The biggest shock of this year’s Bake Off contest had already happened, of course, and that was last week’s elimination of Jurgen Krauss, the Brighton-based German IT specialist and all-around avuncular teddy bear.
Fortunately, I don’t have a Betfair account or I’d have wagered my house on Jurgen sweeping the opposition before him like crumbs from an overbaked Black Forest Gateau. But then perhaps Jurgen had to go.
I don’t want to feed any conspiracy theories, but the German’s dominance was threatening to suck the excitement out of the competition. Only Giuseppe Dell’ Anno seemed able to match him for consistency, although the Bristolian-Italian’s “Mediterranean twists” had started to become as predictable as a package holiday to the Costas. Just add figs.
Anyway, Jurgen’s absence made for an evenly matched final. Bake Off is a sucker for somebody who’s “gone on a journey”, and Chigs Parmar, who only started baking at the start of lockdown in 2020, has blossomed over the past 10 weeks. Crystelle Pereira made up the threesome.
So, which exotic bake was going to feature in the opening signature challenge? An Azerbaijani Baku baklava, perhaps, or a Moroccan Meskouta? Nope, it was a humble carrot cake. Prue Leith warned darkly: “You cannot put cream-cheese frosting on a warm cake,” before Giuseppe did just that. “Mine looks like my face over the years,” he said ruefully. “It’s melting down.”
While Giuseppe and Crystelle reached for their respective Italian and Goan heritages, and Matt and Noel made a laboured Bugs Bunny joke, Chigs set about grating enough carrots to feed the rabbit population of Australia.
“I want the carrot flavour to come through,” he explained as Prue arched her eyebrows and scratched her neck – her body language for “Big mistake, buddy.”
The technical challenge also sounded simple, except that the recipe for 12 Belgian buns came with virtually no instructions. Having melted his cream-cheese frosting, Giuseppe now burnt his buns, while Crystelle, who had hitherto never won a technical challenge, did so now.
The showstopper involved creating “a Mad Hatter’s tea party display featuring sweet and savoury afternoon treats and showcasing at least four different disciplines of baking”. It almost took the allotted five hours just to unpack that.
Crystelle’s eve-of-final nightmare that her focaccia wouldn’t rise turned into reality when her bread emerged completely raw in the finale. It was the only disaster as Chigs produced some lovely shortbread playing cards and Giuseppe’s passion-fruit panna cotta was apparently so delicious that Paul and Prue took the “drink me” instructions to heart.
While the judges ruminated inside the tent before deciding on Giuseppe as this year’s champion, the finalists made their way onto the lawn where the production team were fed the finished showcases (minus, presumably, Crystelle’s focaccia).
A grateful, locked-down nation fell upon 2020’s GBBO in record-busting numbers, and it’s still far and away Channel 4’s most popular programme. But early viewing figures for the latest series were the lowest since the show’s big-money transfer from the BBC. Might the nation’s great love affair with the competition have settled into a comfortable and slightly indifferent familiarity?
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