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Great British Bake Off 2016: Week 1

Bake Off is back and the first serving reached high drama from the word ‘bake’.

Despite Paul Hollywood’s admission early in the episode that this year’s challenges have been taken back a difficulty notch, the well-known pressure of the bake off tent began to crack the 12 new contestants before they even stepped inside.

Cake week brought nightmares (one contestant dreamt of cakes chasing her in the lead up to the competition), panic and, of course, tears. Who new a drizzle cake, jaffa cakes and a mirror cake could be so stressful?! A slice of innuendo, Mel and Sue’s ever entertaining gags and the knowing looks of Mary and Paul set this series off in the same vein that we all know and love.

Here’s our thoughts on the first episode…

Cool under pressure, Selasi is one to watch!

The Signature Challenge

First up was the Drizzle Cake – a seemingly simple bake that turned out to cause problems as Paul and Mary were expecting perfection. The bakers had two hours to achieve ultimate moistness (a word that we’re sure everyone agrees we should avoid using)! Starting again filled this episode and began here, as Jane forgot to add ground almonds to her Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake – the main source of moistness (I know, I had to say it again). Meanwhile, Selasi forgot his cinnamon. Both of these bakers faired well despite this mishap. Jane’s second attempt was complimented by Mary and Paul for the beautiful lemon flavour and the ‘great penetration’ of the syrup. Whilst Selasi stayed cool as a cucumber, deciding to just add the cinnamon to the glaze instead. Selasi’s calm was a key feature of this episode and set him up as one to watch in the competition. He’s made some what of an impression on social media for being a smooth contender and we completely understand why!

Unfortunately, this round did not bode so well for some of the other bakers. Paul queried Louise’s topping (is it a drizzle or an icing?) with one of his looks, when she described what she was making – a tense moment that left her questioning her bake when it was too late to change it. Her Orange Liqueur & Lemonade Drizzle Cake failed to impress despite it’s appearance in the shape of an orange, as it was too dense and needed more drizzle. Rav’s Ginger Spiced Sponge with Yuzu Drizzle also disappointed the judges who felt the spices weren’t coming through. On the opposite scale, Tom blew their senses away with his Gin & Tonic Cake that had so much alcohol it tasted of little else!

Andrew had a lot to make up for after The Technical Challenge

The Technical Challenge

The next challenge, provided a classic bake off moment before the bakers had even got to work. Mary Berry set the task of Jaffa Cakes and when Paul was tucking into her example, he dunked it into his tea. Mary’s response: ‘we don’t do that in the South!’

So what can go wrong with this classic British snack? Well, to start there’s mixing and baking the precise whisked sponge so that it rises to the correct height. Several bakers spent time debating which size of circle to cut the orange jelly into. But the big problem was remembering which way up the cake should go before you add the jelly and chocolate. Easy to remember… unless your in on The Great British Bake Off. In the first ranked challenge of the series, Andrew, the sweet, young engineer, came last with his upside down cakes. He was closely followed by Lee in 11th place. At the top, Michael, this year’s youngest baker, came third, Tom came second, and in first place was Selasi – cool under pressure once again.

Lee was first to leave the Bake Off tent

The Showstopper Challenge

Cake Week’s final challenge was very on-trend with Mirror Cakes having gone viral earlier this summer. Once again aiming for perfection, this cake needed to be a delicious genoise sponge, with layers of filling and a glaze coating that shines so much you can see your face in it! Val, Tom, Candice and Benjamina all had to start their bakes again as the genoise came out of the oven tough and rubbery, rather than rising into something light and delicate. Our hearts went out to Benjamina who had to fight back the tears after her buttercream curdled and she had to start that again too. But luckily she pulled it together to deliver a White Chocolate and Pistachio Cake to Mary and Paul that had a really nice texture, flavour and that ‘smashing shine’. For Candice though, it just wasn’t her day. Despite the lovely shine on the top of the cake and the good flavours inside, her second attempt at the sponge didn’t come together. Paul’s comment ‘your plain genoise is awful’ left her in tears at the end of the final challenge. We’re routing for Candice!

Candice impressed us even though her genoise didn’t go to plan

Plenty of other problems met this group of bakers. Louise had no mirror glaze in sight although a tasty cake. Tom went the other direction with his alcohol levels and left his Black Forest Cake without any real flavour and no hint of the kirsch. His caution more like prohibition. Michael’s Matcha Cake just tasted like grass to Mary Berry, and Rav’s genoise was too dry. But it was Lee that really struggled. The simple style of his cake was not executed well, with very little shine, and the cake was dry with no filling other than ganache. It was Lee, who sadly left this series of Bake Off in the first week.

Out on top this week was Jane. Her mirror cake looked beautiful, with a smooth finish and a delicious tasting genoise. Congratulations to her, although we would’ve chosen Selasi!

Want to know more about this year’s Great British Bake Off Contestants?

Have a look HERE

Images © Love Productions – Photographer: Tom Graham