The Great British Bake Off concluded this week, with Steven, Sophie and Kate battling it out for the title.
Steven and Sophie were favourites from the outset with underdog Kate, a surprise finalist, pipping the only Jewish contestant, Stacey, in the semi-final.
Presenters Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig wore their nattiest shirts for the occasion — Noel’s a creation in art nouveau and Sandi’s an homage to English gardens everywhere.
The signature bake required the bakers to make 12 small loaves — four flavoured; four shaped and four from an unusual grain. Steely Sophie had floundered during Bread Week, so could have been expected to struggle. One of her batches was judged underproved, but overall found favour.
It was Steven whose dough was dodgiest, some of his loaves pronounced “dry and underproved” by judge Paul Hollywood.
Only Kate emerged unscathed, garnishing only praise for her Roman-influenced spelt mini-loaves and interesting flavours.
The technical required the finalists to bake a crisp gingerbread biscuit and top it with icing so complicated it would make Michelangelo weep.
Steven and Sophie managed to bake and ice theirs but Kate —not unsurprisingly — iced only half. No prizes for guessing who came third in that round. Steven pulled it back by winning, leaving the three of them neck and neck as they approached the showstopper.
Billed the “most unforgiving challenge ever”, the contestants were required to make a large entremet. For non-patissiers, that is a large, mousse-filled, layered cake, which needed at least five elements to it.
Sophie’s ode to a honey bee was big on flavours — with diverse combinations (like lavender and lemon) that Hollywood and fellow judge, Prue Leith, speculated might be her undoing. Kate had plumped for a Japanese-inspired design using yuzu (citrus) as one of her keynote flavours. Steven also looked east for his yin-yang design.
Sophie and Kate ploughed steadily through their layers but Steven’s nerves were fraying faster than his mirror glaze. Deep breaths and brow mopping from Sandi did little to shore him up and viewers would have wanted to hug him — had he had time.
It was all terribly calm over on Sophie’s bench as she pulled of her flavours and design — wowing both judges, despite a slightly cracked chocolate collar. Kate also managed an out-of-character showstopper that looked slick and professional. Her marble glaze was a true highlight.
A bit of Stacey slapstick would have detracted from Steven’s antics, but there was nowhere for him to hide when the judges sliced open his cake to reveal the glaze had dyed each layer. Blue is never a good look for any sort of food — other than a berry. Poor Steven — the Bake Off crown had been there for the taking but he had thrown it all away? The judges — who had quite possibly thought that he was a shoe-in for the title — were clearly disappointed.
Outside the crowds were milling. Former contestants plus friends and family. Stacey was asked who she thought would win. Initially coy, she plumped for Steven, as did Tom and Yan. Liam picked Sophie.
As it turned out Stacey, Tom and Yan all got it wrong. It was Sophie, Ms Consistency herself, who was crowned GBBO champion.
Hardly a surprise result, not least because poor Prue had let slip the outcome earlier in the day, in an ill-timed tweet.