“Welcome to the Great Stand Up to Cancer Bake Off!” declare Sandi and Noel, from the lawn of another classic English country manor – it’s not quite got the same ring to it, but it’s for charity so we’ll let it go
Yes, it’s time for the annual celebrity outing of the Great British Bake Off, in aid of Stand Up to Cancer. We’re treated to a montage of various upcoming failures – profiteroles making a bid for freedom, cake layers sliding off of each other, flour everywhere…it looks like chaos. I can’t bloody wait.
Our first set of willing celebrities are comedian Harry Hill, journalist and presenter Bill Turnbull, comedian and writer Roisin Conaty, and actor and Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp. From the off we can tell it’s going to be a good one, as Roisin shouts “they’re not sweets!” as Harry offers Bill a baking bead.
Signature Challenge – Cupcakes
Noel introduces the first signature challenge of the mini-series; 12 identical, decorated cupcakes. Pretty simple, but I suppose they’re going easy on the celebs (for now).
“We have to start before we can finish,” says Harry, quite wisely, as the bakers begin pulling out their ingredients. Paul tells us he’s looking for a light and airy sponge with a beautiful flavour, and Prue wants to see the celebrities’ personalities in their choice of decoration. Harry has taken this very literally, and is making bald-headed cupcakes. I laugh aloud for a good minute at the excellent preview drawing.
Bill is busy zesting a lemon, “to give it a hint of… lemon”. His cupcakes will be decorated with his football team’s colours, and involves a lot of fondant circles and marzipan balls. Martin admits he hasn’t made cupcakes in years, but promises “the best cupcakes you’ve ever seen”, complete with fondant roses.
“They won’t all be the same size, but that’s life,” says Harry, spooning mixture into paper cases. Roisin, who is appealing to the judges to tell her which shelf of the oven her cakes should go on, is making red velvet cupcakes, something she has never attempted before. There’s a daub of flour so perfectly placed on her cheek I wonder if there’s a cake-based make-up artist on hand. Sandi asks her what flavour of cream cheese she’s made, but Rosin has already forgotten. We must not mock, because have we not all, at one point or another, been Roisin?
“I lost my hair when I was twenty three,” says Harry, rolling out a flesh-coloured fondant for his cupcakes. “I noticed it was taking me longer and longer to wash my face.” Paul stares down Roisin, who has taken her cupcakes from the oven and put them straight the fridge. She hastily pulls them back out again.
Martin’s cupcakes have sunk completely in the middle and he’s starting again. The second batch is in but… oh my god, he’s baked the buttercream. HE’S BAKED THE BUTTERCREAM. Sandi rushes in to help, but declares the topping “un-salvageable” and Kemp of course has to start his cupcake mixture again (again).
With fifteen minutes to go, Roisin’s cakes are now in the freezer as they refuse to cool. Her cream cheese, potentially with vanilla, is looking a bit like mashed potato, but Noel assures her that he likes mashed potato. Martin’s second batch have also sunk and at this point I suspect sabotage. Time is called but as neither Roisin or Martin are finished, Sandi, angel that she is, stalls for time by dragging out her calling of the time.
Eventually though, it’s time for the judges to descend. Harry is up first, and his cupcakes are deemed “not very highly decorative” by Paul, but the orange flavour works well and the sponge is a great colour. Sandi’s hidden cake fortune tells her she will inherit a copy of Mary Berry’s birth certificate (THEY SAID MARY’S NAME, SHOULDN’T SHE APPEAR IN A MIRROR OR SOMETHING?!) and for that, she gives Harry the first ever Toksvig Handshake.
Bill’s ‘pitchside’ cupcakes are very neat, and his “balls look good”. The sponge is slightly overbaked and the lemon doesn’t come through, but the ratio of icing to sponge is very good. It’s a mediocre judging, really.
Sandi drops Martin in it with the judges about the buttercream. He collapses to his knees in a mixture of despair and mirth, but maybe the final result (just eight cupcakes) will taste okay…? “I wish I could say I was enjoying it” says Prue, “but I’m not.” Oh. Okay. Sorry Martin.
Roisin’s red velvet cupcakes are nice and uniform, and Paul offers her a handshake after a single bite. They have a “lovely light sponge,” he says, and Roisin does a little happy dance in triumph.
Technical Challenge – Crêpes Suzette
Time for the technical, and Paul and Prue leave the tent with a cryptic “it’s all about the timing” comment. Prue announces that the celebs are to attempt Crêpes Suzette, French pancakes bathed in a boozy orange sauce. Noel tells the bakers he’s put the recipes in their pants, because Noel.
Roisin is realising that she might not be able to blag her way through this challenge. She quickly trips up when she just sloshes a random amount of milk into her bowl without measuring it and has to start again.
“How do you know when you’ve got a smooth batter?” says Bill, seeking advice from Noel, who as always is encouraging but technically unhelpful. Harry throws an orange on the floor, but picks it up again and carries on squeezing.
“What’s zest?” asks Roisin. Oh dear. She then sieves her icing sugar directly into the sink, and shouts “there’s no such thing as pith!” across the tent. Bill, Harry and Martin all flip their pancakes expertly, while Roisin quite wisely goes with a spatula. “I’m Prue Leith’s son,” admits Harry when questioned on his pancake-flipping prowess. Martin deftly flips his pancake and winks at the camera and whAT WHY IS THAT AROUSING.
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) March 6, 2018
Bill tells us that he can’t afford for his last pancake to go wrong because he doesn’t have the time, so naturally he flips it directly onto the floor. “I bet I’ve done it wrong, haven’t I?” asks Roisin. Probably love, but you’re trying.
