Well, can you believe it, we’ve reached the final of this year’s GBBO! Mel is quick to remind us that this is the first all male final – at the end of it either Brendan, James or John will leave with the, errr…slightly unimpressive cake stand trophy, it turns out. But they’ll also get a heap of new career openings, so that’s okay.
First, we’re treated to a recap of all of the people we’ve forgotten – some of whom even I’m struggling to remember. Then, of course, we get the story so far of our trio of finalists. I’m particularly pleased that they keep choosing to replay the bit where Brendan informs us that the male iced bird in his incredibly twee birdhouse from the other week ‘would have a coxcomb’, and then makes one out of icing.
That’s the Brendan we’ve come to know and love.
The first task, and let’s face it they’re not going to be easy this week, is to make a savoury pithivier with any filling. A pithivier (as I’m sure you already know) must be topped and bottomed with rough puff pastry, which appears to contain a heart attack-inducing amount of butter.
Paul suggests that there’s a strong chance of a soggy bottom with this one if the two discs of pastry are not sealed- but it is the final, remember, so you could be forgiven for a soggy bottom at this stage.
James is making chorizo, chicken and red pepper, John goes for Italian sausage and roast vegetable, and Brendan is doing potato, pepper, and the country’s entire stock of garlic, it seems. He and Jon get top marks, but oh dear, James has fallen into the soggy bottom trap as his filling has seeped through a gap in his pastry. There’s always one…
The technical challenge is fondant fancies. It’s easy to think that these are simple, given their ubiquity at kids’ birthday parties, but they’re anything but. Again, Paul and Mary have not given many instructions. The cakes must be level and divided equally into twenty-five, with perfect marzipan, jam and buttercream topping, and fondant icing on top piped with chocolate.
Mary reckons this is the ‘easy’ version because they’re not being asked to fill them with cream as well. I now have a new respect for the humble fondant fancy and will no longer toss them carelessly into my gob like peanuts without thinking of the workmanship behind them.
The contestants don’t want to lose any marks, so the rulers are out! But then, nobody is sure how to get the fondant icing from the bowl on to the tiny sponges. James and John have just gone for a simple dip, and Brendan tries scooping it on to his, then ends up dipping as well. To be honest, they all look a bit of a mess. At least everyone is vaguely in the same boat, but it doesn’t look like the baking of finalists.
James somehow edges a victory, compensating for his poor performance in the first round, but it’s rather a hollow one.
Best move swiftly on to the showstopper bake, which is a chiffon cake – so it’s very light, using no butter, and only egg whites. The bakers have free rein on flavourings and decoration, the only loose theme being that their design should reflect something that sums up 2012 for them,
Brendan is doing a ‘family reunion’ cake, as it’s this year that he’s bringing two parted strands of his family together. It’s a beautifully neat and coordinated red and cream cake with almond and raspberry flavouring, and a mini family of gingerbread people at the foot. Bless! Paul says that we should admire Brendan most for his consistency.
John has clearly had a bit of a rocky year, as he’s making a ‘heaven and hell’ cake. This has a dark chocolate and orange base, which he ends up drying with a hairdryer (every kitchen should have one) to get an even finish. It’s topped with a sort of castle construction formed of meringue cakelets.
Mary says that you can tell he’s been practising it all week.
James, ever the experimenter, has picked a ‘united’ theme which involves four chiffon cakes individually flavoured with turkish delight, pistachio, blueberry and raspberry, with a fifth incorporating all five flavours. He’s therefore got a lot more baking to do than anybody else, especially as he can only fit three cakes into the oven at any one time, and also manages to tip one of them on to the floor and has to start it again from scratch. Again, there’s always one…
What’s more, he’s making turkish delight for the first time and it’s stuck to the greaseproof paper. Eek.
Mary’s worried he’s running out of time. He does manage to salvage all his cakes, but that leaves very little time for decoration, and they don’t have the wow factor of the others. This confuses the judges, who say he should really have joined up his cakes to form a whole. They’re also too hefty, even though his flavours are good. A reminder that if there is a point where you should take a gamble in this competition, it certainly isn’t the final.
The cakes are then served up at a summer ‘fete’, to which all of the previous bakers are invited. Naturally, being in the UK, the fete involves pouring rain and people shivering under umbrellas.
A nerve-wracking pause later, and the very likeable John is announced as the winner! Amazingly, he’s only been awarded star baker once, so it just goes to show you never can tell. But you’ve got to hand it to reliable seventies stalwart Brendan and terrifyingly young experimental James too. Any one of them could have won really.
And the good news is, it’s going to be back next year! They’re asking people to apply so I’m off to perfect my signature bake of jus roll croissants.