There was panic in our house last night at 8pm as we raced to find the sofa located somewhere beneath the teenager. The final of the Great British Bake Off was about to begin. Where was the remote control?
We were not alone – over nine million of us tuned in at some point during last night’s bake off. It was intense from the first floury flurry.
Ruby, eyes glowing, produced a perfect golden basket of a picnic pie; Kimberley, clearly forlorn, could do little to save her top of the range soggy bottom; while Frances, cool as mint, flourished a fine display of middle.
There it was and we, with not a baker amongst us, were fascinated. Why? There was no shock, no war, no cleavages, no over the top gearing – just good decent people producing pies for the grandest bakers in land – Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.
Challenge number two was pretzels. Most of us were flummoxed – so were the contestants although Kimberley, who seemed to pick a fight with the dough, got top slot for technical. That put her and Ruby a pastry twirl in front of Frances.
One more challenge to go and still no drum rolls or tough personal histories. It was all kept bright and light and beautifully brief with presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins bouncing between the benches to do their cheer-me-uppers.
That has to be it – the reason this works is that Love productions have found the formula for a happy place. The show is art, it’s promise, it’s gentle tragedy and there are no murders, no subtitles, no policemen, no politicians. The music is nostalgic; the contestants could be us; the judges have real authority; and the presenters are a pair of crazy carers who fling stress to the four corners.
Stress? There is stress, baking-a-three-tier-wedding-cake-in-six-hours stress, but the stress is not the point. It’s the coping and the cooking and they both seem to sweep us along.
On our sofa the teenager, all dials firmly set on cake equals chocolate, went into dramatic retching mode at the idea of passion fruit curd, or ginger and rhubarb. Our, we-know-what-a-sieve-is concentration, remained poised.
We watched and wondered as contestants wilted and the clock ticked relentlessly. Ruby’s cake looked a little SpongeBob in its finish, Kimberley’s was amazing but Frances’s, flowered with beetroot confetti, positively flounced its way over the finish.
When the full-stop shout went up it was all over but still the drums stayed silent as we strolled out into the sunshine to meet the families and hear the result.
This year it was Frances Quinn whose precision touch and final mastery of flavour conquered the judging palette. The nation is still cheering (with a light sprinkling of grumbles).
So … the verdict – Love productions have done it. They have lured us into happy land with cheerful layers of cake – no wonder Cookie Monster has decided the time is right to join the BBC.
* Footnote: The Quinn win was kept a secret for three months. Nobody dropped a morsel – apart from a slightly confused Frenchman who managed to crumble the evidence.