Bake Off 2019: tarts, flapper girls and vampires

The Vampire, the Ewok, the Polar Bear and the tent – the long-lost novel by C S Lewis. Oh wait, no it’s not, it’s last night’s episode of Bake Off.

And what an episode it was. In the first-ever 1920s week, there were tears, flying custard tarts, failed technicals, sunken cakes and, as usual, more innuendos that you can shake a stick at.

Perhaps most shocking was the double elimination. It had been threatened for weeks, but this one came out of nowhere. And, in my humble opinion, one of the people shouldn’t have gone home.

More on that later.

Let’s start by talking about how glorious Noel’s shirt was – all orange tones with adorable dogs all over it. I want one.

As I sat in my pyjamas (adorned with a chihuahua in a sombrero) admiring its beauty, the bakers were tasked with creating four decorative custard pies. Flavours ranged from lemon & lime to blueberry & white chocolate brûlée, chocolate orange and classic vanilla.

How do you tell when your custard tart is cooked? “When there’s a bit of a wobble in the middle,” said Alice.

“That sounds like my physique,” replied Sandi.

You and me both, Sandi. British Baker is a great to work for, but not great for the waistline.

On to the judging and David’s classic custard tarts with flirty flapper girl biscuits triumphed, earning him the second Hollywood handshake of the season. Steph (pictured below) also did well, while others suffered from a series of imperfections. Henry’s pastry was too thick and overbaked, Priya’s was messy and Michael’s needed more filling. Helena, who in classic Helena style designed her tarts around a sea monster, was praised for the innovative look, but not the lavender flavour.

Still, it could have been worse. Poor Rosie dropped one of her tarts and the three remaining suffered from damp pastry. “I despise pastry, I despise custard,” she said.

She also despises rabbits, as she told Noel: “They just want to die.” Stallions and snakes are more her thing.

Things were about to get worse for Rosie and the rest of the bakers as the judges asked them to whip up 18 beignets soufflés. Everyone looked perplexed. Except me. Having watched Jon Favreau’s movie Chef and his Netflix series The Chef Show, I was familiar with the fried creations.

Side note: if you haven’t watched Chef, do it now. Spaghetti has never been so seductive.

Back to the technical and poor Michael was nearly at breaking point. His choux pastry wouldn’t work, he was crying and, when asked by Noel if he wanted to take a five-minute break, he said he wouldn’t come back. It was heart-breaking to watch. Nevertheless, he persevered.

In fact, it was David who came last in the technical, followed by Michael, Michelle, Alice and Rosie. Steph came fourth, Henry third, Priya second and vampire queen Helena first.

For the showstopper, the bakers were asked to whip up a Prohibition-era cocktail celebration cake.

“Think of yourself as Al Capone, but in an apron,” said Noel, “with no mafia connections.”

The bakers are clearly fans of songwriter Rupert Holmes, as four of the nine chose piña coladas as the inspiration for their cakes. Henry and Rosie went with a white Russian while Helena, naturally, based hers on a vampire’s kiss cocktail, coupled with Bram Stoker’s Dracula (pictured below).

The lure of the vampire’s kiss, like the lure of Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was too strong for some. Sandi swigged the raspberry vodka straight from the bottle, displaying a range of emotions from delight to regret and, ultimately, the acceptance of hosting Bake Off drunk.

I suspect some of the bakers wished they were a tad merry as the judging got underway. Michael’s bramble-inspired cake was pretty, but the judges said the flavours weren’t very strong. Helena’s was described as sinister and pretty, although the blood-red sponge was a bit bland. Rosie’s chocolate coating was apparently too thick (there is no such thing as too much chocolate in my book) as was Priya’s fondant icing on what was a slightly messy cake. Michelle, meanwhile, was accused of overthinking her decoration and ruining the cake by putting coconut shavings in it.

Noel was quick to announce Steph as star baker for the second time in a row.

Shortly after, Sandi dropped the bombshell that two people were to exit the tent. Those two people were: Michelle and Helena (pictured below with Steph). Ridiculous. Sure, Helena wasn’t perfect, but does coming top in the technical count for nothing anymore? Apparently not.

A few titbits based on this week’s episode:

Most likely to win: Steph

Who should have gone home: Michelle and Priya

Most fun to watch: Helena

Quote of the week: “It needs to be stiffer, but I don’t know how to make it stiffer” – Michael

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