2016 was a tough year for the UK, but the news that The Great British Bake Off would be moving from the BBC to Channel 4 was the cherry on top of a disastrous year for fans of the much-loved baking contest.
A whole new ‘Leave vs Remain’ battle was borne, as uncertainty surrounded the future of what has become a national institution. Sadly, it was the end of the GBBO we had come to love, as Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins said goodbye to the iconic white tent, leaving Paul Hollywood to man the ovens.
Fast forward 12 months and we have a new judge, Prue Leith, as well as two new hosts, Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig. GBBO’s new Channel 4 home may mean more adverts – which means more breaks for tea and cake – but we have the same tent, same keen new bakers and same piercing stare from ol’ blue-eyed silver fox Paul, so what’s the verdict?
Are the bakes shorter?
With the arrival of adverts, many Bake Off fans were worried about losing quality time spent drooling over cakes when the show moved to Channel 4. But it’s actually been extended by 15 minutes – technically anyway – so we get the same amount of time with the bakers. Plus the ad breaks are pretty handy for sticking the kettle on or posting your cake rants on Twitter without missing any of the show.
Has Channel 4 tamed the Hollywood?
Paul tells it likes it is, and that’s why he’s a brilliant judge. With his icy blue stares, blunt ‘this is a bit dry’ comments, incredulity over contestants’ mistakes – five teaspoons of baking powder was a few too many, Peter! – and twinkling smile, we certainly saw a few glimpses of the BBC Paul that we know and love in cake week.
But he also gave out not one but TWO highly-coveted Hollywood Handshakes, so maybe he is a bit softer over on Channel 4? Did he just look bad on the BBC next to lovely Mary? Or is he trying to make a good impression as we get to grips with the show’s new line-up?
One of the bakes to earn the Hollywood Handshake was Sophie’s tropical-inspired pineapple and coconut cake, which had us lusting after Pina Colada-flavoured everything. Try this gorgeous Pina Colada Cake recipe from My Cake School to see if you can earn your own Hollywood Handshake – or at least pretend you would have got one.
Is there a Mary Berry-shaped hole?
There are many people who are still feeling Mary’s absence and some who, controversially, were over it in the first five minutes. Whichever side of the kitchen you fall on, there’s no denying that Prue must have pretty big feet as she has firmly filled Mary’s shoes. After a few more episodes, it’s likely that we’re all going to have a favourite new baking TV grandma.
Sandi even appeared to have raided Mary’s fabulous collection of floral jackets, so it looks as though we’ll still get our fix of jazzy jackets every week.
If you’re missing Bezza too much, keep an eye out for her on Britain’s Best Cook over on the BBC, which she’ll be hosting later this year, no doubt complete with her sensational style.
Does it still rain on Channel 4?
Over on the BBC, we had ice-cream melting heat and lashings of rain that made everything a bit moist, and it turns out the weather is just the same on Channel 4. But we were promised a bigger and better show! Is the advertising revenue not paying for better weather?! We suppose it is The Great British Bake Off after all, so we can’t really expect anything else.
Are the bakers up to scratch?
We might have had the mighty lion bread over on the BBC, but we’ve got cakes shaped like ice buckets and loaves of bread on Channel 4 – just ignore the slightly unfortunate handbag one. The BBC may have had chocolate peacocks, but Channel 4 has watermelon cakes, which are one of our five a day, surely?
Not only that, but Flo’s use of melon made an interesting and brilliantly eye-catching change from the usual lemon drizzle. While you may not be able to copy her decorating skills, you can still steal her idea. Baking Language has a gorgeous recipe for a cantaloupe melon loaf cake if you fancy trying something similar.
The technical challenge was still just as fiddly as ever too, with the bakers asked to make 12 identical peppermint cream-filled chocolate mini rolls. If the word ‘mini’ doesn’t enter your food vocabulary, bake a large-scale version using this recipe from Mostly About Chocolate for a classic chocolate Swiss roll complete with a delicious swirl of salted caramel buttercream.
Is it still equally hilarious and heart-wrenching?
We’re still yet to recover from the infamous Baked Alaska Gate and it looks as though GBBO will continue to have many heart-wrenching moments in its new Channel 4 home.
The dreaded soggy bottoms have already reared their ugly heads in episode one as James’ rhubarb, orange and ginger cake ended up far too moist, leading to an unfortunate peeling away situation. Meanwhile, Yan and Stacey both ended up throwing batches of cakes in the bin, leading to many familiar tense moments sat on the floor watching the oven door.
Channel 4 GBBO might not have Mel and Sue’s wit to keep everyone upbeat, but Sandi and Noel seem to be doing their best to step into the breach – with some surprising results – and we’re looking forward to seeing what else they have in store for us in the coming weeks.
Overall, it turns out that one tent, two expert bakers, two comics, 12 amateur bakers, a pinch of innuendo and a whole lot of baking powder – five teaspoons was definitely too many, Peter! – is the winning recipe for GBBO success, whatever the channel.
The second episode of the new series airs tonight (Tuesday, September 5th) on Channel 4 so you might want to get some of your own sweet treats at the ready.