Christophe says his showpiece is based on the harmony of London’s Blackheath, which the team has naturally translated into a croquembouche of crispy choux buns. The buns are filled with cassis crème pâtissière that’s either a nod to the native Blackheath blackcurrant or just the team’s favourite flavour. It’s topped with one of Blackheath’s notorious blown sugar swans.
The Squires squad pays homage to the life of a pastry chef – their showpiece comes complete with a mountain of tempered chocolate bowls and utensils, like an elegant but daunting pile of dirty dishes.
Sajeela and the Park Lane pack are creating a winter funfair of edible snowmen, Christmas trees and a chocolate train. He tries to spray red cocoa butter on the white chocolate helter skelter but a faulty gun results in a Tarantino-style shoot out.
We’re told that ‘in line with international competition rules’ at the halfway stage the teams must have half of their cakes ready for tasting. It’s a whole new world, isn’t it? The rulebook also decrees that the judging must be in secret, which doesn’t really mean much when you’re filming for national TV.
Sajeela’s team’s first three cakes are toffee apple lollipops, passion fruit and raspberry cones and ingenious macarons that look like cheeseburgers. Cherish isn’t impressed with the standard of finish and Benoit thinks the first two are ‘average’ but the burger macarons are a forte in faux fast food.
Mark’s team offers up a rhubarb and custard tart, a chocolate and hazelnut mousse and mango and lime domes. The simple names don’t do justice to the sheer prettiness of the cakes. Helen has ladled the domes with a stunningly vibrant mango glaze – I’ve been looking for the right colour to reupholster a retro pouffe, and I may have finally found it.
Claire complains that the rhubarb is a bit fibrous, but she really likes the almond pastry, describing it as ‘crumberly’. Cherish approves of the domes – the amount of gelatine is ‘to perfection’. She explains, ‘I really don’t like it when it’s bouncing off’. The Tigger School of Pâtisserie is doomed.
Christophe’s team’s Asian pandan-leaf-flavoured sponge cakes are sandwiched with tamarillo jam. Benoit shrugs – he’s not convinced it’s a match made in heaven, Claire talks about the pandan flavour profile and Cherish says it’s ‘boring, boring, boring’. Shrug, ‘flavour profile’ and repetition – if you’re still playing CDLC bingo, that’s nearly a full house.
The team’s orange cake fares better, with its unusual risotto sponge. The judges think it’s interesting – there’s too much Grand Marnier for Cherish but not for Claire, who looks in the mood for a party. Well, she’s sporting metallic silver boots and has painted her nails to match. However, the boozy balancing act suffers a tipple topple with the Mexican margarita macarons. Visually, Claire thinks the chocolate decoration could be thinner and the piping neater but the alcohol is too strong even for her – she says ‘I’m not really enjoying it at all’. Time for a taxi for Claire?
With no scores revealed it looks like anybody’s game, though both Cherish and Claire hint they’re favouring a halfway Mark. They’re not alone.