The Great British Bakeoff: Mary Berry’s Cherry (Cake)

The Great British Bakeoff is back and OMG did you hear that this season has the oldest AND the youngest contestants EVER? Yeah, I don’t care nearly as much as the Beebs seems to think I should. Frankly, I don’t care about any of the contestants’ ages, genders, sexual orientations, skin colours, or ancestry, I just care about the bakes.

So, let’s get to it, so we? Mel and Sue welcome us back as the VO tell us that many applied, but just 12 have made it through to face the next 12 gruelling weeks of baking scrutiny. One woman tells us she’s been baking 60 years, while one guy stresses about potentially burning things. A Scotsman is really looking forward to having Mary taste his wares. That’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds on the page.

GBBO has apparently moved to Welford Park in Berkshire. Mel and Sue are reclining on the lawn, talking about cake. Mmmm, cake. We join the Caketestants in the tent to get the first challenge: a Swiss roll. Tough, those can go very wrong. And they’re off!

The Berry can’t wait to see what the new bakers are like and says she always learns from the bakers. Aww. Paul says they need to make sure the filling’s not too wet and the roll has to be well, um, rolled.

Diana, the oldest contestant, has been in the WI since she was 13 and is filling her roll with lemon curd. Also, she’s been married to her husband for more than 50 years, which I think is deserving of some sort of medal in this day and age.

Paul and Mary swing by Luis, who’s doing a ‘Spanish Swiss roll’, which includes honey from his own bees. Cool. It also has aniseed. Paul warns him not to go too heavy with that, since it’s an overpowering flavor.

Chetna has two kids and a husband and is making a cardamom, pistachio, and coffee roll, which is the first one she’s ever made. That sounds delicious, but then, I’ll eat anything with cardamom in it. VO tells us the roll is usually made with a fatless sponge that heavily features beaten egg whites.

Claire is making a chocolate orange swirl roll in honour of her dad, who loves chocolate orange. Hey, don’t mess with a classic. Richard’s doing a roll with lots of pistachio and strawberries, decorated with pink flowers, in honour of his daughters. Awww. Jordan is doing some OCD decorations that’ll be baked right into the roll. If that works, it’ll be pretty cool looking. He worries he doesn’t have enough time to freeze the pattern and make it all work.

Now there’s Enwezor, who’s already baking his sponge. He has a wife and four very young kids, who are totally adorable. He talks to the judges about getting the right proportion of sponge to filling.

Sponges start to go in the oven. They’re fairly delicate and bake really quickly, so everyone’s already tense. They start to pull them out and invert them to cool. Furniture restorer Kate keeps opening the oven to test hers.

Martha, the 17-year-old, is doing a tiramisu roll and had to balance Bakeoff prep with studying for her exams. She’s rolling hers while it’s still warm, which is a good idea, as I learned last year. Most of the bakers are doing that. Iain is scoring his roll, to make the roll come together even tighter. He’s doing an apricot and basil roll. Interesting. I tend to appreciate it when people use herbs in their baking, particularly when they use herbs like basil, which not too many people associate with sweets.

Norman, the Scotsman, is doing a Black Forest roll. He has an adorable schnauzer and is a potter in his free time. He made a cute presentation plate that has little Swiss roll feet on it. Hee!

Nancy keeps hens and has a big family. She’s worried about her nuts going nasty.

Fifteen minutes to go. Rolls get rolled. One guy’s roll is not working at all—he’s got too much chunky fruit and filling in it, and the sponge is just splitting all over. Others come out much better. The one with the pink flowers baked into it looks lovely at first glance. Norman stares at a slice of his, and then decides it looks ok. Caketestants move their rolls to their plates and add last-minute decorations.

