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Phew, what a scorcher. Bake Off’s first ever Eighties Week saw puddles of perspiration and melted ice cream all over the tent.
But who couldn’t stand the heat? Here's what happened in the seventh episode.
The most shocking departure of the series
The curse of Star Baker struck with a vengeance. Lottie Bedlow had ruled the roost in Japanese Week but returned to Earth with a bump. The deadpan Littlehampton lass’ surprise exit means a widely predicted finalist has left three weeks early, blowing the contest wide open.
It proved the old Bake Off adage that one bad week is all it takes. Lottie’s full English breakfast quiche was overpowered by black pudding, with the unnecessary addition of Prue Leith-loathed baked beans. She came second from bottom in the technical with tough, over-cooked doughnuts.
She desperately needed a successful showstopper. Paul Hollywood warned Lottie that covering her cassette-shaped design with moulded ice cream wouldn’t work in sweltering heat but she stubbornly continued – sheepishly admitting later that she should’ve listened. The dripping cake was sliding apart as she assembled it.
“It looks like a child’s done it,” Lottie said, scraping it into something distantly resembling a battered VHS tape. “Frankly, it’s an embarrassment. Game over.” Hollywood declared himself “underwhelmed”. Her last hope was that its taste would wow but it proved largely flavourless. She promptly followed her best buddy Mark Lutton on the Bake Off bus home.
As Noel Fielding said, Lottie has been an erratic performer, oscillating between brilliant (her Louis Theroux bust, quarantine florentines and toadstool cotton jiggle cake) and chaotic (her “freezer juice” brownies and floppy chocolate babka). We’ll miss Lottie’s dark, sarky wit and strange obsession with Vikings.
Ice cream + sweltering heat made for the tensest episode yet
As Matt Lucas said to the judges: “Well done for choosing an ice cream challenge on the hottest day of the year.” When “Praul and Poo” protested that they couldn’t have predicted the sweltering weather, Noel Fielding replied: “That’s not what the Daily Mail will say.” “You knew,” added Lucas. “Devious.”
With temperatures soaring to 35 degrees, making it the third hottest day on record, this week’s bake-a-thon became an endurance test. The sweaty six were essentially operating inside a sauna. “Satan’s kitchen” said Laura Adlington.
Despite the bakers having fans on their workbenches and damp tea towels around their necks, perspiration patches still soaked through their aprons. Those Smeg fridge-freezers became vital – not just for chilling bakes but for the contestants to stick their heads into. When even Prue Leith removed her natty pink blazer, we knew it was serious.
The combination of searing heat and melting ingredients cranked up the pressure to an almost unbearable degree. A couple of bakers (*cough* Laura and Dave *splutter*) were overheard swearing, which rarely occurs in cosy, polite Bake Off.
We were left with the unsavoury image of Paul Hollywood “having to peel his jeans off”. Prue Leith’s disapproving face spoke for the nation. Perhaps that’s why he kept his fabled handshake back for another week – his palms were too clammy.
Hermine’s Star Baker crown continued record run
She’s come close twice but the tent’s most consistent, understated baker finally got her dues. The classic French flavour combinations of Hermine’s signature quiches had the judges purring with pleasure. She won the technical round with impeccable finger doughnuts. After a successful first day, Hermine vowed to treat herself to a “nice, cold, beer – a well-deserved one”.
She’d earned an even nicer, colder brewski the following night. Hermine kept it simple-but-effective with her tropical showstopper but it was neat and well-balanced with beautifully buttery Breton shortbread. The judges agreed that her signature style was “classical food done beautifully”. Hermine is the only member of the final five who’s never once flirted with elimination. She’s rivalled for steady quality only by Peter Sawkins and even he suffered a wobble in Bread Week.
Her accolade also continued the freakish string of results. We’ve now had seven different Star Bakers in seven weeks, which has never occurred before in Bake Off history. That run will definitely come to an end next Tuesday, though. There’s nobody left who hasn’t won it. Shame.
Escape artist Laura dodged another bullet
She thought she was “a goner” last time but narrowly stayed ahead of Mark Lutton. Now Kentish contestant Laura Adlington survived by the skin of her teeth again.
She and Lottie were neck-and-neck throughout. Either could have been eliminated. Laura’s quiches were tasty but her chorizo leaked and her pastry was tough. She came fourth in the technical, just one place ahead of Lottie.
Her Death By Chocolate showstopper was a melting mess, not least because she forgot to press the right button on her ice cream maker. Poor Laura spent 40 minutes churning her chocolate brownie ice cream, rather than freezing it. As the clock ticked down, despairing Laura shut her freezer door on it in denial, with the interior looking like a crime scene.
She apologetically served it “on the lean”, muttering that it was “an abomination… an absolute state”. What ultimately saved her was that, despite its sloppy appearance, it tasted better than Lottie’s, with delicious praline ice cream.
As Noel Fielding pointed out in the final pow-wow, Laura has made frequent mistakes, dodging departure several times in the past seven weeks. It’s a minor miracle she’s made it this far. Will her fortune run out soon?
First ever Eighties Week was a nostalgia-fest
Who’d have guessed that with his penchant for stone-washed denim and flashy cars, Paul Hollywood would have an affinity for this week’s thematic decade? “I’m an Eighties boy at heart and always will be,” the master baker grinned gleefully. “Best decade ever.”
The challenges – quiches, split finger doughnuts and ice cream celebration cakes – were suitably retro. Mainly, though, this was an excuse for everyone to go misty-eyed. Well, apart from the annoyingly young Peter, who was born in 2000 and considers the Eighties “medieval history”.
Marc Elliott reminisced about Transvision Vamp and Altered Images. Laura Adlington fondly recalled her Eighties-themed 30th birthday, with neon outfits and Oops Upside Your Head floor-dancing.
Matt Lucas hailed it as the decade of “Brookside, Right To Reply and the emergence of Carol Vorderman – really edgy stuff”. He recreated the Careless Whisper sax solo and crooned Spandau Ballet’s True into a rolling pin. Noel Fielding’s reference points were rather more arty: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry, The Cure and Grace Jones.
The impish co-hosts teamed up to riff on Emu’s Pink Windmill Show (“There’s somebody at the door”) and Sooty (“Izzy whizzy, let’s get busy”). There were passing mentions of E.T., Rubik’s Cubes, shoulder pads, leg-warmers, prawn cocktails and Wall’s Viennettas. We also learned that back in the Eighties, 25 miles of Arctic Roll were sold every month. Not bad for something that food writer Nigel Slater described as tasting like "frozen carpet”.
Anyone else feeling Christmassy?
A tough year and a second lockdown has seen many comfort-craving Britons getting festive earlier than usual – putting up trees, mulling drinks and stocking up on food. Christmas came early to the tent too, courtesy of Peter Sawkins’s clever Christmas ice cream cake.
With its brandy-soaked fruit, mini plum puddings, marzipan and holly decorations, it was a taste of December, filmed in August and airing in early November. Strange but suitably 2020ish.
Quarter-final now beckons
And then there were five. The surviving quintet now progress to Dessert Week. Hermine and Peter now look like the favourites but Marc is steadily improving as the contest progresses. Could Dave or Laura also make a late bid for cake-stand glory? It promises to be a fascinating home stretch.