[Spoiler Alert] Last night's 'GBBO' winner came as a surprise to many.
It really must be said: last night's final of the Great British Bake Off came as a disappointment, not necessarily because of the eventual winner, but for the absolutely naff standard of baking that the competition ended on. For a nation revelling in the current trendiness of baking and the professional standards we've come to expect even from charity bake sales, we were let down by poorly constructed bakes, and the triumphant showstopper challenge was simply shameful.
Frances Quinn Was Picked By Paul & Mary As Britain's Best Amateur Baker.
The first, signature round was in fact successful for Ruby and Frances but a train wreck for the customarily consistent Kimberley as the trio were set the challenge of creating a layered savoury pie for a picnic. In the usual GBBO, heavy-handed, foreboding way, our attention was drawn to Ruby and Frances' decision to pre-roast their fillings to avoid the sinful soggy bottom (drink!) against Kimberley's audacious choice to throw it all in at the same time.
Ominous editing showed Kimberley stuffing a sizeable heart attack's worth of red meat into a pastry shell including a tube of glistening black pudding. The show's decorative diva Frances played it straight this time, opting for heavy hitting flavours of fish and herbs whilst Ruby took advantage of Fran's plain bake with a sneak-attack picnic basket-shaped vegetarian pie, complete with pastry handles.
"This looks like it could have been made by Frances," chewed Paul appreciatively as Ruby's bored look momentarily dispelled. Frances' was classed as "ten minutes away from perfect" as her filling became the focal point of her cooking for once. Meanwhile, Kimberley's lop-sided pie had dissolved into its own meaty juices, creating probably the soggiest bottom (drink!) we've seen all series.
Ruby, Kimberley & Frances Battled It Out In A Tense Final.
Henceforth, the multi-meat madness within splurged out on to the serving platter in front of Paul and Mary like roadkill in an autopsy theatre. The contestant who looked set to sail through the final had tripped up at the episode's first hurdle, earning her fierce warnings from the judges. The next shot showed Kimberley sitting contemplatively on the grass as the world's woes welled up inside her: this just doesn't happen on Planet Kimberley.
Now, I'm no Ditsch employee but even I know what a pretzel looks like. When handed their dreaded technical bake challenge, the competitors looked as though they'd been asked to construct the finished Sagrada Família out of bread dough. Mangle, mangle moulds Frances; smoosh, smoosh crafts Ruby. Even Kimberley, who had arguably the best handle on this round, looked nervous as she melded dough into neat little twists whilst trying to shield her efforts from the frantically scanning eyes of her hapless co-contestants.
Paul was hilariously disparaging, scoffing "this is a bun" at the usually delicate Frances' wretched tenticular knots and scolding Ruby for having left her gnarled pretzel-wannabees in the poaching pot for too long. Even the usually smug Kimberley seemed uneasy as the judges' declared hers the best bake with the damning footnote, "don't clap" from Holly-rude.
The jewel in the entire series' crown should be the final showstopper, but sparkling this challenge was not. Tasked with creating a three-tier wedding cake in just six hours, the bakers got to work on their out-of-the-park last bake - or not, as it so happened. Frances opted for a Midsummer Night's Dream theme with cascading edible confetti petals; Kimberley devised a contemporary design using a stamper that read love in 30 languages that she'd bought online; Ruby tried to create a sunset-inspired trio of cakes. They all tried.
All three chose summery fruit flavours, including passionfruit, raspberry, lemon and strawberry. As one of Ruby's tiers crumbled when tipped out of the tin, she mumbled "nothing a bit of buttercream can't hide" as she proceeding to whip up a sickening palette of orange, yellow and pink set of icing toppings.
Kimberley was the only one of the bakers to use the traditional fondant icing and this worked in her favour when attempting to cover up any sponge mishaps. She set to work with her impressive 'love' stamp but did a cack-handed job of the printwork, making it look like her snowy white icing had been repeatedly rolled over a wet newspaper.
13 Became 3 Became 1: 'GBBO' Packs Up For The Year.
Frances' cascading design certainly looked the part; from the front that is. Mary was quick to pick up on the completely blank 'dark side' of the cake, but tactfully declared, "this would make an excellent centre-piece." For poor Ruby, art clearly wasn't her strong subject at school as she attempted to carve flowers, grass and a dragonfly (er...at least that's what we think it was) out of boring white sugarpaste. Her butter icing was patchy and her cakes didn't sit straight. This was to be no "derelict barn miracle"; it simply sucked.
Under the judges gaze, the cake was lamented by Paul for not having showcased Ruby's true skill level and criticised for being overbaked on every tier. For Ruby, bad tiers meant sad tears as she shuffled away. The judges weren't impressed with Kimberley's safe decoration either and declared her imaginative chocolate and raspberry ball layer "dry." Despite Kimberley's eyes narrowing into a death ray-like glare in the face of the criticism, the judges didn't hold back and lo, a death knell was rung for the series' most consistent baker who misfired in this most vital final round.
With such a hit-and-miss episode, who would win? Judging by heavy rounds of criticism fired out during the episode, it wouldn't have been surprising if Paul and Mary had packed up and fled. However, it was Frances who was declared victor in light of her talent for boundless creativity and progression throughout the competition. She "beat the other two guys hands down," declared Hollywood.
It's true there has never been a Bake Off competitor like Frances with her visionary flair for outrageous creation who, we were told about eight times, is "shocked" to have won. However, with 8 million viewers for the highly tense final, the BBC are the real winners with Mary, Paul, Sue and Mel set for a BBC1 return next year.
Frances Raises Her Well-Deserved Plate.