“I left Bake Off when Mary did.” This was my flatmate Immie’s resolute answer to my asking if she fancied catching up on this week’s episode of The Great British Bake Off. She is certainly not the only Bake Off lover to be still mourning the absence of the delightful Mary Berry. Nevertheless, having overcome my own reservations about the changes the show’s move to Channel 4 would entail, I was delighted to discover a Bake Off with its wholesome charm essentially intact.
Yearly, sitting down to watch Bake Off as autumn approaches, viewers are transported to the comforting viewing experience of that iconic tent with its interior pastel hues, immediately identifiable music, and the familiarity of the British weather conditions the bakers have to grapple with – somehow the rain always pours when chocolate needs tempering! Channel 4 have cleverly left these intrinsic characteristics and the format of the show intact. The contestants too remain consistently lovely and funny people who are increasingly endearing as we become emotionally invested in their successes and disasters (expect plenty of tears from Briony in particular this season and to pull your hair out over Rahul’s lack of faith in himself). However, nothing has yet quite compared to the Baked Alaska fiasco of 2014. More than that, they are perhaps the most talented and ambitious group to have entered the tent, creating stunning showstoppers which defy their status as amateur bakers.
That brings me on to another very important element of the show’s success, the mouth-watering bakes. There ought to be a disclaimer preparing viewers for the fierce intensity of resentment they are bound to feel whilst witnessing the judges taste all those delights. For those old Bake Off loyalists who feared the loss of Mel and Sue’s comedy, you will be pleasantly surprised by Sandy Toksvig and Noel Fielding’s ability to hold their own, especially now that they have had a season to settle into their roles. Naughty puns and innuendoes remain in abundance and the silliness of Mel and Sue’s skits live on. Nevertheless, Sandy’s individually sharp wit compliments Noel’s more kindly way to make them a fresh and entertaining pair. With daunting shoes to fill, Prue is also getting into her stride as she becomes more familiar to us, increasingly revealing her colourful and assured character. Although she is not trying to replace Mary, Prue is nonetheless using her cookery knowledge and experience to judge constructively. Already this season Prue is being stronger in her critique than last year and is even rivalling Paul’s harshness at times, though the drama of his aspirational handshake remains his own.
I would remind sceptics like Immie that this is the ninth season of The Great British Bake Off but only its second season on Channel 4 and I feel it is only fair to allow the show time to settle into its new home and give its innovations a chance. Ultimately, in Prue’s words, Bake Off remains “a national treasure”.