As the bakers start flambéing their alcoholic orange sauces, Sandi is on hand with a fire extinguisher lest they burn down the tent (that doesn’t stop Harry having a go though). “This is a disaster,” declares Bill, as the time rolls down and their fates are sealed.
The Crêpes Suzettes are brought up to the gingham for judging. Harry is first, and the judges cough their way through an exclamation of them being very alcoholic. Overall though, they’re a good pancake. Roisin’s oranges are “hacked up rather than segmented” according to Prue, and the pancake appears to have welded itself to the plate. It’s all a bit burnt… including the orange.
Martin’s crêpes are soft, and again the judges choke on the high alcohol content. Bill’s look pretty dry, but the sauce that is there tastes alright. In the end it’s Roisin’s burnt offering in last, followed by Bill, then Martin, with Harry triumphant in first place.
Showstopper Challenge – 3D Biscuit Scene
For the celebrity showstopper, the gang are told they are to make a 3D biscuit scene of the best day of their life, to be made up of 24 decorated biscuits that can stand up on their own. “It’s all about engineering, architecture, art and baking,” lists off Paul. He seems to have forgotten he’s got two comedians, a TV presenter and a musical Eastenders star in the tent, but hey ho.
Harry tells the judges that his scene will be of the day he went on holiday with Camilla Parker Bowels, a story he provides so much detail and description for that by the end of the show I honestly believe it might have happened. Roisin will be creating a beach bar made of gingerbread, and tells the sceptical Paul that the sand will be made of honeycomb. “Is it hard?” she asks, as Paul suggests ground almonds instead.
The best day of Bill’s life was his wedding day, and his scene will be of himself and his wife in beekeeping outfits by a honey bee hive – how sweet (pun definitely intended). Martin’s best day is the day Spandau Ballet played Live Aid, and his scene will be “rocking on a marbled fondant stage”. He’s adding chilli to his biscuit mix for an extra kick.
“This feels like I’ve definitely done something wrong immediately,” says Roisin of her gingerbread, which is probably right, and already Bill describes what’s happening over at his own station as “carnage”. Martin tells us how he was flown to Live Aid in a helicopter piloted by Noel Edmunds, which to be honest seems like a better deal than being flown by the Bake Off’s own Noel…
Harry is fashioning biscuit Camilla in a one piece. At this stage I am fully taken in my his story. Sandi glides past Noel holding a lemon, and is anything even real anymore?
Icing and various other decorations start to go on, with various levels of finickiness. Bill’s beehive is starting to look pretty fab, and Roisin has wisely taken Paul’s advice and gone for a ground almond sand. Harry precariously assembles his rainbow over himself and Camilla’s gingerbread forms…. it holds well. Roisin, on the other hand, is not having the same luck with her beach bar. It is quickly abandoned. Her camel won’t even stand up. As the final time is called, it falls over onto the sand…
Martin is first to bring up his biscuit creation to be judged. “I was expecting a stage”, says Paul. “Well you’re expecting a lot Paul,” Martin laughs in his face. Fair. Prue thinks that the scene itself is terrific, and the biscuit has a lovely flavour. Paul agrees, approving of how the chilli comes through right at the end, and he loves the detail.
Bill is next, presenting his wedding day beehive creation. Paul says it’s “simple but highly effective”, and Prue is impressed by its colours. “Can I eat one of your children?” she asks, and we all side-eye each other. Although the scene is lovely, the biscuit is unfortunately a bit under-baked.
Roisin now, and… it looks a bit of a mess if I’m honest. “Don’t look at me!” she cries as she carries it across the tent. Paul is impressed… but only with his own idea of ground almonds. “The flavour would be good if it was cooked,” says Prue, which is a backhanded compliment if I ever heard one. “Probably the worst gingerbread I’ve ever had” says Paul. Roisin says she likes to be first or last, so she’s happy anyway.
Harry presents his dream sequence in biscuit. Prue thinks it’s amazing, and “terrifically complicated”. “That’s a horse on a surfboard,” says Harry of one of the elements, and it’s not even slightly the weirdest thing he’s said in this segment alone. Paul thinks it’s a nice tasting biscuit, and Prue says the whole thing is brilliant.
Before Star Baker is announced, Roisin wins a bunch of flowers and a round of applause for giving it a bloody good try, somehow becoming the Bake Off’s first ever Miss Congeniality. Harry deservedly wins the Star Baker apron, falling to his knees in triumph as he is declared the winner.
The show ends with a segment on Bill, who since filming the Bake Off special for Stand Up to Cancer has been diagnosed with prostate cancer himself. He tells us that he had ‘prided’ himself on not having seen his GP in four years, and how he dismissed pains as just ‘old age’. “If I’d had a test a few years ago, we’d have found it a lot earlier and knocked it on the head,” he says. He talks candidly about his diagnosis and the immediate aftermath, and about the support and love of his friends and family.
Totally overwhelmed by the love I’ve had on here today, and deeply moved – to tears on occasion (well I am a bit of a softy). Thank you so much to everyone who’s been in touch, it really means a lot. Watch Celeb Bakeoff 8pm, support @StandUp2C – and guys, think of getting tested!
— Bill Turnbull (@billtu) March 6, 2018
It’s brilliant to see the Bake Off return to our screens pre-summer, but important to remember why. If you can, consider donating some money towards Stand Up to Cancer, which you can do via the Channel 4 website.