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Great British Bake Off 2018: the final

Great British Bake Off 2018: the final

by Howard Middleton 31 October 2018

Three remaining bakers, only one winner – who took the top spot out of Kim-Joy, Rahul and Ruby? Howard Middleton brings this season of Bake Off to a close with his final round-up.

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Still smarting from last year’s embarrassment of prematurely announcing the Bake Off winner, Prue has been notably extra cautious on social media. As all three finalists have been named Star Baker twice, she’ll say no more than it’s a ‘totally level playing field’.

For their final Signature challenge, the bakers are tasked to produce twelve iced doughnuts – six ring-shaped and six filled. Paul advises ‘keep it simple but keep it perfect’. He says he’s looking for an ‘aeriated texture’. I’m sure he means ‘aerated’, unless he’s expecting some uncharacteristically tetchy doughnuts.

Ruby tells us she’s taken the week off work in order to devote her time to preparation for the final. Bravely attempting two different doughs, she injects her filled doughnuts with dulce de leche cream and tops them with purple glaze and stars. Unfortunately, Ruby isn’t sure which ones she’s filled and which she hasn’t. Moving on to her raspberry and cardamom ring doughnuts, she coats them with a white chocolate glaze and decorates them with rainbows.

Kim-Joy’s lemon-flavoured dough is given an amaretto-laced crème diplomat filling. Ignoring that hackneyed principle that decoration should hint at the cake’s contents, she colours her orange glaze a sparkling galaxy blue and pipes on tiny green aliens in UFOs. Winging a little nearer earthbound, her lemon-glazed ring doughnuts are spiked with a shard of decorative honeycomb and populated with a swarm of bees.

Rahul says he’d never had a doughnut before this challenge. He grimaces like he’s in no particular hurry to taste one again. Paul is similarly unconvinced when he learns that Rahul is topping his spiced orange rings with a bouquet of buttercream roses. He’s more optimistic about Rahul’s pretty paisley piped doughnuts packed with mango crème patissiere. Forcing them as full as possible, Rahul is suddenly splattered with pat as his piping bag explodes. Ever the cheery optimist, Rahul says ‘they’re going to hate it… it’s not going very well’.

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Noel claims Rahul’s rings of roses are ‘like a doughnut you’d get at a funeral’ and Paul questions if they’re ‘slightly over-decorated’. He adds that the ‘texture is a little bit tight’ and finds the buttercream ‘too buttery’. Fortunately the filled ones fare better and Paul praises the fulsome buns for being ‘like a little mango bomb’.

Paul is enamoured by the ‘great design’ of Ruby’s rainbow rings but he complains about ‘a little bit of dripping’ as he’s left with sticky fingers. Prue decides the topping is ‘too sweet, too sticky’ even though the ‘basic doughnut is excellent’. With little evidence of dulce de leche in her other batch, Paul concludes the ‘under-filled’ buns are ‘a bit boring’.

Paul points out the ‘uneven colour’ of Kim-Joy’s doughnuts but Prue judges them to be ‘very nice and lemony’. Her filled doughnuts have just the right amount of booze for Prue and Paul agrees they have ‘great flavour’. Prue adds ‘I might come back and eat that’.

Paul’s advice for the Technical challenge is to ‘make good use of your heat source’. In a Bake Off first, the finalists are instructed to carry their gingham-clad trays outside where they’re faced with three identical mini workstations and a trio of campfires. (How the bakers didn’t see or smell the fires sooner is a TV mystery.) Their al fresco task is to produce six wholemeal pittas and three accompanying dips – baba ganoush, smoked garlic salsa verde and burnt pepper salsa.

Ruby stirs the za’atar mix into her salsa verde, then realises too late it should have gone onto the pittas. All three struggle to keep their fires under control, nobody really achieves a pitta with the requisite pocket and Paul and Prue find themselves judging a selection of black-flecked flatbreads. Ruby comes third, Rahul second and Kim-Joy is thrilled to win her first ever Technical.

With no clear front-runner, Paul says ‘the baking will choose the winner’, which is as surreal as it is patently untrue. Rahul decides he’s going to get a good night’s sleep then start afresh with his morning glass of milk.

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For their final Showstopper, the bakers have four-and-a-half hours to create a deliciously decorative landscape dessert, which must include at least three different elements. Kim-Joy, who claims ‘I feel like I live in a fantasy world anyway’ is creating the Lost City of Atlantis, complete with praline sand, fondant sea horses and a salted caramel well. Ruby is going for a choux mountain with cardamom shortbread hills and little mounds of passion fruit cake populated by a pair of unicorns.

As the heat in the tent intensifies, the bakers’ concentration is suddenly shattered when a storage jar on Rahul’s bench dramatically explodes, sending fragments of glass everywhere. Everything he’s prepared so far is potentially contaminated, so he has to start again. Rahul typically decides it could be divine judgement – ‘is it a sign from God that I need to stop baking?’ Whatever the cause, it’s just about worth it for a rare on-screen appearance of home economist supremo Faenia Moore. Faenia is a force to be reckoned with – a woman who can effortlessly take charge in any crisis but always does so with that glimmer of a knowing smile that makes you feel ultimately blameworthy for the disaster that’s befallen you. The nation accidentally looks into the eyes of Faenia and feels collectively responsible. Within seconds Faenia has someone on their knees with a dustpan and brush and another crew member hoovering. Granting poor Rahul an extra fifteen minutes, Paul asks ‘have you calmed down now?’ and the nation collectively thinks of a suitable word (probably of four letters or more) to follow ‘patronising’. (Feel free to make it rhyme with hat or hillock.)

Somehow Rahul manages to compose himself enough to landscape a truly impressive Victorian-style rock garden of cardamom-filled choux rocks around a two-tired chocolate orange cake and a mound of lemon joconde. His orange curd pond is coloured algae-green and majestic stiff columns of cacti rise upright from his piping bag thanks to sheer determination and industrial-strength buttercream.

Paul says that Kim-Joy’s sticky ginger cake is ‘delicious’ but her biscuit ruin is ‘a bit of a disappointment’. Prue forebodingly tells her it’s ‘a missed opportunity’. Ruby’s sponge is ‘beautiful’, as are her flavours, but her caramel is ‘bitter’.

Scanning Rahul’s realistically mossy mound of patisserie, Prue admits ‘I can’t say it makes my mouth water’. However, she eats her words and has to confess it tastes ‘delicious’. Lauding Rahul’s ‘lovely joconde’ Paul’s back with his mispronunciation – ‘you see how aeriated that sponge is’. Someone in the editing suite is undoubtedly sniggering.

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Emerging smiling but exhausted from the tent, Ruby, Kim-Joy and Rahul carry out their final bakes to the cheers of friends, family and a rather scary performance artist in hoops of black lycra.

Rahul’s friends, the charming David and Liz are ecstatic to hear him crowned champion. It’s a shock result but Rahul is ultimately a worthy winner – the ‘little genius’ of earlier weeks who fell from grace more recently has managed to end on a spectacular note. He phones his mum to give her the good news. Good news from Rahul must be such a rare treat.

Prue says that he ‘never reined in his ambition’ and Paul adds ‘I don’t think he realises how good he is’. So what’s next for Rahul? Notably absent from social media, he’s essentially Eeyore wrapped up in an enigma. The tabloids say he can expect to make a million in a year. I’d love to hear Rahul’s reaction to that. And so toasting the success of the little baker who thought he couldn’t (but did), we raise a glass – it’s milk, of course.

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