The Great British Baking Show ends today. The bakes have been baked, the winner has been decided, and across the country, there are doomed couples convincing themselves that, hey, maybe learning to bake can be a fun activity to do where we don't have to look each other in the eyes at all.
Season 10 of Bake Off (Baking Show is its Americanized name, which I steadfastly refuse to acknowledge on the grounds that it simply sucks in comparison) played out like all the others on paper. A handful of eager British amateur bakers entered a big tent in the front garden of a Downton Abbey ripoff mansion somewhere in the English countryside, and were challenged to cook buns, cookies, and, on one occasion, something called "Gâteau Saint Honoré". Truly machiavellian shit on the part of professional baking judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood (real name).
As ever (well, since 2016), presenting duties were shared by U.K. comedians Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, both impish little geniuses with a shared affinity for loud, loose-fitting button-ups. And as you can come to reasonably expect from a primetime British show centered around quiet normies baking cakes for two straight days, there's a quaint and wholesome aesthetic that pervades Bake Off, but thanks to loose advertising restrictions in Great Britain, there's also room for more banter, innuendo, and straight-up swearing than you're likely to see on a similar show over here. I could swear I head an un-bleeped "fuck" this season, and there are even several twitter accounts devoted to Bake Off's devotion to Carry On-esque double entendres.
The 2019 bakes were, as ever, outstanding (I still can't get over this magnificent, resplendent biscuit chicken). But the real star of Bake Off's tenth go-around was... well, its stars. A group of truly brilliant, self-realized freaks took to the tent this year, developing cult followings in their own right.
In the history of Bake Off, no one has been quite as ardently themselves as Helena [ed note: an icon and my mother], a 40-year-old project manager from Leeds who, despite that dry description, defied instructions each and every week to deliver witch, vampire, and horror-themed bakes. Not once did she try to tone down her gothic sensibilities for the conservative Paul and Prue, and I salute our Northern Wiccan queen.
Elsewhere, viewers were endeared to Phil, a lorry (truck) driver in his mid-50s who belongs to a motorcycle club and lovingly describes his wife as a "biscuit freak" during biscuit week. Shy retail assistant Steph, ever rocking a powerful high pony, decimated the competition this year, winning an unprecedented four Star Baker awards on her way to the finale (spoiler alert).
And then there's Henry, perhaps the purest distillation of Bake Off's beating heart we've ever seen. Henry is 20, charming, self-deprecating, bakes like a damn pro, and firmly refused to wear anything but nice shirts and neckties during his run on the show, even in the sweltering heat of the un-air-conditioned tent in the middle of the English summer. In the week proceeding his untimely (fact, not an opinion) elimination, the remaining bakers wore ties themselves in a kindhearted show of solidarity.
All this is to say, congratulations to [REDACTED], this year's winner. But, like boring sports commentators like to say, the real winner here is the fans, who got to spend ten blissful weeks with the most fantastic collection of eccentric lunatics ever to enter a televised cooking show.
The Great British Baking Show Season 10 is now streaming in its entirety on Netflix. For some insane reason, it is referred to as "Collection 7" on the site due to weird streaming rights related to the first three seasons. No matter. It wouldn't be Bake Off without a needlessly complicated twist on proceedings.
Let the world's gentlest show into your heart.
Originally Appeared on GQ