The Great British Bake Off FINAL: Cake Me Up Before You Go Go
The Debrief: It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Tamal, Ian or Nadiya – who’ll win the bun fight?
We’re here! This is it! Things are intense. They’re also in tents, but you already knew that. Nadiya is nervous, which is making Tamal nervous, which is making Ian… no no, he’s fine.
Actually Ian has joined the league of history’s famous diarists, alongside Samuel Pepys and Bridget Jones. 'I wrote in my journal, "this could be a pivotal moment in my life, this weekend",' he says. Calories: 12,962. Boyfriends: 0. Architectural structures built out of herbs, sugar and hubris: 18.
Because it’s the last episode and you have to indulge me, I will now use up everything left in the chain email titled ‘Bake Off notes’ I’ve been sending to myself for 10 weeks. Ahem.
Ugne means ‘fire’ in Lithuanian! But it’s mainly Paul and Mary delivering the burns.
One day, I hope there’ll be a pop-up bakery where you eat your own chair.
The Mat in the hat came back! [If he ever wears a hat]
‘Flaouna’ sounds like an Irish airline with a less ridiculous name than some actual Irish airlines.
Alvin Star(baker)dust? [Needs work].
Prat, a cake; prat, a cake.
I like my pastry like I like my ‘I like my’ punchlines: short.
Thank you. On with the show, shall we?
If I were enriched, man…
The final signature challenge of the series is enriched dough (or ‘privileged dough’ in the modern lexicon), which means iced buns. You know, hot dog rolls with some sugar and water on top. In my school canteen they were served for 40p with the faint whiff of frankfurters and bleach, but in the Marquee of Dreams it’s an altogether fancier affair.
Nadiya is breaking with convention by making her cardamom and almond creations round, as well as finger-shaped – and even more controversially, her buns won’t touch. Everyone is very furrowed-brow about this decision. 'That’s what Paul wants in a batch bake, for your buns to be touching,' smirks Ian. Hollywood don’t want none unless you got (conjoined) buns, hun!*
*An extract from forthcoming charity single, Baby Got Bake.
Meanwhile Ian’s buns are flavoured with fresh elderflowers, which he happened to stumble across in a local hedgerow while cycling around last week. It’s worth noting that this approach is all very well if you’re Billy Countryside, but if I used the same foraging method my buns would be flavoured with old condoms, Supermalt and sodden copies of the Metro.
Tamal is doing apple and cinnamon and citrus marmalade buns, bravely topped with a plain royal icing and not flavoured with anything extra in the dough. It’s almost as though Tamal’s buns are tasty enough.
Enriched dough wants to be kneaded (just like all of us, really) and takes a while to prove itself (just like all of us really), before eventually getting baked, split open and filled with fruit and cream (just like… actually no, forget it).
When the fingers go in, the gloves come off. 'It’s fine if you want to break the mould, you know, on Paul’s favourite thing in the world,' Tamal ribs a panicked Nadiya about her circular buns. 'It works alright for you when you break the mould. Remember that technical in week one?' This is NO time to suddenly open up your burn book, Tamal. The whole nation loves you! You bought army pants and flip-flops, so WE bought army pants and flip-flops!
Sure enough, karma comes right back round to bite him; suddenly his crème pat won’t set. Even employing the age-old Bake Off method of ‘freezer and pray’ isn’t working for him, and he has to ditch the custard altogether. We will call this lesson: ‘what doughs are round, comes around’.
Onto the judging, and in a move that has only now made me realise how much he looks like a 21st century Frank Spencer, poor Ian has done a whoopsie by forgetting to put sugar in half of his buns. If you’d all like to join me in shouting ‘D’OUGH!’ at the screen, then laughing for however long feels appropriate.
Tamal gets bollocked for his AWOL crème pat and royally dull icing, but his flavours and textures are on point. 'You were just let down by time,' says Paul, which is a whimsical excuse we can all borrow for our own lives. No, I didn’t miss your birthday. I was just let down by time.
But Nadiya? Nadiya has boshed it. Her jam’s great, her crème pat’s perfect, and she gets bonus points for breaking the mould. In the inspirational movie of her life, this is the part where Bette Midler would sing.
A diamond in the rough puff
Time for the final technical challenge of the year (sob), which the bakers are going to miss in the way you strangely miss a mole once it’s been removed.
The task is mille-feuille, a pastry we all know means ‘a thousand layers’ thanks to that one episode of Sex and the City, and it involves more rough puff and piping than a Glaswegian Burns Night.
Mille-feuille has been chosen because all three finalists have had trouble with pastry in the past, and Paul has come over all Old Testament. “Do you think we’re being tested because we did bad pastry?” says Nadiya. Yes Nads, you’re being tested because you did bad pastry. That’s how divine retribution works. If anyone offers you an apple, don’t take it.
