We (or at least I) all know and love “The Great British Bake Off.” But, in “Bake Off’s” time off the air, you might be craving equally soothing, low stakes television that involves lovely people and sugary substances. This leads me to my next point: the existence of a whole world of “Bake Off” spin-offs. “The Great British Bake Off” Extended Universe, if you will. At a time in the semester that is stressful for many, I think the time is ripe to recommend some goofy baking shows that will aid your mental health and self care.
- “Junior Bake Off”: “Junior Bake Off” is exactly what it sounds like: “Bake Off” but with children. If you can get past feeling like you have no talent while a nine-year-old is making pâte à choux, this is the most adorable “Bake Off” spin-off. The premise is basically the same as normal “Bake Off,” except the contestants are all under 16. The judges (including beloved 2017 contestant Liam) are very sweet, the host is fun and the whole show is very kind, low stakes and the perfect balm for these troubling times. You can find a few seasons of “Junior Bake Off” on Netflix, and there are a few websites that have whole seasons up for free.
- “Celebrity Bake Off”: Easily “Bake Off” at its funniest, “Celebrity Bake Off” is actually a benefit show for Stand Up to Cancer. The result is straight comedy that is suddenly interrupted by sobering reminders of childhood cancer and pleas for help. It’s a very British way of raising awareness. The premise of “Celebrity Bake Off” is essentially the same as the “Bake Off” holiday specials: four celebrities bake for a weekend, and at the end, one is named Star Baker. The catch is that generally, none of the celebrities have ever baked before, leading to hilarious screw-ups including an upside-down pie, various collapsed and raw bakes and the liquid flapjacks that coined the meme “started making it, had a breakdown, bon appetit.” Some famous names on “Celebrity Bake Off” include Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy, Jade Thirlwall and David Schwimmer. A few celebrity episodes, most notably the one featuring the cast of Derry Girls, are on Netflix, but the rest are relatively easy to pirate.
- “Bake Off: The Professionals”: Probably the furthest removed from the original premise of “Bake Off,” “Bake Off: The Professionals” is not set in the tent, it does not have any of the regular hosts and judges, and, as the name implies, it does not feature amateurs. The contestants are teams of two, and everyone is a professional pastry chef. Each week, the teams must complete a Miniature Challenge and a Showpiece Challenge, and they compete in heats, rather than all at once. The show is less relatable, but it’s no less dramatic, and still comes with all the warm and fuzzy feelings of a standard series of “Bake Off.” Plus, the judges—the disconcertingly Edna Mode-like Cherish Finden and French stereotype Benoit Blin—are far superior to Paul and Prue. Yeah, I said it.
- American/Australian/Kenyan/Etc. “Bake Off”: Practically every English-speaking country appears to now have their own version of “Bake Off.” I would recommend at least checking out the American spin-off, because it features some truly beautiful moments of culture shock when Mary and Paul are exposed to American bakes (snickerdoodles, biscuits and gravy and the like). The format is basically the same as “The Great British Bake Off,” just with different countries. Plus, the shows air at different times, so you can get your “Bake Off” fix at any time of the year.
So there you have it. Four shows, hours upon hours of entertainment and something sugary and soothing to comfort you in these trying times. Happy “Bake Off” watching!