REVIEW: The Great British Baking Show

(Graphic by Catherine Eldridge | Collegian Media Group)

The sweltering heat breaks for the first time, fierce winds threaten unsecured papers across campus and spooky paraphernalia appears overnight. This can all only mean one thing: it’s cake week. The Great British Baking Show has officially aired the first episode of this year’s season, as it has at the start of every fall since 2010.

Season 13 represents a return-to-form for the show after the pandemic caused the last two seasons to be on complete lockdown. Contestants and staff will no longer be required to remain sequestered for the duration of the show, and the set has finally returned to ​​Welford Park. These changes are not overtly significant to the viewer, but there is certainly a palpable excitement and relief in the show’s cast.

On the other hand, the show’s staple aspects remain unchanged: each week has a different theme, ranging from biscuits to German. The theme determines the type of baked goods cooked in all three of the week’s challenges, as well the type of jokes and puns the two comedian hosts, Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas, inevitably end up making. The judges, Paul Hollywood, known for his icy blue gaze, and Prue Leith, known for her love of alcoholic baked goods, are renowned bakers responsible for assessing the competitors.

The first challenge is always “the signature.” The bakers are given the parameters beforehand and are able to practice and workshop their recipes at home. However, baking under the infamous tent set is a different beast. This week, the judges had them making a “cake sandwich,” or some sort of filling between two cake layers. Some bakers went with traditional flavors, such as lemon poppyseed, while others went with unusual flavors, such as lime tamarine. Every baker had a healthy dose of first-week anxiety.

The second challenge is “the technical.” Bakers have no idea what they are going to make beforehand, and all they are given is a list of vague instructions. This week, Paul had the bakers making a traditional red velvet cake, which involves a complex series of baking and freezing. Stress and mishaps ensued, culminating in Paul and Prue ranking each cake from last to first.

The third challenge is “the showstopper.” Bakers are allowed to plan their bake beforehand, but unlike their signature, “the showstopper” is elaborate and detailed so the bakers can show off both their decorating and flavor skills. It’s the bakers’ chance to pull themselves from the bottom to the top, or drop severely if they underperform. This week’s challenge was intricate 3D replicas of the bakers’ homes, made entirely out of cake. Some bakers rose to the challenge and saved themselves from elimination, while others fought for last place. In the end, one was eliminated and one was named “star baker.”

What separates this cultural staple from other contemporary baking shows is its warmth and comfort. The contestants are competing for a title — no cash or cookbooks for the champion, only a passion shared by each contestant. This culminates in these ameatuear, yet talented, bakers bonding and growing over several weeks — not to mention the occasional cast-wide giggle at an accidental euphemism or general celebration over an amazing bake. 

The show airs every Friday on Channel 4 and Netflix. So, if school has you overwhelmed, take an hour to unwind with The Great British Baking Show.