Great British Bake Off 2016: the final recap

Great British Bake Off 2016: the final recap

by Howard Middleton 27 October 2016

As the last ever episode of a BBC-hosted Bake Off airs, a teary-eyed Howard Middleton takes us through its final moments and who took home the crown.

Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients. He now demonstrates his creative approach to gluten-free baking at numerous food festivals and shows and by teaching baking classes around the country, including at corporate events, commercial promotions and private parties. Howard continues to entertain audiences as a public speaker, compere and broadcaster.

I’m not sure I’m in any fit state to write this. Having judged two charity bake offs already today, I try to sit down in front of the TV, still bouncing with sugar pumping from the likes of Billy’s sticky toffee bundt cake and Elliot’s salted caramel brownies. Yet this must be nothing compared to the adrenalin rush that Andrew, Candice and Jane felt on their final day in cake captivity.

Andrew says that getting to the final seemed like a silly dream, but having made it this far, he’s ‘gonna damn well try’ to win. He girds his loins and shows he’s prepared for a heated competition by wearing shorts. Despite the summer filming, Mary’s still buttoned up in a padded jacket for any outdoor shots, accessorised with a cashmere scarf and the perceptible crack of a weary croak in her voice.

This week’s ‘theme’ (such that it is) has royal connections and we begin with a signature challenge of a three-layered meringue crown. It’s stretching things a bit to call this a ‘signature’ – I mean, does anybody really bake such a thing so regularly that it becomes their hallmark? Well apparently our revered trio does.

We’re told that Jane’s meringue crown is her husband’s favourite – incredibly it appears she may have more than one such signature bake. Along with a tiramisu throne and shortbread sceptre, it’s probably an essential part of any finalist’s everyday repertoire.

Jane says she’s ‘keeping it simple’ with a patriotic pudding of red, white and blue. Pristine peaks of white meringue are layered with vibrant compotes of red berries and blueberries and slices of white nectarine.

Candice also thinks she’s ‘reining it in this week’ but her crown features two different meringues (one made with golden caster sugar and one white), filled with mango curd, strawberries, glittered pistachios and gold-dusted physalis. It’s topped with a delicate meringue coronet; cleverly crafted on a silicone dome.

The three-tiered crown was something Jane was comfortable with
The meringue needed to be the perfect texture this far on into the competition

Andrew is using muscovado sugar in his meringue – he says it adds to the flavour but Mary is concerned it will produce a runny consistency. She illustrates her fears by pointing to a trail of dribble on the end of his whisk. He pipes an Airfix kit of components, then cuts them out and gingerly glues them together with sticky caramel – it’s nail-biting stuff. After a failed batch of pecan praline that sticks to ‘the wrong side of the baking paper’, he eventually produces enough to crush into a powdered core. Layered with blackberry fool and jelly jewels it comes together to create an impressive crunchy caramel cassis crown.

With minutes to go, Candice tells us ‘I just have to shine up my physalis’ and Jane despairingly announces ‘my bottom’s cracked’.

Then, in what can only be described as a lapse of good taste, Andrew displays his creation on a lobotomised polystyrene mannequin that appears to be crudely covered in lilac tissue paper. The Twittersphere throbs at the sight of Andrew’s purple head.

Sadly Mary isn’t impressed by his doubly sweet combination of praline and meringue, and he’s left to painfully witness both Candice and Jane receive the coveted Hollywood handshakes that have been so scarce this series.

For the technical, the finalists were asked to make a Victoria sandwich – with no instructions
Jane went all-out for the showstopper round

Technical challenge

The technical challenge goes back to basics as the bakers are instructed to make a Victoria sandwich… without instructions. Andrew approaches the task with such technical precision that he all but checks the wind direction before sifting sugar on top. His meticulous attention to detail produces a delicate golden sponge that rises to the top spot. There’s barely a layer of baking parchment between the ranking of the other two bakers but Candice’s ‘marginally better flavours’ manage to nudge Jane into third place.

