Well folks, we did it. Twelve bakers, 10 episodes and two and half months of recapping have all led to this moment: the crowning of this year’s Bake Off champion. It’s been an uneven series. The lovely bakers have been ill-served by terrible challenges and grouchy judges. Still, our final three are some of my absolute favorite finalists, and Bake Off—for all this series’ flaws—is still Bake Off: a charming series full of nice people and sweet treats.
Our finalists are Sandro the Overachiever, Abdul the Underdog and Syabira the Flavor Queen. Unlike most finals, this one has a theme: “Our Planet.” The park outside the tent is decked out with giant models of endangered species all ready for the garden party tomorrow.
The signature challenge is a picnic showcasing seasonal and sustainably grown British ingredients. It involves six finger sandwiches, six mini-cakes and six mini pies. This is a showstopper challenge disguised as a signature, and the time allotted (three hours) is nowhere near enough. The challenge-setting deficiencies of this series are alive and well for the final!
Luckily, we have charming cutaways to the baker’s families to distract us. Sandro’s mum moved him and his three siblings from war-torn Angola to London. Sandro wants to prove that other people from the same background can achieve their goals too. Abdul’s parents wish him luck from Pakistan, and his sister is supporting him from San Diego. Syabira’s boyfriend can’t stop saying how proud he is of her. Syabira feels as though she has won the lottery jackpot. “I’ve never been the top person in any competition or any classes I’ve attended,” she says. “Maybe baking is my hidden talent.” A reminder that this is a woman whose day job is researching the human genome.
Back in the tent, Syabira is making “no-porky pie” with aubergine and mushroom. In case you didn’t know what aubergine was, Matt and Syabira happily say “eggplant” in terrible American accents. Syabira’s also making broad bean and salsa verde heart-shaped sandwiches and elderflower strawberry swiss rolls. Abdul is also making swiss rolls. His are cherry and tarragon flavored, along with leek, onion and Yorkshire feta pies, and beet, carrot and cream cheese sandwiches. I have to also take a moment to praise Abdul’s shirt this episode, which is absolutely fantastic. Sandro is making five different types of bakes instead of the required three. His cauliflower cheese pies, egg and cress sandwiches and lemon and elderflower cakes all sound delicious, but the addition of tarts and biscuits is ridiculous. Oh, Sandro.
Onto the final signature judging! Abdul’s finger sandwiches are a bit too thick, but the flavors are excellent. His pies receive rave reviews, but his swiss rolls don’t have enough tarragon. Sandro’s sandwiches are deemed “heaven,” but his pie pastry is underbaked. Syabira’s picnic spread is neat as a pin and reminds Paul of the hotel business. Her flavors are, unsurprisingly, fantastic across the board.
The technical challenge is a “summer pudding bombe.” What is a summer pudding bombe? Good question. It is a set jam and a set mousse surrounded by bread (the same bread the bakers made in the signature, ha) soaked in raspberry syrup. The final product looks a bit like an internal organ. The key word is “set,” with vegetarian gelatine that needs to be boiled in order to work, information Paul has helpfully left out of his recipe.
Do the bakers have enough time to set their bombes, even if they do know how to use vegetarian gelatine? Of course not! All the bakers’ efforts suffer some level of collapse. Third place Sandro’s bombe resembles cat sick, and second place Syabira’s bombe is leaky. Abdul’s bombe is too soft, and he takes the win as the best of a bad bunch.
The showstopper challenge is an “edible sculpture” based on the theme “Our Beautiful Planet,” with a cake base and a minimum of three other baked elements. I wish I could say this challenge is ridiculous, but it’s pretty par for the course for final showstoppers.
Abdul’s sculpture is based on the honey bee (a clever strategy, considering 2017 winner Sophie’s final showstopper was also based on the honey bee). Syabira is baking an orangutan holding up a forest. It’s insane in the best of ways. Sandro, who reminds the judges that he “achieved” the world all the way back in week four, is baking a tiered representation of the earth. It is, in true Sandro fashion, overambitious.
In the final judging of the series, Sandro’s flavors receive high praise. Unfortunately, his bread is too chewy, his cake is burnt and his biscuits are overbaked. It just wasn’t to be for Sandro. Syabira’s showstopper is deemed “clever” and “strange” (that’s Syabira for you). The judges love all her flavors, but wish her orangutan was just a bit neater. Abdul does well on nearly everything, but his showstopper looks a bit messy and his choux buns are deemed a “failure.”
The bakers get a loud cheer as they leave the tent to join their friends and families. After two years in the pandemic-induced “Bake Off bubble,” it’s lovely to see such a big crowd. Sandro’s family has a giant “you did it!” sign and I nearly bawl.
And the winner is… SYABIRA!
An absolutely perfect winner. Syabira has been one of my favorites from episode one, with her brilliant flavors, infectious enthusiasm and cool head under pressure. And she’s the first Southeast Asian winner of Bake Off! It’s about damn time.
“This is the biggest achievement of my life,” Syabira says, beaming. “We can do anything we want as long as we have all of our heart and work for it.”
It’s hard to believe, but the series is really over. I hope you all have enjoyed reading these recaps as much as I have enjoyed writing them. And what will the next series bring? Well, we’ll just have to wait until next year (argh!) to find out.