Matt Lucas makes for a welcome addition to the tentTWITTER/FILMSAT59

Warning: the following review is brimming with BBC Bake-Off baggage; any opinions must be taken with a pinch of salt

Pastry week has been and gone, marking the halfway point of the Great British Bake-Off’s eleventh season – the first to be filmed during a pandemic. In any year, the arrival of Bake-Off to our screens is a warm and welcome distraction from the approaching winter gloom, but this year I was especially glad for the familiar comfort that only Bake-Off can bring, watching a dozen skilled home-bakers battling it out to be crowned Britain’s best.

“things started to heat up as we move into the second half of the series – it’s all to play for.”

I’m not sure how many can claim that the question of how they were going to do Bake-Off this year was particularly high on their list of anxieties this summer, but I sure am glad that it was on someone’s. This year, the bakers formed a little ‘Bake-Off village’ isolating together to film the series in a short 6 weeks rather than its normal 11, and it turns out that not even a global pandemic can save you from the Hollywood handshake – Pantomime producer Lottie bagged it in her week 2 signature bake. A nuclear apocalypse could occur and that blue-eyed traitor, armed with an aggressive tan and that well-known stone-cold heart, would still be reaching our screens.

Bake Off recently celebrated its 100th episodeTWITTER/BRITISHBAKEOFF

Not everything is familiar, however; 2019 saw Sandy Toksvig moving onto bigger and better things, making room in the tent for Little Britain alumnus, Matt Lucas, to appear alongside Noel Fielding as presenter. I’ll admit I had my doubts abouts Matt Lucas. (Still) licking my wounds from the Channel 4 handover, I was hesitant to let a new presenter into my life, but Lucas makes a cheery and welcome addition to the tent. He provides a wholesome goodness with his presenting, very much needed in the absence of Mel, Sue, and Sandy, and in the unfortunate presence of one Noel Fielding...

I feel as though I should clarify that I have no(el) hard feelings towards Fielding as a person or comedian – I’m sure he would make some other show very happy. But if I’m completely honest, I find his presenting style a little self-indulgent, his quips to stressed bakings doing less to ease nerves than to boost his own ego. Bake-Off is about the bakers and I can’t think of anything less soothing than having Noel hovering behind me while I wait for my babka to rise.


But at the heart of Bake-Off is the bakers, and a good set of bakers at that. Together with their charming hobbies and quirks, they ensure that the show stands the test of time, and the test of TV tycoons. This year has been no different, with a lovely set of contestants, each bringing their own *unique* set of interests and skills to the tent.


Mountain View

Defining the Decade: the 80s

We kicked off with cake week, and, as to be expected so early on, not every baker rose to the occasion. This may have had more to do with some questionable challenge choices than skill; I struggle to believe that even the most experienced bakers could make a flattering likeness of David Attenborough from fondant! But regardless of what the episode lacked in results, it gave back in pure entertainment, the show having moved on from cheeky innuendos about soggy bottoms to Noel Fielding’s vocal celebration of Paul Hollywood’s ‘cake’. From the drama of Sura (accidentally) swatting Dave’s upside down cakes in the technical, to the delightfully horrifying parade of cake busts in the showstopper (including poor headless Freddie Mercury), the season was off to a swinging start.

But bittersweet was the untimely goodbye to the lovely Loriea, whose only crime above the others was her experimental flavours (bubblegum battenburg!?), and fondness for spice, a notorious issue for the delicate (read: weak) palates of Paul and Prue. Untimely goodbyes and some surprising stays have been a bit of a feature in this year’s season, with many fans outraged as Rowan stayed to bake another day during biscuit week. What Rowan lacked in skill he made up for in ambition, but a slight struggle in execution saw him leave the tent during bread week.

Mark seems to be a favourite of Paul'sTWITTER/BRITISHBAKEOFF

The less-than-consistent performances have left a little too much room for prickly comments from the judges, which quickly go from creating tension to being disconcerting. Chocolate week delivered quite a shocking display where not one baker managed to produce a satisfactory chocolate brownie to please the judges, and a fair few babkas fell flat. Linda’s rainbow tart failed to pass pastry week, and things started to heat up as we move into the second half of the series – it’s all to play for. Young Peter looks like the one to watch for the final, as a particular favourite of Paul’s, but Laura’s impressive floral showstopper this week brings her hot on his heels.

So, if you’re a former fan who couldn’t stomach the move, a bake-off novice, or just want to watch some low-stakes chaos on a Tuesday night, I would recommend Bake-Off as a cosy distraction from the chaos of Michaelmas, and the world at large.