It’s the quarterfinals! Now, as you all know, last week’s episode was terrible. So the main challenge of this week’s episode was to a) not be terrible and b) be mildly entertaining. In that order. Luckily, it succeeded on both fronts.
The coordinated outfits of weeks past are now gone. It is the quarterfinals, after all, and things are starting to get serious. Party Week is a brand new theme for Bake Off, although there have been various party-themed challenges in the past.
The signature challenge is an old British classic: sausage rolls (made in two hours, which I think is reasonable). 12 sausage rolls, to be precise. Haha! Sausages! Here comes the innuendo.
As there are only five bakers left, I will be going through the bakes in order of most to least traditional. Most traditional is Cristy (of course it is) who is making pork, sage and onion sausage rolls. Next is Matty, who is using the same basic flavors but adding apple and chili for an extra kick. Tasha is upping the apple flavor with cider and even more apples, plus an apricot jam. Josh is going for a Christmas theme, meaning he is mixing turkey in with the sausage and adding a cranberry sauce. And Dan, who seems to be on a mission to prove that Anglo-Saxon bakers can indeed use diverse flavors, is making dim sum sausage rolls with shumai and prawns. Prue is excited by these flavors, but Paul is horrified. If you’re playing the “Bake Off” drinking game, Paul is being mildly racist about non-European flavors. Drink!
We then get a brief moment of Noel contemplating the very concept of “Bake Off” with Matty. “Such an odd skill. You will be the fastest, you will be the strongest. And you will be good at pastry. Such a weird thing isn’t it?” he muses. Yes, Noel. You host a baking competition. Glad you just figured it out.
As the bakers start prepping their sausage fillings, the innuendo kicks into high gear. “My party is in my bed,” Allison says, then grimaces at the camera. “No one wants a small sausage,” Tasha says with a grin. And then we immediately cut to Dan saying “You want a good mouthful, yeah.” The editors are back at it again.
Tasha and Cristy both fall behind during the shaping stage. Tasha takes it in stride, and Cristy has a minor tantrum about it. As her sausage rolls come out of the oven, she discovers they have soggy bottoms. It’s too late to do anything, as the challenge is over. “I love munching on a sausage,” Allison remarks to Noel. “I can’t wait to get involved with Dan’s sausage!” Noel quips back. STOP IT YOU TWO.
Time for judging! Tasha’s sausage rolls are underbaked but they taste good. Paul doesn’t like the flavor of Dan’s (shocker) but Prue loves it. #TeamPrue forever and always. Josh probably does the worst in this challenge. His sausage roll is overbaked, his pastry is too thick and poorly laminated and his filling is dry. Cristy has also done poorly, with a soggy bottom and underbaked and thick pastry. Matty, meanwhile, has made perfect sausage rolls, and he receives a well-deserved handshake for his efforts.
The technical this week is a caterpillar cake. A caterpillar cake is a very popular kids’ birthday cake in the UK. It’s a chocolate swiss roll decorated to look like a caterpillar, and it’s mildly terrifying to look at. Ultimately, it’s just a chocolate sponge, chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and meringue decorations, which should all be a piece of cake (see what I did there?) for the bakers.
Midway through the technical, Noel walks in with a giant stuffed squirrel on his head. Squirrels have a special significance to “Bake Off” (IYKYK). All the bakers are sailing along pretty nicely except for Dan, who overworked and overbaked his sponge. The next stage is cutting out strips from the cake so they can get a ridged look for the caterpillar. Dan and Cristy both cut theirs the wrong way. Dan decides to go with it, while Cristy remakes her sponge. Throughout the whole challenge, Dan is remarkably chill for a man clearly dealing with an absolute disaster.
The last stage is decorating the face of the caterpillar. Matty’s is utterly horrifying, and Tasha makes hers look like Noel. Paul has a good laugh about it in judging. Unsurprisingly, Dan comes in fifth. Josh is in fourth with a tough sponge. Matty is in third, Cristy is in second (I guess remaking the sponge paid off) and Tasha is in first with a light and delicious sponge. Overall, a good challenge!
In the judging pavilion, we learn that Matty and Tasha are doing well and the other three bakers are all in danger. The showstopper challenge is an “anything but beige buffet.” Yes, that’s the actual name of the challenge. It means a colorful and highly decorative display of sweet and savory party bakes, made in four and half hours. Another good challenge! Hurrah! The “Bake Off” production team has officially redeemed itself.
Dan is making a prehistoric themed buffet with dinosaur feet pies, ankylosaurus tea cakes, lemon shortbread fossils and sweet dinosaur eggs. I’m obsessed. Josh is doing Christmas again, with savory couronne wreaths, snowmen macarons and Christmas pudding-shaped choux buns. Matty is also staying true to his brand with a sports-themed buffet, featuring cricket ball pies, creme brulee donut basketballs, a cupcake golf course and macaron tennis balls. Tasha is basing hers on farm yard birthday parties with milk bread pigs, wagon wheel biscuits and choux bun lambs. Finally we have Cristy, who claims her showstopper is Willy Wonka themed, but it looks more like a general candy theme.
I would like to take a moment of silence for Saku here, as she would have absolutely killed this challenge.
The hardest part of this challenge is timing, as the bakers have to do what Prue has termed “a catering job.” Miraculously, all of them manage to finish, although not without disasters. Cristy’s cheese twists are underbaked and horrifying, and Tasha’s choux buns don’t rise. There’s no time to cry though, and all the bakers produce respectable displays.
During judging, Cristy’s showstopper is torn apart for being messy. Absolutely nothing looks good, although her flavors are solid. Matty’s donuts are underbaked, but everything else about his showstopper is fantastic. Tasha’s showstopper is very fun. Her wagon wheel and choux buns are disappointing but everything else is good. Alas, it’s all a little bit beige. Dan’s showstopper is quite neat. Everything is good except the tea cakes, and I’m still obsessed with his theme. Josh has delivered a nearly perfect showstopper, more than redeeming his bad day yesterday and putting him in line for Star Baker along with Matty, who’s had a very strong week. In danger are Dan (mostly due to the technical) and Cristy after her ugly showstopper.
Star Baker goes to Matty, which was probaby the right decision. He did get a handshake after all. And going home was Cristy. Yeah, it was her time. Honestly, it could have been her time last week. She takes her elimination with good grace, and the other bakers get excited (and terrified) for the semifinal.
Next week: patisserie! As the semifinal always is. Can Josh finally get another Star Baker? Can Tasha survive a week that doesn’t play to her strengths? And who will fall at the final hurdle? We’ll just have to wait until next week to find out.