The Great British Bake Off: Latest episode is recapped by Jim Shelley

‘Shut up!’ Henry’s reaction to Paul Hollywood’s handshake didn’t impress the judge. But luckily Steph avoided the curse of another Star Baker on The Great British Bake Off, by Jim Shelley

The bookies’ favourite to win The Great British Bake Off, Steph Blackwell, narrowly failed to make history and become Star Baker for a remarkable four weeks running.

Luckily for her… No-one’s suggesting the shop assistant from Chester did it deliberately, but being Star Baker again was the last thing Steph needed.

Bake Off history tells us the supposed honour of Star Baker is actually more of a curse than something to aspire to.

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Reaction: Paul Hollywood wasn’t exactly thrilled when Henry gasped ‘shut up!’ in reaction to the judge shaking his hand in praise of his efforts on Tuesday’s The Great British Bake Off

Veteran viewers of the show, particularly from its BBC heyday, know the contestants who excel in the nine episodes before the final rarely go on to win it.  On the contrary, in fact.

Ruby Tandoh (series 4), Steven Carter-Bailey (series 8), and James Morton (series 3) were all awarded Star Baker on an impressive three occasions without being crowned champion, while Richard Burr was Star Baker five times in 2014 before only finishing runner-up.

Candice Brown and Nadiya Hussain (GBBO winners in 2016 and 2015 respectively) both won Star Baker three times, although in Nadiya’s case this was still less than Ian Cumming (four) who was even Star Baker in three out of the first four rounds ultimately to no avail. 

Meanwhile, the winners of series 2, 3, 4, and 5, (Jo Wheatley, John Whaite, Frances Quinn, and Nancy Birtwhistle) were Star Baker only once and Sophie Faldo (series 8) just twice (like a lot of contestants).

So on this evidence, going into Festival Week Steph Blackwell was already doomed, and her five ‘rivals’ even (possibly) hoping she’d be Star Baker for a fourth time more than she was – to seal her fate.

Chuffed: The 21-year-old student was decidedly thrilled to win the praise of the tough judge

Sadly, kamikaze-ly, Steph had another impressive round.

Summing up before the judges announced their decision, Paul Hollywood reflected she was in the running for Star Baker again – ‘along with Henry and possibly David’.

David had come second in the Technical Challenge but then annoyed Prue Leith with the size of his Showstopper (as it were). Admittedly, as you can see from the selection of Prue’s comments below, this wasn’t difficult tonight but it cost him nonetheless.

Steph had certainly made a disastrously good start in the Signature Challenge when her witty twist on hot cross buns (with cranberries, sultanas, and cinnamon) were so good she received the (supposed) accolade of a Paul Hollywood handshake.

‘I won’t wash!’ she beamed afterwards, hopefully but not definitely joking.

When it was all over, as Paul and Prue adjourned to decide the week’s winner and loser, David summed it up, saying: ‘It’s really close, I think. Anyone could go. Myself, Alice, Michael and Rosie have all had positives and negatives.’

Noticeably, understandably, his list didn’t include Steph, who had lacked the latter – unlike Michael (who lacked positives) and had been average/poor throughout the competition, so rightly the one to leave.

Challenge: The hopefuls were seen being put through their paces for the show’s Festival Week

It meant that Steph again looked a cut above the rest, with Henry her only real rival for the title.

All of which helped ensure Festival Week was unusual. Under the auspices of Channel 4 it certainly no longer merely involved baking cakes related to traditional cultural/religious festivals from Britain.

Rosie won the Technical Challenge for her Sicilian Cassatelle (‘pastry crescents filled with a ricotta, flavoured with chocolate and orange’) while the Showstopper involved making a Battenberg-style ‘Kek Lapis layer cake’ found in festival celebrations in the Sarawak region of Malaysia.

‘I’ve heard of Malaysia before. I haven’t heard of Sarawak or Kek Lapis layer cake,’ said Henry.

For the Signature meanwhile, Rosie made a ‘Semla namelaka’ (pastry buns associated with Finland’s Mardi Gras celebrations). Henry’s Kardemummabullar cardamom buns were Swedish.

‘Your flavours are good, the proving’s good, the bake’s good, the colour is good, and the technique’s good…’ Paul Hollywood told Henry, which seemed to cover it, before also bestowing upon the 21 year-old student the ‘honour’ of shaking his hand.

Near miss: The bookies’ favourite to win The Great British Bake Off, Steph Blackwell, narrowly failed to make history and become Star Baker for a remarkable four weeks running

‘Shut up!’ gasped Henry, as young people are prone to.

Paul Hollywood wasn’t exactly thrilled but it didn’t stop Henry from becoming week eight’s Star Baker, luckily for Henry – and for Steph.

These were Prue Leith’s best/worst/bitchiest moments in ‘Festival Week’:

1. Prue’s damning putdown of Alice’s lemon, blueberry and almond hot cross buns in the Signature Challenge 

Paul Hollywood: ‘You baked them well but there’s a pretty irregular colour and size going on there.’

Prue: ‘Well they look homemade.’ – Ouch!

2. Prue’s reaction to Alice’s casatelle pastries

Paul: ‘They’ve popped open in the fryer and puffed up.’

Prue: ‘Like some kind of seafood creature!’ – Miaow! (the sea creature version)

3. Prue’s withering assessment when she tasted Rosie’s Sarawak-style Showstopper, which Rosie had created by making two eight-layer lemon and mixed spiced sponge cakes which will be cut into a square cross-section, then halved into a triangle, then halved again into another triangle, and then re-assembled into a diamond pattern’

Prue: ‘What is the jam inside?’ – Never a good sign from someone judging a cake.

4. Prue’s comment when Henry proudly showed the judges a detailed diagram of what he’d planned for his Malaysian-style ‘Elegant Present Box lemon & lime Sarawak cake’

‘It’s probably a mistake to show us that – because we might be disappointed if you don’t achieve it.’

5. Prue’s ambivalent assessment of David’s stunning-looking Showstopper, which consisted of ‘contrasting monochrome and multi-coloured cakes flavoured with a traditional Indonesian spice mix brushed with tamarind and honey to form a post-modernist work of art’

Prue: ‘My first impression is it’s architecturally very interesting. My next is that it’s very small.’ – Yes but which of those is more important?

(Prue, making it clear: ‘This was supposed to be a cake for a lot of people.’)

6. Prue actually tasting Alice’s lemon, blueberry and almond hot cross buns

‘I always think lemon curd glaze is not as attractive – because it’s not shiny enough.’ – OK, so you really didn’t like Alice’s hot cross buns

7. Prue hinting at what she does like, seeing Michael’s ‘figgy pudding hot cross buns’

Paul: ‘They’re misshapen because of the volume of fruit.’

Prue: ‘But they’re lovely and shiny!’

8. Prue confirming where her priorities lie, seeing Steph’s cranberry and cinnamon hot cross buns

‘I do think they look very shiny and very attractive. My mouth is watering!’ – Anything shiny basically…

Blessing in disguise? Steph’s near miss may have been a blessing in disguise, as few consistent Star Bakers have gone on to win the competition outright


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