The Blog

Great British Bake Off 2015 - Week One

After nearly 10 months away from our screens, Britain's premier televised baking competition is back, and all the old gang are here. Mel and Sue! Mezza Bezza! Animatronic, dead-eyed dough-bot Paul Hollywood!

After nearly 10 months away from our screens, Britain's premier televised baking competition is back, and all the old gang are here. Mel and Sue! Mezza Bezza! Animatronic, dead-eyed dough-bot Paul Hollywood!

Most excitingly of all, however, is the return of this blog which, in its debut run last year, attracted such a wide range of fans that their total number was almost into double digits - no mean feat, you'll surely agree.

As is always the way with the first week, it's a whirlwind of names, faces and bakes. It's cake week, and 36 of the blighters popping up on our screens means it proves tricky to keep up with who's made what.

So props to Sandy, who wastes no time in distinguishing herself from the rest of the group, declaring, "I can be making a cake and you have a meat pie by the time I'm finished," even before the opening titles have stopped rolling.

The opening task is to make a Madeira cake, and the judges are keen to see a domed top and a crack in the middle. Stu, a tattooed, bearded musician who constantly sports a hat and is likely to spawn thinkpieces on the rise of the hipster for the length of his time in the competition (in fact, there's already been one in The Guardian), makes a lime and rum 'Marley Madeira', but his glaze caramelises and his sponge is said to be "bitter". Also adding lime is Ian, who makes a Mojito-inspired number, but the coconut running through his sponge means it's "like eating wallpaper paste". Curiously, Sandy - already the most quotable baker by a long shot - tells us, "My sister's last words were: 'Make sure all the tins are well-greased.'", which gives the bizarre impression of a woman prepared to use her last breaths on earth dispersing baking advice. Presumably that's not what she meant.

Mat is a firefighter, and therefore fits the bill of 'man with job not stereotypically associated with baking' so ably taken on by builder Richard last year. Another baker with 2014 overtones is slightly posh teenager, Flora (aka Martha 2.0). She should have an advantage, seeing as she's actually named after an ingredient often found in cakes, but encounters near-catastrophe when she forgets to preheat the oven, all because she's used to an aga at home. That sound you hear is the nation's television watchers sighing in recognition - who here among us hasn't struggled with conventional ovens because we're just so damn accustomed to an Aga?

Stranger still is a contestant who appears to be Paul Hollywood's doppelgänger. Not only does he have a similar beard, but he's also called Paul. This could either end up being a fight to the death, or the start of a beautiful, passionate bromance.

For the technical challenge, our baking dozen must tackle Mary's walnut cake recipe. It's unusual in that the frosting is made over hot water in a meringue style; a curio that leaves everyone scratching their heads. Nurse Alvin seemingly has a nightmare from the off, taking three attempts to make caramel, and ending up with sloping sponges because he didn't put the oven shelves in correctly. Despite this, he recovers incredibly to finish second, beaten only by baking bodybuilder (bakybuilder?) Ugne, who coasts through the challenge so serenely, she has time to make a sugar nest to put on top too.

The first show-stopper of the series is a Black Forest Gateau which, incidentally, is one of the only phrases I can remember from my GCSE German classes (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, if you're interested). Everyone's trying to give their cake that little bit of extra pizzazz, whether it be by making brownies as the sponge (Mat), a giant, swirled macaron as the base (Sandy), or covering balloons in chocolate to make cups, from which cherries can 'spill' out (Ugne). Perhaps most ambitious of all, however, is Dorret, who is crafting a sponge so rare, even The Bez herself is intrigued to ask about it. The Alhambra is a dense, tightly-packed sponge, but when Dorret is telling the judging panel about it, it goes wrong and she has to start the whole thing again.

Stu's adding grated beetroot to his sponge in the manner of a man who stopped caring about this whole competition a long time ago, but doctor Tamal, fairly quiet in the round so far, wows everyone with his gateau in a chocolate collar, which has Mary Berry simpering. Kudos also to Nadiya, whose tempered chocolate is so shiny that on a clear night, if you look towards Newbury, some say you can still see a faint glow.

Dorret's Alhambra panic means she's behind and when she takes her cake out of the fridge to serve, it's clear the mousse inside hasn't set and the whole thing collapses entirely. Far from being a show-stopper, it looks like a heart-stopper for Dorret who immediately bursts into tears. Her Alhambra sponge experiment didn't come off either (Paul: "It tastes like rubber"), but will her strong work in the previous two rounds be enough to see her through?

Innuendo of the week: "Hopefully the taste will be good and my crack will show" - given that Ugne's cake had a perfectly smooth top, who knows what she was talking about?

Star baker: In early weeks with everyone vying for camera time, someone can easily slip through unnoticed, and that's the case this time, with Marie picking up the gong for three solid rounds that show she's got plenty of promise.

Going home: Columnists and trend-spotters of the UK all have their head in their hands, as Surrey man Stu is the first to be sent packing. He's fairly philosophical about it, but as soon as he's finished speaking, the camera pans to a much more damning verdict from Mary Berry: "Stu never got started".

Next week: The entertaining eleven take on biscuits