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‘Great British Bake Off’ Cake Week Was Absolutely Disturbing

The first GBBO of 2020 took “everything is cake” to a belatedly worrying level

A Freddie Mercury elderflower fondant cake on Great British Bake Off 2020 Episode 1
Great British Bake Off Episode 1 took “everything is cake” to disturbing levels
Immediate Media/Channel 4

Welcome to the Eater round-up of Great British Bake Off 2020, as Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Matt Lucas, and Noel Fielding return to Channel 4 with the 11th series of cakes, puddings, breads, and inevitable recourse to terrible baking puns. Filmed in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble, producers had originally said that Paul Hollywood’s terrible handshake was cancelled, but somehow, it is still here, as sweaty as ever.

Great British Bake Off 2020 Episode 1 tackled cake, with a signature challenge covering Battenberg, a technical challenge covering pineapple upside down cake, and a showstopper covering ... well ... wait and see. Contestant introductions were many, cutaways were rife, and cakes toppled to the floor.. Here, now, is Great British Bake Off 2020 Episode 1, (sort of) as it happened.

Great British Bake Off 2020 Cake Week: The Introduction

It was always going to be a coronavirus briefing. Following directly on from prime minister Boris Johnson’s own overinflated sponge of a speech, Matt Lucas made his GBBO debut impersonating the PM. And he managed to do it with none of Little Britain’s deeply offensive jokes. Just some minor gibbering.

What followed was an endorsement of all that many people love about GBBO: its cottagecore, cozy, comforting vibes, which appear to have survived the conditions necessary when filming during a global pandemic. Without further ado: everything is cake.

Great British Bake Off 2020 Cake Week: Signature Challenge

04:35: It’s Battenberg. Oblongs; marzipan; a checkerboard design. Matt Lucas and Noel
Fielding do a weird ready, steady,

**interminable void**


gag and things can actually begin.

05:00: Prue describes Battenberg as a “lovely signature.” Paul Hollywood wants STARK differences in colour inside the sponge, like the STARK difference between his bright blue eyes and his pitch-tar soul. The armchair bakers are back in force:

05:43: Loreia is dropping a bubblegum and cream soda Battenberg, while Laura, a marzipan hater, is doing a raspberry ripple and coconut effort. Hating marzipan makes Battenberg difficult. Lottie, meanwhile, is doing a rhubarb and custard sponge, taking the pink and yellow classic to a more interesting place. But then her sponge curdles. It’s the first failure of the series. A badge of honour.

09:44: Dave is the first baker to proclaim that he is “winging it.” “Rules are meant to be broken.” Not in baking, mate!

10:28: Marc drops a sour cherry and chocolate Battenberg and also his rights to his name, as Matt Lucas decrees his sworn nemesis Mark — who is doing a Turkish-inspired Battenberg — gets to keep his.

12:20: Peter is doing gluten-free Battenberg. Twitter will love this. Sura’s cake is overflowing its tin. Twitter will love this too.

15:22: Rowan’s Battenberg is a visual representation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which, absolutely, why not. Linda’s Battenberg is going to be an ambulance, which, absolutely, why not. Mak is doing a pistachio marzipan, because he hates almond marzipan, which, absolutely, why not. Hermine is adding marmalade and orange liqueur to her marzipan, which, absolutely, why not.

18:30: Now for the hardest part of the Battenberg: precisely cutting the sponges to make the checkerboard effect. Some sponges are too warm; some are too raw; some require eleven-slotted CD unit cutting templates; some — Rowan’s — are all of those things. Sorry Rowan. Triple threats are deadly. Meanwhile, from Lottie: “Everything that is so easy at home, suddenly becomes an absolute nightmare in the tent.” What was that about coziness?

21:30: Hermine’s is cracking in some areas. Dave’s winged it surprisingly successfully. Lottie’s made a more complicated job for herself with minutes to spare. Welcome back to old faithful, Foolhardy Manoeuvre That Will Quite Obviously Backfire As Soon As It Is Mentioned of the Week.

