The title of BBC Two’s programme is majestic andmorale boosting enough, but I was sceptical. Despite being a keen cook and baker, surely a programme devoted to cakes and cookies was just a bit...doddery?! Naff? Or just another cookery show, lacking a caricatured chef personality to lure the viewers in..?
Now, over half way through the third series of the programme, it seems The Great British Bake-off is here to stay and a weekly must-see in my otherwise non-existent TV schedule. Apparently, there is more to baking than Victoria Sponges, brownies and cupcakes dabbled with dolly mixtures. After one episode I was in awe of the complexity of the tasks and challenges. From rose, lychee and raspberry tart, to elderflower and bramble berry Pavlova, each elaborate concoction had me drooling into my sofa cushion. This show evidently demands high calibre creativity. The baking royalty, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, play the role of unsympathetic judges well, with stern faces and meticulous critique of the failings of the fruits of the aspiring bakers. Whether it’s a soggy bottom or flavourless filling, the severity of Hollywood’s critique and the contestants ‘cringing faces is addictively watchable.
And then there are the presenters. Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins do a brilliant job at adding some batty wit and tongue in cheek humour to the tense baking room, without overshadowing the purpose of the show itself. Moreover, the quirky historical interludes reassure those guilt-wrapped viewers believing that TV is time-wasting pursuit, that the Bake-off can enrich our brains as well as tantalize our taste buds.
The contestants are a diverse mix, ranging from 22 year old law student John and 28 year old vicar’s wife Sarah-Jane, to retired company director Brendon. All bake for different reasons; personal therapy, a creativity outlet or as a way of fostering a sense of community. Undoubtedly the show’s success lies in the premise that individual characters can test the limits and achieve something extraordinary. It might not be an Olympic competition, but in its own manner, the Bake-off is as inspirational in showing that the modest pursuit of baking is something that everyone can master.
So if your creative instincts have been neglected, or you feel the need for some soul soothing, whip out the flour and eggs, and on your marks, get set, bake!