Every aspect of a picnic was required from the bakers, both sweet and savoury
However, Andrew's spreadsheet wasn't enough to stop some of his creations from falling flat

The showstopper

For the final showstopper, the bakers are commissioned to make a picnic by royal appointment. With five hours on the clock, they’re virtually setting up individual catering companies to produce a groaning basket of forty-nine items – puff pastry sausage rolls, mini quiches, savoury scones, fruit and custard tarts and a chocolate celebration cake. There’s so much stuff, Tom Hovey’s iconic illustrations have to run to two pages.

Andrew’s spreadsheet ensures he keeps on time – Jane is just hoping that baking flat out will have the same outcome.

Andrew’s chocolate cake is made to his gran’s recipe, but he’s making it fit for a queen with silky smooth ganache and smart shards of striped chocolate. Jane is facing the demons of her failed chocolate collar in week six by attempting it again.

All three go for variations on a cheese scone and sadly nobody quite pulls it off – Andrew’s paprika overpowers his smoked cheddar and Candice’s olives mask her Manchego. Mary says that if she closed her eyes when eating Jane’s Parmesan scones she’d know they were a cheese scone but she couldn’t tell they contained butternut squash. Mary opens her eyes and still can’t taste it.

Puff pastry is also problematic – Jane’s apple and thyme sausage rolls haven’t baked through and Andrew, who thought he’d shamed himself enough by not measuring his pastry, discovers the wurst is yet to come. His sausage and chorizo jam rolls disappoint and despite being ‘beautifully presented’ it’s a judging with scant consolation – Gran’s cake is great but there’s undercooked puff, overworked pastry in the quiches and a batch of soft tarts. My heart breaks a little for Andrew.

Only Candice cracks it with her bacon, mushroom and black pudding ‘piggies’ complete with pastry snouts, peppercorn eyes and crispy pork crackling tails. The puff is good and her salmon and asparagus quiches are full and crispy. Her risky rhubarb and custard tarts are only slightly over-baked.

Tasting Candice’s layered chocolate, orange and cardamom cake, Paul hesitates like he’s practising a cliff-hanger before a commercial break (Channel 4’s going to love this), then says ‘that’s a lovely cake’.

Jane’s prawn, salmon and dill quiches turn out well but she over-chills her chocolate collar and has to improvise the cake’s decoration, saying ‘if in doubt, throw some glitter at it’.

Candice was crowned the winner of the seventh series of Bake Off
She won by a clear margin, and now plans to go on a baking road trip with Jane

And then it’s all over. Jane says she’s not going to cry. Instead, she dabs at a little post-baking perspiration running from her eyes.

By now it’s pretty clear who is going to win – indeed it would be a travesty to have a shock result.

It was never going to top the emotion of Nadiya’s winning speech but Candice sniffs and eventually sobs at the realisation that she’s succeeded and says ‘thank you… like’. She’s had to cope with the Twitter trolls, the tabloid tattle and some unflattering programme editing, but here she is triumphant.

Amid the crowds of well-wishing friends and family we catch a glimpse of Candice’s boyfriend. Well hello! Now she may have become TV’s queen of the perfect lipstick but I reckon many of us would happily pucker up for this chunky hunk.

In the ‘since the Bake Off’ update, we learn that Candice and Jane are planning a baking road trip together. It almost sounds like a pitch for a sequel to ‘The Chronicles of Nadiya’. Andrew is trying not to feel left out by working on a spreadsheet of travel logistics – just in case he gets the call too.

Like no final before it feels like the end of an era – as if things may never be quite the same again. Even the fervent optimists like me can’t help but be a little melancholy. Junior Bake Off can provide a welcome sugar fix next month and then…? Well, Auntie Beeb has been quick to remind us that for one last time our beloved quartet of Paul, Mary, Mel and Sue will be reunited with eight past bakers for two Christmas specials. So slice up the fruitcake because, in the words of Auntie Mame, ‘we need a little Christmas now’.