Time is called. Martha’s first. Paul likes the decoration but says she didn’t get much of a swirl. Mary compliments the sponge and Paul says it all tastes fantastic. Enwezor’s raspberry and lemon roll looks good, but Mary says it looks a little underbaked and the raspberry is bleeding into the sponge. Chetna’s cardamom, pistachio, and coffee is beautiful and the flavours are good. Jordan’s frasier Swiss roll is adorable but too moist. Diana’s is classic, but needs something to make it stick together a bit better. Claire’s chocolatey orangey swirly roll has a great decoration on it but nondescript cream, according to Mary. Paul says the orange overpowers everything. Iain’s apricot and basil roll is the one that fell apart. He’s the one who scored the sponge, so don’t do that. Nancy’s roll is yummy and has a nice spiral. Norman’s black forest roll has great sponge and flavor. Luis’s Spanish roll sounds really great. Kate’s red velvet and white chocolate has great swirl and decorations, but it’s dry. Too long of a bake. Richard’s pistachio and strawberry roll has adorable decorations, a lovely spiral, and a fantastic flavour, according to Paul. Mary declares it a winner. Well done, Richard!

Kate knows she’s near the bottom. Richard’s chuffed to have gotten so many compliments. Claire’s disappointed in herself and crying.

Technical! They have to make Mary’s cherry cake. Sue actually tells them they have two hours to pop Mary Berry’s cherry…into the oven. Woah.

Usual stressing about the sparse recipe.

In the judges’ tent, Mary tells us this is tricky to get right, because the cherries sometimes sink to the bottom. Also, the icing can be too runny. Essentially, it’s a bundt cake with glace cherries in it and royal icing drizzled over the top. Sadly, nobody tries this presentation:

Nobody really knows what to do with the cherries. Martha remembers reading somewhere you have to dry them before you add them to a cake. Someone else says you need to mix them with flour to keep them from sinking.

Mixes are popped in the oven and some of the bakers discuss what they did. Sounds like Jordan might have forgotten to put the cherries in his. I think that may be a problem.

Out come the cakes. Martha perkily tells us the hard part is turning out the cake. Looks like hers comes out just fine. You know, I kind of like her. She seems sweet and bubbly, but not in an annoying way. Claire worries a little, because her cake doesn’t look like someone else’s. Everyone waves the recipe over the cakes to cool them as fast as possible. Mel joins Norman, who says this is a blast from the 70’s. Heh. It really is. Who really bakes with glace cherries anymore? Personally, I think they’re kind of gross.

Just a few minutes left. They begin toasting their slivered almonds. Chetna smells something burning. It’s Kate’s almonds. She dumps them and starts over. Icing sugar is mixed with lemon juice to make the drizzle. Some do a prim drizzle with icing bags, others do the slop-on-and-go, which is more what The Berry’s cake looked like. They finish off by scattering the almonds and a few more cherries over the top. Luis and Diana high five in relief.

Mary and Paul come in and start with Martha’s. It looks good and gets high marks. Kate’s is overbaked in both cake and nuts. Good cherry distribution, though. Enwezor’s is a little dry and has runny icing. Diana’s cherries dropped. Chetna’s is good. Norman’s got overbaked nuts and runny icing. Richard left his cherries whole, which made them sink. Claire’s left her cherries too big too. Iain has a good bake. Jordan didn’t totally forget all the cherries, but didn’t put enough in. Luis’s cherries dropped. Nancy is precise. Paul tells them they did pretty well, overall. Jordan is last, then Norman, Richard, Enwezor, Claire, Luis, Kate, Diana, Iain, Chetna, Martha, and Nancy. Everyone applauds her. She’s delighted, Richard is slightly humbled. Norman says this is encouraging him to try harder, and to have one pint fewer that night. Heh.

Final challenge of the first week. It’s pouring rain outside the tent. In the pre-game, Mary marvels at Martha’s skills, despite her youth. Mel and Sue expect Norman to pull himself back up.

For the showstopper, the bakers have to do their own British cake in miniature. And they have to do 36 of them. Yikes!

Norman’s using what he calls his lucky wooden spoon. Chetna’s making a Victoria sponge, of course. With lemon curd and raspberry cream. That is the classic British cake, right? I imagine most of them will make that. And yes, Kate is making Vickies as well. What else would they do, Battenbergs? Nancy is making Jaffa orange cakes. Mmm. She’s got a wee guillotine to get them all cut to exactly the same size. It does not, sadly, have a tiny razor blade that drops down, though. That would have been awesome. Claire is doing chocolate cherry cakes. She’s nervous about being sent home but just trying to enjoy herself. Luis and Jordan are doing genoise sponge, which is a tricky one. Jordan is doing lemon drizzle cakes. Luis is soaking his with elderflower syrup and filling it with raspberry cream. He’s inserting a strange plastic syringe-like thing in each cake to infuse it with lemon drizzle. And he’s serving it like that. Mel tells him that’s kind of weirdly medical looking and Mary skeptically asks him if he’d actually want one of those in his cake if he were going out for tea. That’s Berry speak for ‘don’t serve that crap to me, son.’ How do these people not yet speak fluent PaulandMary? Martha’s making tiny lemon drizzle cakes with lemon thyme. Nice choice. Paul wonders if that might be too straightforward and tells her it has to be really perfect. She knows.

