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‘Great British Bake Off’ Dessert Week Was a Bittersweet Reminder of What the Show Used to Be

Its inventive twists on classics and achievable technical difficulty are everything GBBO now too often lacks

A mousse cake shaped and designed to look like the globe, with a cut-through to the Earth’s core
Sandro’s wonderful world mousse.
Love Productions

Welcome to the Eater round-up of Great British Bake Off 2022, as Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Matt Lucas, and Noel Fielding return to Channel 4 with the 13th series of cakes, puddings, breads, and inevitable recourse to terrible baking puns. It’s no longer filmed in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble, but Paul Hollywood’s terrible handshake is here, sweaty as ever, and the tent stands on.

Great British Bake Off 2022 Episode 5 was Dessert Week. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith judged a steamed pudding signature, a lemon meringue technical, and a mousse cake surprise showstopper.

One second in, and it’s already better than last week

There haven’t been any cultural stereotyping. Well done everyone.

The Great British Steam Off doesn’t have the same ring to it

Given GBBO’s recent predilection for forcing contestants to cook things without using an oven at all, it’s easier to just accept using a bain marie inside an oven as being a wet kind of baking. Syabira using a steamer on a stove, though? Normally this would be cause for rubric chastisement, but after Mexican Week, generosity is in order. Let’s enjoy some wholesome Simpsons memes instead.

It turns out Paul and Prue do know how to set a technical

In recent years, the two judges have set technical challenges that tend towards the absurd. Sometimes, the bakes are ridiculously obscure; when they’re not, the timeframes given make completing them to any degree of quality impossible. But this week’s lemon meringue pie — itself an exercise in balance between sour fruit and sweet, billowing sugar — had the perfect weighting of difficulty and familiarity. In these circumstances, even the “recipe,” which just said, “make a lemon meringue pie,” scanned as witty rather than obnoxious.

Can’t every episode be like this?

As goes the Great British Bake Off technical, so goes the Great British Bake Off showstopper. Beginning with the cake busts of 2020, their stunting hasn’t really abated, with the show seeking internet notoriety by asking the impossible of the contestants and then lapping up the engagement when they duly fail to achieve it. The biscuit masks of a fortnight ago fell into this category, but this week’s “surprise inside dessert” actually managed to avoid it. Making a mousse cake is a reasonable technical ask, the time given was sufficient, and the bakers used it wisely. Sandro and Janusz’s cakes were stunning, and the failures were so-close-but-so-far, rather than extreme. All in all, 2022’s Dessert Week was a reminder of what makes GBBO great: It’s just a shame that those reminders come around all too infrequently.

Star baker: Sandro
Going home: Carole
Running theme: Ah, Great British Bake Off, we hardly knew ye.