And then there were three. Back in August I don’t think I would’ve predicted that Andrew, Jane and Candice would’ve been the final three. At the time Andrew was presented as one of the weaker bakers whilst everybody was that obsessed with Selasi that they felt he could easily win. Of our three finalists I think Jane has been the most consistent but I’d already backed Candice to win about halfway through the series. Of course this series has almost occurred under a shadow due to the almost daily reports about the show’s sale to Channel 4 and the various exits of presenters and judges. Meanwhile I’ve found the series itself to be a tad disappointing however I’m glad to say that I felt this final turned things around and I was gripped from beginning to end.
Signature Bake – Filled Meringue Crown
This year’s final took on a rather regal nature with the challenges all based around the monarchy in a way only a show with British in the title can really get away with. As the final trio’s plans were revealed, Candice and Jane both garnered criticism for very different reasons. Jane’s crown was her husband Ray’s favourite desert and each layer was dedicated to a different colour from the Union Jack. The crown was sandwiched together with strawberry and raspberry compote, blueberry compote and white nectarines, all flavours that were called simplistic by Paul to the extent that she’d have to achieve perfection to wow he and Mary. Meanwhile Candice was once again criticised for doing too much namely creating two different meringues and including a fourth layer on her crown which shaped into the tiny crown of Queen Victoria. Andrew was apparently also taking risks by using Muscavado Sugar in his meringue which Mary wasn’t sure about as it produced a rather runny consistency. Everything seemed to go wrong for Andrew here as he accidentally put his crown’s peanut praline centre onto the wrong side of the baking parchment, sticking one to the other. In fact it was this praline that saw Andrew face criticism from Mary and Paul who thought it was too sweet of a filling for an already very sweet meringue crown. Candice on the other hand was praised for everything including the definition of her meringues and the great flavours. Candice in fact earned the ultimate act of acknowledgement in the trademarked Paul Hollywood handshake which shocked everyone in the tent. That was until Jane received an even more sturdy handshake from Paul two minutes later after producing a creation that he described as ‘three levels of heaven’. Suffice to say Andrew was left looking like a sad panda and recognised that he needed to raise his game going into the technical.
Technical Challenge – Victoria Sandwich
A tear came to my eye as I realised this was to be Mary Berry’s final technical challenge and what an interesting one it was too. Although the idea of a Victoria Sandwich cake seemed easy at first the bakers were forced to do it without any recipe at all. I personally enjoyed Sues idea about making the bakers do it in Zorro masks, boxing gloves and with their trousers down but we’ll probably have to wait till the Channel 4 version to see that happening. One thing I did notice on the card that contained no recipe was the fact that the bakers weren’t allowed to confer with one another. But surely they’d be able to hear the others talking about their plans when they have to do their to-camera bits during the challenge. Of the trio, Candice seemed the most confident as she was doing exactly what she would when she made a Victoria Sandwich at home including using the famous ‘all in one’ method. However those of us who remember Val’s misplaced confidence during the Bakewell Tart challenge remember that being sure of what you’re doing in the technical doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be top of the pack come judgement time. In fact Candice was criticised for almost everything from having taken the pips out of her jam to having a rather grainy buttercream. Meanwhile Jane’s cake equally had issues including soft buttercream and thick jam meaning both of the ladies conceded the contest to Andrew. To be fair to Andrew his cake did look the best in terms of colour and apparently he made a very good jam. The fact that he won the technical also made the showstopper a lot more interesting as everybody was going in on an even playing field.
Showstopper – 49 Piece Picnic Hamper
Back in series four of the Bake-Off the final three were tasked with making a wedding cake for their showstopper which, whilst incredibly complex in the time, meant they only had to concentrate on making one thing. Fast forward three years and Andrew, Candice and Jane were tasked with filling a picnic hamper which would be comprised of forty-nine different items. These items included twelve sausage rolls, twelve mini quiches and twelve savoury scones and twelve fruit and custard tarts. If this wasn’t enough they also had to make a massive chocolate celebration cake which was to be the crowning glory of their five hours in the tent. One thing I didn’t particularly understand was why each baker was confined to one oven each when there were twelve in the tent that could potentially have been utilised. Although I know the judges want to make the challenge as hard as possible I think they could’ve at least helped the bakers out to an extent by letting them use at least two ovens during their mammoth baking session.
