A killer whale that was tough as old boots and Prue Leith's saucy slip-up that had Paul Hollywood in fits… yes, it's Bake Off time again: ROLAND WHITE reviews The Great British Bake Off

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The Great British Bake Off, Channel 4 

Rating:

There’s an exciting new ingredient in this year’s series of The Great British Bake Off. Alison Hammond has replaced Matt Lucas as the assistant comic turn, alongside Noel Fielding.

The former Big Brother star and host of ITV’s This Morning was her usual warm and jolly self. As you might expect, she’s very good with the bakers, which used to be Noel’s job. He’ll have to up his game.

But as a comic turn, she’s not entirely comic. It’s hard to imagine her suddenly singing The Flintstones theme tune in German, as Matt Lucas did to baker Jurgen a couple of years ago. Early days, though.

The real stars are the bakers, of course, but it’s hard this year to see who will be the stand-out personalities. Last year, it was obvious from the very first episode that upbeat Syabira, the eventual winner, would make an impact.

And in 2021, you could see that Jurgen and Giuseppe, who took home the crystal cake-stand, would both go far. When Jurgen went out in the semi-final, the nation virtually went into mourning.

ROLAND WHITE: I blush to mention the exact phrase that Dame Prue used in all innocence but you¿re probably way ahead of me

ROLAND WHITE: I blush to mention the exact phrase that Dame Prue used in all innocence but you’re probably way ahead of me

Nikki's beaver cake in Bake Off 2023 for the animal cakes Showstopper challenge

Nikki’s beaver cake in Bake Off 2023 for the animal cakes Showstopper challenge

In last night’s episode, I had early hopes of deli-owner Amos, a big presence who wore a large baggy jumper and an earring in the shape of a safety pin.

Oh Amos, where did it all go wrong? He struggled with his vertical layer cake in the first round and never really recovered.

READ MORE: Why did Matt Lucas leave The Great British Bake Off? The real reason the Little Britain star left the baking contest 

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When it came to the showstopper, the bakers had to produce a cake in the shape of an animal. Amos chose a whale, which turned out skew-whiff (stop me if I’m getting technical).

There was worse to come. After criticising the shape of the cake, Paul Hollywood had a taste. His verdict was damning: ‘It’s as tough as old boots.’

Amos had to hand in his apron but it must have been a close decision because Paul had noted earlier: ‘There’s a large bunch of them who could possibly be leaving after the showstopper.’

Be warned: This series is going to be brutal.

The first Star Baker of the series was engineer Dan, a precision operator in the mould of fellow engineer Giuseppe. Right from the start he had the air of somebody whose souffles rise without fail. His rhubarb and custard vertical cake was pronounced ‘beautiful’ by Prue Leith and he won the technical challenge – a Great British Bake Off chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.

The viewers’ favourite could be a charming former ski instructor called Tasha, who is deaf and has Daryl the sign-language interpreter to help her follow the action. This is remarkably unobtrusive.

In last night¿s episode, I had early hopes of deli-owner Amos, a big presence who wore a large baggy jumper and an earring in the shape of a safety pin

In last night’s episode, I had early hopes of deli-owner Amos, a big presence who wore a large baggy jumper and an earring in the shape of a safety pin

Amos chose a whale, which turned out skew-whiff (stop me if I¿m getting technical)

Amos chose a whale, which turned out skew-whiff (stop me if I’m getting technical)

Tasha struggled in the first two rounds. As she put it: ‘My signature dish looked like somebody sat on it, and I came 11th in the technical round.’

But she came good in the showstopper round by baking a spectacular cake in the shape of a giant robin red-breast. Former air steward Nicky and intelligence analyst Saku could both blossom as the series develops and I have hopes that chartered accountant Keith might be a dark horse.

Bake Off humour can be forced – please, no more terrible puns – but there was an unexpectedly hilarious moment when Prue asked Nicky about her animal cake, Norman the beaver. Don’t ask. Apparently Nicky once dressed as a beaver. I blush to mention the exact phrase that Dame Prue used in all innocence but you’re probably way ahead of me. It began ‘Tell me about your…’ and Paul was laughing so much he was temporarily unable to speak.

It marked an unexpected return to soggy bottoms and other naughtiness. Dame Prue rephrased her request but well done to the producer for keeping in the original.




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