Cakes start going into the ovens. They bake and are swiftly removed and others popped in. Enwezor is making a coffee and walnut Battenberg and starts slicing some of his layers. Some of Iain’s lemon drizzle cakes have baked a little unevenly. Sue tries some chocolate mousse. Mel comes over and they start fighting over it. Sue actually flees with it and Mel chases her around the tent. Norman, who seems to have no time for this, is busy making his own raspberry cakes, which will fill his mini almond sponges.

Quick shot of a lamb outside, because why not?

Claire’s cakes have…I don’t even know. Exploded? There’s some breakdown going on, they all look awful. Paul and Mary think the mix was too wet and they’re just not holding up. She tries not to panic as she gets started on some more. Not that there’s really time for that.

Half an hour left. Enwezor has to speed it up. Some of the bakers start cutting out their layers. Mel helps herself to some offcuts. I wonder if Mel and Sue tend to get in the bakers’ way, or if it’s cool that they’re always underfoot. Jordan’s honeycomb hasn’t worked, so he’s moving onto a plan B. At least he has one, unlike Alex Salmond. Yeah, I went there.

Decorations go on. Buns are iced and ganached. Diana doesn’t think hers look very good. She’s not wrong, I’m sorry to say. But Claire’s look absolutely awful.

Time is called. Some of the bakers embrace and compliment each other’s work.

Chetna presents her Victoria sponges with raspberry cream and lemon curd. They look like little wedding cakes. Paul think they’re too tall. They do have good sponges, though.

Jordan’s lemon drizzle with blueberry and lemon curd doesn’t wow Mary. They look messy. The judges can’t taste the blueberries.

Diana’s chocolate ganache surprises are good but not attractive.

Richard’s teeny tiny coffee and walnut cakes are proportionally perfect and Mary says they’re scrumptious.

Enwezor’s Battenbergs look cute to Paul, but Mary can’t get the two distinct flavours. They admire him for doing something a little different, though.

Kate’s little sponges look a little boring, though they’re well baked.

Luis’s raspberry and lemon genoise slices with lemon drizzles have that weird syringe. It looks terrible. Mary clearly hates it. You self drizzle. Mel and Sue thinks it’s cool. Mary can’t get raspberry in the sponge, Paul warns him that the sponge is nearly dried.

Iain’s lemon drizzles are too big. And they look kind of a mess. Mary notes they’re not evenly baked.

Martha’s mini lemon and thyme drizzles are beautifully soft and have a lovely mix of textures. This girl’s got serious skill.

Claire’s chocolate and cherry cakes get the Paul ‘are you seriously kidding me, presenting this to me to eat?’ look.

They are kind of a mess. Also, dry.

Nancy’s Jaffa orange cakes look beautiful. That guillotine really earned its keep. The sponge is light and the orange flavour comes through. Well done. I really want one of those now.

Norman’s almond and raspberry cakes look pretty, like a row of soldiers, according to Mary. She loves them. Paul loves them. Norman specifically asks how they liked the jam. He’s really gung-ho on that jam, isn’t he?

Time for the cake confab. Paul says Martha, Nancy, and Richard really blew him away. Mary agrees. Claire, Iain, and Jordan are all in danger.

Back in the tent, it’s judgment time. Star Baker this week: it’s Nancy! Well done, and well deserved, from the look of things. Poor Mel has to kick out the first caketestant: Claire. Seriously, no surprise. She’s not surprised either. Paul says she had some good ideas, but made too many mistakes. Mary adds that she just seemed to be in a panic, because everything went wrong for her.

Jordan knows he made it through by the skin of his teeth.

So, early odds: Martha, Nancy, and Norman are the ones I’m watching. And maybe Richard. Will I be vindicated? Well just have to see.