Great British Bake Off 2013, The Semi-Final

Great British Bake Off 2013, The Semi-Final

by Urvashi Roe 16 October 2013

It was all very French in the semi finals of Great British Bake Off. We saw creative canapés, beautiful bavarois and a showstopping Opera cake to finish! Urvashi Roe, food writer and contestant from 2011, gives us a recap of what happened.

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Urvashi finds food, baking, cooking and eating a therapeutic relief from every day work and family life.

Urvashi finds food, baking, cooking and eating a therapeutic relief from every day work and family life.

After a rather dull episode last week, I’m pleased to say it all packed a punch this week and I was hooked from start to finish. There was a distinctly French tone as Mel and Sue opened the show in French. Pretty good French might I add. These franco interludes carried on throughout the show adding a relaxed and fun atmosphere despite the stage in the competition. Each of the contestants have deserved their place in this semi and as Kimberley so competitively put it, “It will be a fight to the finish”.

The Signature Bake – Canapés

A great dinner party starts with canapés – not keys in a bowl as Sue said she’d prefer. The semi finalists were asked to make 3 sets of canapés – one using shortcrust pastry, one using choux pastry and another of their own choice. Some brilliant ideas this week which definitely met the brief of tantalising tastebuds and being visually enticing. The ones I would have picked up and had a nibble on were all of the French ‘Legume’ themed bites from Frances – chantenay carrots stuffed with hummus, choux pastry shaped tomatoes and the cauliflower cheese Scones – the latter were utter genius in presentation and I’m sure would be worthy for any top end restaurant menu. I also liked Ruby’s rye and poppyseed biscuits with a homemade beetroot jelly. Then I would have gobbled up Kimberley’s crab and wasabi profiteroles and Beca’s Welsh rarebit tarts.

The judges really did do some gobbling this week. Most of the feedback was mumbled through mouthfuls and munching. “Gorgeous, simply gorgeous!”, “Lovely, lovely, lovely”, “Magical” were all rained on Frances with a firm Hollywood handshake. Kimberley was also left glowing with pride with the words “ingenious” no doubt ringing in her head. Ruby had mixed comments regarding lack of seasoning and under filled pastry cases but poor Beca got the brunt of the negatives – “Boring”, “No wow factor”. Her rarebit was dominated by the ale apparently. Well that’s not a bad way to get drunk is it? I think Beca is bloody marvellous at holding it all in when this negativity from Paul starts pouring on her but this week she looked wobbly. I also think Paul’s comments were unfair but then again I’m not the one on that side of the TV screen doing the tasting.

Le Challenge Technique Du Madame Berry

An absolutely worthy semi final technical this week. How blooming complicated can one dessert get?! The ladies were asked to replicate Mary’s Charlotte Royale. I’ve never even heard of this before and to be honest I am not sure I’d give it a go so well done to them all in their attempts.

They started with jam which is tricky enough. Ruby needs the medal for the messiest workstation - which I think by the way they need to start awarding next series - it really did look like a butcher’s bench. Swiss rolls all looked perfect and it goes to show how much this series has moved on in levels as this could be a technical challenge of its own. These then needed to be beautifully sliced and placed in an igloo shaped bowl to house the bavarois – pronounced BA – VA – ROIS - which is a mousse. All the mousses looked a bit gloopy texture and it did leave me wondering whether they would all set overnight. More gloop came in the morning with the thickened sugar syrup that glazed the dome. It really looked rather disgusting but added a nice sheen to the finished dessert.

I rather like the way Kimberley’s claps to herself when things go well and this week she had reason to be joyous as her finished igloo looked lovely. Did everyone copy her trick of lining the bowl with cling film? It was hard to tell. I was sure Ruby had only greased the bowl but when she turned it out, there was cling film in the midst. Perhaps I need to rewind that and watch it again. Ruby, Frances and Beca both suffered major bavarois leakage so there was really not much in it between who would come second to Kimberley who Mary could not fault. Frances came closest leaving them both in very safe positions going into round three.

Lemon and lime
Frances lemon and lime lavender cake
Kimberley's finished igloo looked lovely

A Showstopping Opera Finish

An interesting and challenging bake for the last round. Technically full of complications but also creatively giving everyone something to shine at. Funnily enough Mary-Anne Boermans from my series made one of these in week one which I remember being absolutely, deliciously perfect with fantastic feedback from the judges.

This cake was created in 1955 to commemorate the opening of the opera house in Paris. It represents the acts of the opera for some and the layers of the opera house for others. The judges wanted a bake that would make people want to break into song. Well I’m not sure about that but there was plenty of singing on set. I loved the duet between Mel and Beca. Why didn’t they do the rest of the episode as a musical? Now there’s another spin off – GBBO takes the stage?

Traditionally the flavours are chocolate and coffee with the latter acting to keep opera goers awake during the last acts. Ruby opted for Chocolate, Almond Praline and Saffron. An odd choice which was either going to work brilliantly or fail dramatically because Paul expressed his discontent from the start. The editing always backs him up or makes him eat his words which I think Ruby was keen to do.

Kimberley paired passionfruit with lime for the fillings and retained the traditional dark chocolate. Beca went all banoffee. I was hoping that last one worked really well because her caramel looked stunning. Frances was warned again about style over substance. You’d think they would have given up now. It’s just her. Let her be. She’s brilliant at it and we expect it from her now so I was glad she ignored them with her soap bar theme and flavours – lemon and French lavender.

The end results were varied. Frances was closest to perfect in looks but the judges thought she needed more lemon.

Beca also did well with layering but the banana flavour tasted ‘manufactured’ to the judges and this was down to the banana essence. Oh dear. Sales of this are about to plummet aren’t they? Kimberley’s looked modern but stunning. She had added a tempered chocolate topping which had a beautiful crack but sadly made the fillings all ooze out in a rather unpleasant way. Neither Paul nor Mary could taste any passionfruit or lime so that beaming smile did disappear for a bit.

And finally Ruby. Ruby’s tears were welled up as she braced herself for feedback. It really did not have the same wow factor of presentation as the others but I think the praline saved her. Mary loved the way it added an extra element of texture.


Twitter was undisputed that Ruby would be leaving. I think Ruby feared it too. She simply looked down during the final presentation and was barely able to applaud Kimberley for winning Star Baker. But there is something about her that these judges like and it’s given her a place in the final.

Beca was the one to go. A brave Beca who has born the brunt of Paul’s negative feedback throughout the series fought back the tears. She should be proud. She’s a fantastic baker who I hope brings out a Welsh baking book. I haven’t seen one of those out of the zillions that are now out there. Fingers crossed for you Beca. Well done!