But never mind that, this recipe has grated butter in it! Why has it never occurred to me to grate butter? Imagine the pasta bakes I could have had! Tamal has attempted to break the mould himself, by ignoring the instructions and lumping all his butter together into a block. This is our final reminder that while Tamal is the doe-eyed darling of the nation, if we ever come across him on a hospital ward we might want to ask for a supervisor.
Once the pastry is baking, it’s on to the filling and topping. 'I feel comfortable in jam,' says Ian, which is more information about his Friday nights than I personally needed, but everyone is flummoxed by the candy stripe icing.
Guys, guys, a tip – pretty sure if the stripes go horizontally, the pastry looks like it has more fat in it. I learned that from Trinny and Susannah.
Assembling the pastries is as much a science as an art. 'I can’t even do Key Stage 1 maths!' cries Nadiya, and you can almost feel the Edexcel examiners coming up with a next year’s killer question. If Nadiya has 80cm square of pastry, 20 raspberries, two judges and 10 million adoring fans, what is the probability of her getting a book deal?
Come the judging, nobody’s thousand layers look exactly a million dollars. Tamal’s scruffy rough puff places him last, Ian’s dicey icing is second, and Nadiya proves herself more than just an emotive face, pipping them both to first place. Ace.
Cakers gonna cake
We’re on to the final, literal showstopper and OH I CAN’T BEAR IT TO END. The challenge: a classic British cake. The brief: a tea party. The mood: pure, unadulterated terror.
The theme of Tamal’s sticky toffee cake is ‘something old’ and so appropriately he’s putting prunes in it. As well as keeping it regular, he’s covering it in spun sugar to look like an abandoned Chinese fishing village. Ahh, one of those abandoned Chinese fishing village cakes! Personally I like the Mr Kipling version.
Ian is making a colossal curvy carrot cake, which sounds like something off a hen party cocktail menu and promises to be fittingly dense, while in a move that couldn’t be more perfectly ‘two fingers to the Mail on Sunday’ if it was trying to stage a multifaith vegan knit-your-own carrier bag convention in its back garden, Nadiya is making a ‘big fat British wedding cake’ decorated in red, white and blue saris. YES NADIYA.
But the REAL treat, as always with the final, is that we get to delve into the biscuit tin of the bakers’ home lives. Nadiya’s kids are adorable! Her husband has newfound respect for everything she does! Ian’s kids are the actual children from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! And there’s footage of baby Tamal, which is a helpful gift from the Beeb for everyone wanting to make a Photoshop composite so see what their own little Tamalettes would look like.
The humidity’s eased up but the pressure is mounting, and our bakers are going the same way as their sandwich cakes: two pieces.
Ian’s forgotten his fruit chunks (ORANGE you glad you realised, Ian?), Tamal has frozen a spatula into his toffee like a prehistoric fossil, and Nadiya has frozen her own finger.
'It’s ok, we don’t need fingers after this anyway,' she shrugs. Nadiya, I will peel you grapes and scratch your itches any time you need it, doll.
Outside the tent, it’s a school reunion! The Bake Off tea party looks a bit like the party you have on uni graduation day, where your families make awkward conversation with each other and everybody’s got a new haircut. Flora’s used some salt spray, Mat’s been on the Brylcreem and there’s a fella with a goatee who must be a competition winner or something. Oh no, apparently that’s Stu from episode one. Let him have his moment.
Here we go then. Judgement day. The final cakedown. We’re living through the kind of huge televisual moment that pop culture scholars will write about in years to come. The Queen’s coronation, Who Shot JR, the Olympics, and the Bake Off final 2015. Families, gathered round the TV. Generations, cultures and creeds all united. Warring neighbours calling a truce, dogs, cats and budgies all holding hands. Paul and Mary, don’t break our hearts. Our achey, cakey hearts.
And the winner is… NADIYA! Calloo, Callay, Nadi-YAY!
The face that launched a thousand gifs has gone and won the whole thing like a TOTAL QUEEN, and the right-wing press can go choke on their flavourless gristle pasty. From now on, the official saying will be ‘proud as a Rice Krispie peacock’. Hurrah!
There’s just time for a little weep and the Bake Off equivalent of the Oscars’ In Memorium montage (except so much more cheerful because everyone’s still alive), before the marquee guys come to pack the tent away and everyone can stroll contentedly into the sunset.
Tomorrow, maybe we’ll google that Davina McCall sugar diet.
But tonight? Tonight, let them eat cake.
Next week: NOBODY KNOWS. Will baking still exist? Will happiness and joy? Will we be scrabbling around in the debris from a nuclear apocalypse, trying to make a passable Genoise sponge out of cockroaches and dust?
Until next year, guys.
Like this? Then you might also be interested in:
The Great British Bake Off Episode Seven: We Are Not Amuse-Bouched
Cold Hands, Full Tarts, Can’t Lose: The Great British Bake Off Episode Six
You’ve Got To Pitta Pocket Or Two: The Great British Bake Off Episode Five
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At work? With your gran?