The Great British Bake Off is back, and with it a whole new swathe of people who will briefly flirt with baking before abandoning their new John Lewis mixer at the back of the cupboard. The move to BBC1 seems to have changed nothing; Mel and Sue retain their signature sense of humour and there are just as many of shots of young goats and foliage.
The contestants, despite being new, feel very familiar. There’s the macho guy you wouldn’t expect to bake (Richard the builder), the wide-eyed student (Martha) and the hip young professional with a beard and/or floppy hair. Along with them, of course, the obviously hopeless bakers who we will forget exist by episode six.
Everyone seems to be trying harder than in previous seasons. No one was under the impression that a plain old Swiss roll was going to do, and so the first bakes were lavished in brittles and creams and chocolate spirals. While 36 mini cakes for the showstopper challenge seemed a greater task than usual, most bakers rose to it like a well whisked meringue. As ever, the technical challenge proved difficult, with many a baker struggling to suspend glacier cherries evenly throughout a sponge cake. Gravity is a horrid thing.
Of course, there are always people who will hate the Bake Off, many of whom have already made themselves known on twitter. It’s tragic that such a gentle show resulted in Claire, the first contestant to be knocked out, having to defend herself with the hashtag #Iamnotdefinedbymyweight. Mel and Sue’s jokes can wear thin, and we could be cynical and say that the contestants are chosen only to achieve a likeable mix of bakers.
Nonetheless, there aren’t many shows where you could get this invested in someone’s cherries (no Mel-like pun intended). Then again, there aren’t many cooking competitions where people will bring along a guillotine their husband made them to slice their mini cakes, or an architecturally accurate drawing of the coliseum. With the Bake Off, the contestants want to do well purely because they really want to bake a really nice cake, and that’s why it’s so compelling. So, get that whisk back out.