22:00: Signature challenge tiers

  • God tier: Hermine, Sura
  • Somehow winged it tier: David
  • Both crumbly and moist tier: Peter
  • Foolhardy Manoeuvre That Will Quite Obviously Backfire As Soon As It Is Mentioned of the Week Did Not Actually Backfire tier: Lottie
  • Good flavour but why is it named after the East India Company tier: Mak
  • No real distinction in the colour of the sponge tier: Laura, Mark
  • A bit too busy tier: Marc, Rowan
  • It’s an ambulance tier: Linda
  • Matt loves it judges hate it tier: Loreia

Great British Bake Off 2020 Cake Week: Technical Challenge

29:11: Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood’s Machiavellian schemes start off in earnest with a new phrase: “gingham-covered mystery.” The gingham-coloured mystery is six (6) pineapple upside-down cakes. It’s based on Paul Hollywood’s school dinners. Mmmm.

31:22: Not much going on in the technical challenge. Everyone’s worried about syrup levels and pineapples.

35:30: Judging is blind and ranked from worst to best, very little has happened, it’s just crying out for an absolutely titanic controversy to really get things into...

CAKE IS ON THE FLOOR. CAKE. IS ON. THE FLOOR. THE PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKES ARE, INDEED — no not going there, some self-respect, please.

Sura has knocked Dave’s cakes on to the floor while attempting to rid a pesky fly from her plate. A VAR check confirms that Sura was not offside, and the accidental topple stands. There wasn’t really anything she could have done about it, and while Dave’s rage was understandable, there is no blame to be passed here. Twitter, of course, has other ideas:

36:30: Technical challenge tiers

  • Nailed both the technical and Dave’s cakes tier: Sura
  • Nailed the technical tier: Peter
  • Balanced tier: Lottie
  • Pretty uniform tier: Rowan
  • Caramel is too dark tier: Laura, Mark
  • Caramel is too light tier: Loreia
  • Too hot for the cream tier: Hermine, Marc, Mak
  • Needs the Battenberg ambulance tier: Linda
  • Dropped on the floor and burnt tier: Dave

Great British Bake Off 2020 Cake Week: Showstopper Challenge

39:50: The showstopper is ... Deranged.

The best explanation for this showstopper is that one day, Paul Hollywood took a break from blue-steeling himself in a mirror to Log On. Paul Hollywood logged on right in the middle of the “everything is cake” meme, allied it to his razor-sharp self-regard, and thought: “what if everything is cake, and by everything, I mean, famous people’s heads? Maybe they’ll do one of me! What a jape!” Anyway the cakes are heads.

41:00: Paul Hollywood’s Kneady Sleazy Wheeze of the Week hasn’t returned just yet. But Prue has said the phrase “to make a cake bust, the head of shoulders of a person...” without breaking character.

43:15: Marc is doing a fondant David Bowie. Linda is doing a sponge Bob Marley. It does not have jam in. Waste of f***ing time.

44:55: Laura’s made Freddie Mercury’s head explode in her bin; Loreia is doing Louise Bennett Coverley, a famous Jamaican poet. Sura is doing Sir David Attenborough. Sir David will be “flavoured with coconut.” Mark makes it a naturalist-off with Charles Darwin, while Lottie has a skull mould for Louis Theroux. Louis Theroux’s Weird, Really Weird, Weekdays.

48:11: This challenge is bringing serious Nailed It vibes, which is a baking show about rewarding catastrophic failure. Bodes well! I’d love to dissect it some more but honestly the judging is going to be by far the best part of this. Sura’s Sir David Attenborough “fell over” in the between time.

56:00: Showstopper challenge tiers

  • Sir David Attenborough tier: Sura
  • Athlete shoulders tier: Peter
  • Let them eat ... tier: Rowan
  • Keep your head still, I’ll be your thrill, turn the lights off, carry me home tier: Dave
  • Slightly anxious tier: Lottie
  • Notes from a Cake Island tier: Mak
  • Needs jam-in tier: Linda
  • Under pressure tier: Marc, Laura
  • Us tier: Hermine
  • Any Other Naturalist tier: Mark
  • Paul and Prue can’t stand spice, again, jesus christ, come on, give them a palate tier: Loreia

Star baker: Peter, who was most consistent over the three rounds.

Going home: Loreia, despite Linda’s failures arguably being worse and her showstopper being marked down for being spicy, which has been a bias for the judges for a long time.

Running theme: Everything is cake.