Normally the JC Bake Off recaps are in the ever-capable, lightly-floured hands of Victoria Prever, our esteemed Food Editor, a woman who knows her croquembouche from her cremeschnitte. Not this week. She's off on a tour of kosher vineyards and I’m putting on her oven gloves.
My baking knowledge starts and ends at apple crumble. But I’m an expert on reality TV. By getting rid of Lovely Liam last week, and keeping Clumsy Kate, who scraped her clanger off the floor, Bake Off judges Prue and Paul offended the natural law of TV justice. And handing Stacey the Star Baker accolade was dangerous too. Had she peaked too soon? Would she be impeded in the semi final by galloping Imposter Syndrome?
Bling, colour, sparkle and excitement, that’s what Stacey brings to a bake. And this time she seemed to have surpassed herself, with her plans for choux-nicorns and choux-emojis. Yes, Stacey was honouring Bake Off’s years of smutty wordplay by baking buns sporting little horns. What could possibly go wrong? Stacey…what were you thinking? “I didn’t want to just have a boring choux bun,” muttered our heroine, wiping food colouring on her face. Let's face it, she probably puts glitter on a cheese and pickle bap.
The tent was hot, Stacey’s horns were fiddly, her frown deepened, and her self esteem seemed to plummet. "I'm such an idiot," she groaned, closely followed by “I’m having a very, very, very bad morning,” and “I’ve done it wrong, done it wrong.”
Noel appointed himself as Stacey's carer as she filled her chouxnicorns - which I misheard as tuna balls – and her chouxemojis were crackling in the oven. Luckily they were meant to crackle, in their little crackling jackets. But when the judges arrived, Prue pointed out that they were the colour of curry. And - Prue was too polite to say this - the icing on top looked like dead cockroaches or possibly cat poo. The chouxnicorns, when bitten, exploded into rainbow colours. Blue isn’t a great choice for bun-filler. “Not your finest hour,” said Paul. They would, however, have been perfect if one were catering a bris.
What of Stacey’s opponents? Calm, cool Sophie's buns fell a bit flat. Kate’s Bellini buns looked to me like they had a slither of smoked salmon on top, but apparently not - they were delicious, said the judges. Steven’s buns were soft and untidy. Perfectly flavoured though.
Then, for the technical challenge, the bakers had to make some baffling Belgian multi- layered confection, named Les Miserables, like Hugo’s novel about poverty and starvation. Stacey had a distinct advantage here, as she’d flicked past the recipe in a book and decided not to make it. Unfortunately, one layer (signifying, perhaps, disease or child prostitution) called for green colouring. Stacey's came out the colour of astroturf - which Prue thought was harsh but pretty. But still, our heroine managed to come second. All was not lost. Calm Sophie won, naturally.
On to the all-important show stopper round. The bakers were challenged to make meringue sculptures. Stacey opted for flamingos. This made perfect sense. In the week where Philip Pullman’s prequel to his Dark Materials trilogy was published, many of us have considered which animal would be our daemon. Stacey’s would clearly be a glorious, fluorescent, flamboyant pink ball of feathers, tottering on unsteady pins.
Steven planned an ambitious rainbow air balloon, but his chocolate basket melted messily. Stacey’s face went pink as her flamingos and their chocolate eggs got stuck in their tray. When gentle attempts to extract them failed, Stacey smashed the tin down on the work surface, sending her cooling birds flying. Would her dreams end in a pile of shattered sugary shards? Thankfully, she grabbed them in time. But, alas “I cracked my head off”. Emergency bird surgery took place.
Judging time. I thought Sophie’s tutu resembled a mutilated limbless torso. The judges liked it though. And Kate’s rainbow looked like something a six-year-old would fashion out of plasticene, pooled in a mess of cream and fruit. The judges thought it was wonderful. Team Stacey - me - despaired.
Stacey’s flamingos were legless. They looked like sunburned swans who’d had one too many and were now huddled over some takeaway boxes. We’ve all been there. Their eggs nestled in silver meringue, the texture of phlegm. Prue complimented her for creating recognisable members of the bird kingdom, but said her fillings were tart. She got a well done, though.
Perhaps Stacey hadn’t been ambitious enough, for the first time ever? But Steven was overambitious and suffered bad cracking, his balloon looked more like a tree. Was there hope for Stacey after all?
Alas, it was not to be. Sophie was Star Baker, and the Mother of Chouxnicorns didn't make it into the final three. She may not have had many fans on Twitter, but Stacey, we're really proud of you. Dry your eyes. You made our lives a lot more sparkly. And now you can relax.