The great thing about The Great British Bake Off is that it can turn a confirmed cake sceptic like me into somebody who gives a flying fig about a choux bun. I am suddenly appalled by the frankly disappointing quality of poor Dave’s choux pastry, which may well have robbed him of the champion’s title.
When judge Paul Hollywood scooped one out of the baker’s “dessert tower” and declared it “too flat”, the game was pretty much up. Judge Prue Leith, in an outfit with big blocks of colour that made her resemble a human Mondrian painting, only compounded the misery: the filling was too wet and the surface lacked crunch.
You could tell that winning meant more to Dave, a family man with a new baby on the way, than it did to the others. His “Tower of Redemption”, his personal showstopper to prove to the judges that he’d learnt from his past baking disasters, didn’t quite succeed. I felt a bit sorry for him as his walnut whirl, in every sense, melted.
Laura, on the other hand, made a mess of almost everything. At one point she even started to weep and stuck her head in the freezer compartment of her fridge, which I took to be a cry for help. But in the GBBO kitchen, despite the chocolate coating of camaraderie, you’re on your own.
So it was Peter who was the deserved winner. At 20, he’s the youngest ever champion, and his “Bonkers British Bake Off Bubble Cake” really steals the show. He is as sweet as his confections and impressively creative; who’d ever think of adding Scotch whisky to a custard slice? A tip there for another way to get through lockdown.
I felt I learnt a lot of things that I will never use, like the best way to stabilise custard and what a Fraisier cake is. Yet although the judges and the presenters, Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas, are as comforting as a big pile of warm friends, something is missing. There is virtually no smut like in the Mel and Sue era. When Hollywood says to Dave: “Let’s have a look at your brownie”, that line dies in the air. We should have been able to hear the giggles from across the GBBO kitchen, but we didn’t.
Let’s face it, the producers might have been a bit satirical this year, given everything that’s going on. Bakers could have been challenged to make a garish round spiky coronavirus cake, or a metaphor for Brexit using suet, or something fiery, syrupy and orange that resembled Donald Trump’s face when Fox News said Biden had won. But the show and its grand final just didn’t quite rise to the occasion. As Winston Churchill once said to a waiter, as he sent back his dessert, “This pudding has no theme.”