fine, others are having a disastrous time of it. Stu thinks there’s not enough water in his caramel, so he’s going to go off recipe and add more. Will people never learn? You DO NOT GO OFF RECIPE!

Cakes come out. One of the guys’ layers aren’t even.

Stu still can’t get his caramel right, and Sandra coaches him a bit. I do like how people help each other out on this show.

This meringue frosting is confusing just about everyone, but they give it a go, beating sugar, cream of tartar, and egg whites over hot water. It starts coming up nice and fluffy.

Stu gives up on the damn caramel because he just doesn’t have time. Layers are sandwiched with buttercream and then frosted while Sue licks a beater and tells them they have five minutes left. Frantic frosting!

Judging commences. Flora gets good marks, though the icing is slightly crystallised. The next one is granular. Tamal is grainy too. Sandra has a good sponge. Again, no good on the icing. Stu only got one walnut done and his frosting is underwhisked. Marie and Ugne do well. Nadiya for some reason neglected to frost the sides of her cake, and her frosting is grainy. Ian’s nuts somehow crowded out to the very edges of the layers. Dorret’s walnuts were too big. Paul is ok, but again with the granular frosting. Last to first: Nadiya, Stu, Paul, Sandy, Ian, Mat, Flora, Dorret, Tamal, Marie, Alvin, Ugne. Well done, Ugne! She did go above and beyond—even created a little caramel decoration for the top. She does a cute little happy dance and interviews that that made up for the Madeira cake.

Ahead of the showstopper, the judges and hosts discuss who’s in the lead. Marie and Flora are up there, along with Alvin, while Stu, Ian, and Paul are down at the bottom.

In the tent, Mel tells us they’re going back to the 1970s and asking for a Black Forest gateau. Ick. I don’t know what it is about those cakes, but I really don’t care for them, which is strange, because I like all the things that go into them, individually. Just not together, it seems.

MelVO tells us the classic Black Forest is made with chocolate, cherries, cream, and kirsch. Stu is doing things a bit differently and making a Purple Forest gateau with beetroot in it, to keep it moist. Paul’s eyebrows hit the ceiling and he asks if the typical sponge isn’t moist enough? PaulSpeak for, don’t go off book, son, you can’t handle it, clearly. Mary reminds him to do some nice chocolate work. He promises truffles and chocolate trees around the outside.

Flora is adding cherry powder to her sponge. Interesting. She’s also making chocolate and kirsch truffles. She’s currently trying to avoid tacky pink colours.

Dorret’s using two sponges: one a very dense, rich sponge, which seizes up on her right in front of the judges. They reassure her and Paul just tells her to stay calm and collected. Aww, that was nice.

Nadiya is making her layers with a very sticky, gooey chocolate cake, which is pretty much the opposite of what you usually have in a Black Forest.

Sandy is adding a chocolate shortbread base to her cake, because she had a cake just like that in the actual black forest. She describes her most recent practice cake as being ‘powerful’. Like, if you chucked it at someone it would do damage? I’ve never looked at a cake and thought, ‘that’s a good, strong, powerful cake!’

Ian is setting his sponges on a chocolate macaroon base and topping the cake with a chocolate tree. He hopes to pipe some little flowers and animals on, if he has time.

Ugne and Alvin are happy with how their sponge layers look, as they come out of the oven. Stu’s are burned. There are actual black bits on them.

Sue jokes with Paul the contestant about having to put all his bakes through an X-ray machine at work. He does not seem amused. Lighten up, man!

While sponges cool, the bakers start working on fillings and decorations. Mat’s making a cherry jam to go inside, while Alvin makes a mirror glaze. He seems pretty chill. Bakers start tempering chocolate, which is a pain in the ass and I’ve never managed to get it quite right. Mat is apparently trying to temper just because everyone else is doing it, even though he has no idea what he’s doing. Sigh. Tempered chocolate is piped over stencils. Ian is making elephants and things, which are totally native to the Black Forest, right? Ugne’s dipping balloons into the chocolate to make cups and saucers to top her cake. Nadiya approves. Tamal is making a rather complicated collar for his cake. If he gets that to work, my hat will be off to him. I have faith, following that glorious looking Madeira. Things are not going well for Stu, of course. He’s still got loads to do.

Sue tries some of Marie’s filling and practically orgasms. ‘You enjoying that?’ Marie asks her.

Dorret realizes her mousse isn’t going to set fast enough and throws her cake back into the fridge.

Paul is having trouble frosting his cake. You can see the sponge through the frosting, which isn’t good.

Decorations and finishing touches go on. Some of these are looking really amazing. Not Dorret’s, though. The mousse didn’t set even a little, so when she unmoulds the cake, it collapses all over the place. Oh, man. She looks like she’s going to burst into tears, so Sue comes over to try and buck her up. ‘Piping is a great thing!’ she tells poor Dorret. Time is called and Sue tells her that this doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to go home.

Flora presents a really perfect looking cake. It’s massively tall, but she’s got two different colours of sponge in there, and lovely piping and it just looks lovely. Well done, Flora. Apparently it also tastes good. Mary likes the cherry sponge and tells Flora she was brave to do that. Paul’s only quibble is that there’s not a lot of alcohol flavor coming through.

Ugne’s cake also looks pretty good, though much busier than Flora’s. It’s got cherries and things all spilling out of the chocolate cake, which both Paul and Mary find impressive and theatrical. But the sponge is disappointing, because it’s not very sponge like.

Marie’s cake is toped with somewhat simple but very well rendered chocolate trees, which Mary appreciates. The sponge is very light and Paul loves the cake.

Alvin’s cake is pretty spectacular, decorated with chocolate shards around the edge and gold leaf accents. Mary says it looks totally modern, but not in a ‘that’s a bad thing’ sort of way. Good flavor.

Mat gets high marks. Mary says the layers taste ‘exceedingly good’.

Paul did a nice job tempering the chocolate and Mary likes the distinct layering. Good texture in the layers as well.

Sandy’s cake is just ok. Mary isn’t too crazy about the shortbread, since it doesn’t add much, and Paul thinks the piping work looks dated.

Tamal’s collar worked and looks pretty good. Mary’s hat is off to him for managing it. He used cherry juice in the ganache and Paul says this is great.

Stu presents his cake, which is frosted with Italian meringue, which Paul declares ‘interesting’ and not in a particularly good way. Mary is disappointed not to see any chocolate work. The cake is too dense.

Nadiya really got that mirror shine on her cake. Mary says it looks quite smart. Happily, the flavor and texture match the appearance.

Sue gently asks Dorret to come up and present her melted mess of a cake. Paul asks what happened and she says that she had to redo one of her sponges and her timing just got completely screwed. Paul says the heavier sponges are like rubber, though the other layers are fine.

Finally, Ian. Mary tells him it looks nice and he should be proud of it. Mary likes the macaroon base and Paul says he’s gotten a good blend of flavours and the cake looks really smart.

The judges confer. Tamal is definitely up there, along with Marie, Flora, and Nadiya. Stu, Ugne, and Dorret didn’t have very strong days, though. I doubt Ugne’s going to go, since she did so well in the technical. Stu. Has to be.

Everyone re-gathers in the tent. Sue gets to announce star baker: it’s Marie! Well done, Marie! Mel is made to announce this week’s loser: Stu. I knew it. He gets his hugs and Paul handshake. He interviews that it sucks to be the first to go, but whaddayagonnado? Back to music!

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