As those of you who have been reading my reviews know I’ve not been as invested in this series of Bake-Off as I have been in previous years. Whilst watching tonight’s final I realised that the reason for this was that we hadn’t been given as much detail about the bakers’ personal life as in previous years. In past series I remember that every week we spent a minute or two with the remaining contestants baking at home as we were drip fed information about them. This year though, after the first week, this information seems to have vanished and so it was refreshing to hear from the families of the three remaining contestants. I personally grew to like Andrew a lot more after learning that he skipped his own graduation in order to practise for the Bake-Off with his parents turning up in his stead. But it was Jane who I felt the most for after hearing from her kids who felt incredibly proud of their hard-working mother. As the bakers prepared to present their finished products to the judges we had the usual cavalcade of former contestants ready for the traditional friends and family picnic. As ever all of them were asked to give their predictions with Val picking Candice and Tom and Rav opting for Jane. Whilst Benjamina refused to pass comment, Selasi chose Andrew which is odd as I really didn’t see them interacting at all during their time in the competition.
Going into the final judgements Jane had a similar issue to the one she experienced in botanical week in that she tried to put a collar round her cake but it didn’t quite work. There were more problems when Mary and Paul sampled her work namely that there was raw pastry in her sausage rolls and that they didn’t taste the butternut squash that accompanied the cheese in her scones. On the plus side she did garner praise for her sweetcrust pastry tarts and for the surprising cherry filling in her chocolate cake. Despite bringing along an excel spreadsheet, Andrew still had issues with his bakes mainly in terms of his pastry. Just like Jane, Andrew had undercooked pastry in his sausage and chorizo jam rolls whilst he also had the ultimate indignity of the soggy bottom under his strawberry and pistachio tarts. Thankfully Paul and Mary went wild for Andrew’s cake which is just as well as it was based on his nan’s recipe and according to them cut really well and had a brilliant ganache.
Last up was Candice who as ever had gone the extra mile even turning her sausage rolls into pigs with peppercorn eyes and crackling tails. Of the three, Candice was the only baker who appeared to have got the puff pastry just right on her sausage rolls. Her salmon and asparagus quiches were also praised for their crispiness and the generous amount of filling that had been put into each one. The only part of her smaller selection to be critiqued were her scones as the olives she put in overpowered the taste of the cheese. Based on all the positive feedback she’d been given I was a little worried that Candice’s cake would let her down but instead that was praised as well. In fact it seemed that the judges may have liked her chocolate orange cake the most with Mary describing it as a great cake to take to a picnic which luckily they were having out on the field.
And the Winner is… It’s nice when I get a prediction right and after all the positives she was given in the final there was no doubt in my mind that Candice was going to win. I do feel that, of the three possibilities, she was the best face for the Bake-Off and her cheeky personality and ever changing lipstick made her more of a character than her two rivals. Although I do think Candice will have the sort of success as last year’s winner Nadiya, I still feel she’ll be able to carve a pretty good career as a baker and she has the honour of being the final winner of The Great British Bake-Off on BBC One.
Next Time: Well that’s your lot for this series of Bake-Off and indeed the concept as we know it. I’m more open-minded than most and I have faith in Channel 4 that they’ll do something interesting with the format. With the news that Netflix were offering to buy the format coming out this week I think a lot of us are glad that at least the baking show is still on free TV even if it will be completely different. I’m hoping that the show isn’t a complete carbon copy but at the same time retains the good-nature and silly humour that made the show such a ratings winner for the BBC. Whilst I know we all fear change, let’s just see what happens to the programme when it returns on Channel 4.
For now I’ll just say its been fun covering this newsworthy series of The Great Britsh Bake-Off with you folks and please follow me on Twitter @mattstvbites to find more of my many TV-related articles.