On Tuesday, The Great British Bake Off returned to our screens for the first of five 1-hour specials in support of Stand Up To Cancer.
Our post-move-to-Channel-4 presenting line up of Paul, Prue, Noel and Sandi were joined by celebrity bakers, Roisin Conaty, Harry Hill, Martin Kemp and Bill Turnball, who were challenged with a cupcake signature, a Crêpes Suzette technical and a 3D biscuit scene showstopper – all with hilarious results of course.
Going into the first challenge, many of the ‘celebs’ were feeling confident, but as is always the way once the famous cry of ‘Ready… Steady… Bake!’ is uttered, the wheels soon came off! The greatest victim of the seemingly simple technical, Martin, had all sorts of trouble with his cupcakes, with even a re-baked second attempt dropping, but mixing up his bowls and trying to bake his buttercream was probably his lowlight of the experience – although it certainly made entertaining viewing.
When it came to decoration, both Harry and Bill opted to top their cupcakes with jam and sugarpaste (Is a cupcake really a cupcake without lashings of frosting?); while Roisin (who we love by the way after filming an episode of Extra Slice with her in 2017), having professed to never having baked before, went on to wow the judges with her red velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting – earning herself a Hollywood Handshake in the process. However, while they looked perfectly tasty, one has to ask, does a channel 4 Hollywood Handshake carry the same gravitas as its BBC equivalent. He certainly seems a bit faster and looser with them these days…
After the trauma of the signature, the technical challenge managed to push all of our celebrity bakers to their limits. Crêpes Suzette, a French twist on the humble pancake that marries it with a buttery orange, caramel and Grand Marnier sauce, is a somewhat retro classic these days, but a final flambé never fails to impress guests at dinner parties!
On perusing the recipe, which remained a mystery until the start of the challenge, Roisin’s queries as to what flambé means or what zest even is immediately let us know that this challenge might not be as simple as it initially seemed…
We were treated to all sorts of delightful pancake-themed montage sequences, including poor Bill’s inevitable toss to the floor, before realising that Harry Hill’s former medical career had clearly provided him with an upper hand when it came to the surgical segmentation of an orange. His beautifully sliced orange segments, with ne’er a hint of membrane coupled with some tasty brandy-infused pancakes to scoop him first place and the least said about the rest of the bakers’ efforts the better.
Finally, we were treated to a showstopper, during which the bakers were challenged to recreate the best day of their life through the medium of biscuits. With creations including a Bill’s bee-keeping themed family portrait, Roisin’s beach bar made out of raw gingerbread and the Live Aid stage itself, it was actually Harry’s depiction of his somewhat questionable holiday with Camilla Parker Bowles that won the day.
Coupled with his impressive Crêpes Suzette, it seemed somewhat inevitable that the funny man would come out on top and sure enough, Harry Hill was crowned our first Stand Up To Cancer Star Baker.
Rather poignantly, it emerged that contestant Bill Turnbull had received his own cancer diagnosis during the show’s filming and there followed an incredibly moving video at the end of the episode during which he discussed his struggle with his diagnosis and encouraged men everywhere to get their prostates checked. I am happy to admit that his story moved me to tears and I’m sure his confession that he had prided himself on the fact that he had not been to see his GP for four years rang true for a lot of people.
He added that, “If I’d had a test a few years ago we would have diagnosed it earlier and knocked it on the head earlier and my survival possibilities would be a lot better.
“I’ve been blessed to have had a wonderful family who still give me joy every day. For me, being a father is the most challenging thing you can do, and the most fulfilling. I have been married for almost 30 years. And that, I consider to be… the best thing I’ve ever done.”
If anything should remind us of the real reason that this series has been recorded, then this surely is it.
Stand Up To Cancer is a joint effort between Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 to bring the UK together to accelerate progress in life-saving cancer research.
To donate by text, send TEN or TWENTY to 70404 to give £10 or £20 or you can visit channel4.com/su2c. Alternatively, whether you’re a star baker or prone to a soggy bottom, The Great Stand Up To Cancer Bake Off needs you to get baking this spring. It’s easy – order your pack (https://www.standuptocancer.org.uk/bake-off) full of hints and tips, recipes, bunting and more, hold your own baking event and raise some serious dough to fund lifesaving research.
Get ready to turn the heat up on cancer!