After nine weeks of entertaining baking, we were down to the final episode of Great British Bake Off. A record 9 million people were on the edge of their seats as the results were announced. Former contestant Urvashi Roe has a round up of the show and reveals who would take home the prize & title of Britain's best amateur baker for 2013.
13,000 applications and just three of those successfully able to call themselves a finalist.
Ruby – The youngest of the three who has attracted the most media attention this week and possibly throughout the series. Clearly despite any negativity out there she also has a huge fan base –possibly for her instinctive flair.
Kimberley – Steady and strong. We’ve seen no tears at all from her. Her focus and resolve are unparalleled as is her extensive technical knowledge. She’s worked hard and produced stunning flavours throughout the series winning praise from Paul and Mary alike.
Frances – She’s been cited as the most creative baker to ever set foot in the tent. I would agree. I have loved each of her bakes and the creative thinking process that has gone behind each one. Take a look at her website for a glimpse into how her mind works and it’s clear that there is much attention to detail there but she has also proven her substance can match her style.
The Signature Bake – A Savoury Picnic Pie
I thought this was an odd challenge for the final as we had seen pies already but Paul explained that he and Mary wanted to see the use of pastry again. A second chance to redeem mistakes made. The pie had to be presented freeform (not in a tin) and have distinct layers all the way through.
Frances sought inspiration from the British weather with a sunshine and showers theme resulted in a Rainbow Picnic Pie. A picnic hamper outer with layers of beetroot, green beans, tomatoes and so many that I cannot recall. It was presented on mock turf with a few simple flowers so she’d listened to the weeks of feedback and toned it down. The judges loved it.
They cut into crisp pastry to reveal beautiful colourful layers. Tastes were complimented upon but there has to be a but and it has to be from Paul. It was “10 minutes away from perfection”. He would have liked to see it browner.
Ruby also opted for a picnic basket route and hers was filled with mozzarella, halloumi, sundried tomatoes and basil. I loved the lattice work of the base. It all looked very dodgy going in so you didn’t see this detail until she turned it out.
She’d not lined the tin so this was a bit hit and miss but it really did look beautiful with the criss-crossing pastry lines. Paul thought it was “sublime” and Mary’s lovely school teacher like critique was that it was “an excellent vegetarian pie”.
Kimberley’s pastry base included stripes of green and would be topped with pig piglets. Lovely idea which I hoped would work because again this was a nice technical move. Sadly though moisture was her enemy as the judges had feared. She had not cooked her ingredients like the other two and so there was much leakage leading to much crackage and sadly the beautiful stripes weren’t really commented on as her meat, meat and meat pie just didn’t meet the judges favour. The flavours were “OK” but the textures were “all wrong”. Oh dear. I would have been mortified and packed a bag home there and then but Kimberley being Kimberley took it all in her brave stride.
Technical Pretzel Perfection
What a brilliant technical. It reminded me of bagel week and it was great to see such a lovely bread profiled on the show. No historical interludes though this week. All the focus was on the bakers.
We know by now that the instructions are sparse so it was all about the knotting technique. This was rather amusing to watch and reminded me of The Generation Game. I was expecting some to fall on the floor and start hitting cameras but sadly not to be. Kimberley will no doubt be coveted by the food shows to demonstrate her kneading technique. What a powerhouse she was pounding the dough. It looked smooth and elastic on the screen so I can only image how fabulous it was in the tent.
Paul was looking for a tight crumb structure. This means there needed to be less liquid in the dough. He also wanted a lovely dark colour and a snap so timing in the bicarbonate water solution and in the oven would be critical.
Sadly none of the pretzels looked like pretzels. Least of all those made by Frances and Paul dismissed them as large rolls. She came last with Ruby winning the edge for better flavours leaving Kimberley in first place. Even then Paul’s comments were “a good bake, a good break and the closest thing to a pretzel but don’t clap”.
Showingstopping Love, Stress and Three Tiers
I thought this was an odd choice for a final, final bake. Surely in view of today’s Royal events, the producers would have scheduled a Christening Tea Party of something on that vein but I imagine little Baby George was still soundly sleeping in mummy’s belly when the ideas were finalised.
We had a two tier bake in week one in my series and there were some outstanding bakes on that episode so it would be interesting to see what these creative bakers would turn out. It also took me back to the special show featuring the series one finalists as this was the same task.
Frances had a lovely theme of a ‘Midsummer Night’s Wedding Cake’. A rhubarb and ginger layer, a lemon Victoria sponge and a carrot cake topper all covered in icing and topped with edible confetti made from dried fruits. It sounded good and I think all eyes were on her for presentation.
Kimberley’s theme was a ‘Language of Love’ and there would be an orange and pistachio, lemon and elderflower and chocolate fudge layers. She would cover the cake in fondant and one layer would be inscribed with the word love in 28 languages. Very poetic. I was excited about this idea. It was the most romantic of the three.
Ruby’s ‘Sunset on a Summer’s Evening’ themed cake had layers of raspberry, lemon curd and passionfruit curd. It sounded delicious but I didn’t quite follow what the decoration would be. This was her test really as I think the judges knew she’d pull the flavours off.
They were all exceptionally well organised except Ruby. She had forgotten to add baking times to her instructions and this really was a shocker. Would she wing it one last time?
The final three were not as spectacular as I had imagined.
Ruby presented a very under decorated cake so I imagine she had run out of time. I think this was the first time that Paul really let rip with her. The “colour of the cake didn’t gel”, It “didn’t show any skill”, there “was nothing smart or clever in the presentation”, two cake layers were “overbaked”. Oh dear. Wobbly lipped Ruby walked away hopes no doubt dashed.
Kimberley’s cake tasted better than it looked for the judges. Despite the chocolate layer being dry, the others were light and tasty and well baked. Paul commented that “the outside did not reflect the inside”. She had shown so much work on this cake though. There were little beads of icing, she’d made fondant, she’d created a stamped effect on one layer and all the way through we’d seen her demonstrate cake decoration skills with ease. It had no finesse for Mary. The finish was not “interesting”.
Of the three Frances presented the best but she had suffered a little leaning and Mary would surely pick this up. Mary would also pick up that although the confetti was edible, it was not used all the way around the cake and so as a centrepiece some people would miss the decoration. Fair point but many modern cakes have this design as Paul set her right. It looked contemporary and she nailed the flavours. She left beaming.
And the winner is….
One of the reasons I applied for the show years ago was because I loved the final scenes of the garden party. All those people gelling and talking about baking. I thought it was brilliant and showed the wonderful multi-cultural communities coming together with cake. It was good to see the other contestants and the credits at the end of what they have since gone on to do. Each character has been a favourite and appealed to a subset of the British population and this is why this show will continue to succeed.
But it was finally time to crown the Queen of the Bake Off. Ruby was surely out of the game with the last bake. Kimberley had had two poor bakes and one excellent one. Frances had received glowing praise for two bakes and was middle of the road for the others.
The name was Frances. She looked shocked but the other two did not. There were hugs and tears and claps and woots. A deserved winner. One that has shown creativity all the way through and not faltered on this unique design selling point despite the feedback.
I am sure a book is already in progress and I will be pre ordering. I loved her ideas. The button biscuit tower and the cauliflower canapés were among my favourites. Genius. Well done Frances!