If you have not seen this episode, there are spoilers ahead.
The final showdown of The Great British Baking Show finally arrived and saw bakers Steph, Alice, and David battle it out to win the crown. The finals have no theme, so the bakers could be asked to bake absolutely anything, putting everything that they have learned over the past 10 weeks to the test.
Going into the finals, Steph seemed to be in the strongest position to win, having won the star baker title four times, with Alice following close behind, having won twice. However, David admitted that he was the underdog, as he had never won the title. Each of the bakers have proved why they were in the final and just how strong their baking skills were. Judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith were in for a challenge picking between these bakers.
For the signature challenge, the bakers were asked to make a chocolate cake, which seemed deceptively simple. The bakers had free range to explore other flavors and put their signature spin on the cake. However, the judges were looking for predominantly chocolate flavor and beautiful decoration. The challenge behind this task was that the bakers were only given two hours to complete their decadent desserts.
While the bakers began their cakes, the audience was shown clips of each of the bakers’ home lives. They had brief interviews with their families and discussed how each of the bakers got into baking. Amusingly, David became interested in baking because his Mum used to remove sugar from their dessert recipes to make them healthier, making them taste awful. These insights only made it harder for me to decide who I actually wanted to win the competition overall.
David decided to make a prune and Armagnac chocolate cake. His cake looked very elegant and was praised by the judges for the chocolate mirror glaze and chocolate leaves placed on top as decoration. Paul was impressed that David had used mainly chocolate solids to get his rich flavor and also liked the addition of the prunes. However, the judges’ main criticism was that he had used too much Armagnac. His cake was vanilla and Armagnac flavored, with Armagnac cream and prunes soaked in Armagnac. As he was baking, David had said that he had used most of the bottle of alcohol, and even Prue, who typically likes strong alcohol flavors, seemed knocked back by the strength. It overpowered his other flavors and meant that the judges couldn’t eat much of the cake.
The judges loved Alice’s combinations of flavors in her pear, ginger, and maple chocolate cake. However, they had to be picky, because it’s the final, after all. Paul criticized the cake for not being chocolatey enough, as she had only used cocoa powder to achieve the flavor. Prue disagreed and thought that it was a great balance. The critique that both judges agreed on was that Alice’s cake did not look good. Alice had taken one of her cakes out of the oven too early, and it seemed to crumble when she took it out of the tin. She put it back in the oven in the hopes that it would become stable after baking some more. When she assembled her cake, due to the unevenness of her under-baked cake – which was her middle layer – the cake was leaning and looked very clumsy.
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) October 29, 2019
Over the weeks, Steph has tended to stick to classic flavors in her signature bakes, and this week was no exception. She went for a classic black forest chocolate cake, with cherry jam and Kirsch Chantilly cream. Steph seemed quite calm and collected, and in typical Steph fashion had wonderful time management skills and finished ahead of the time limit. The judges loved her flavors, which were well balanced, and praised the neatness and elegance of her cake. However, they thought it was slightly over-baked, which had resulted in a slightly crumbly texture but had not affected the flavor.
The technical challenge this week was a disaster of a challenge and is by far the most difficult I have ever watched. Paul set the recipe for the bakers to make six, twice baked Stilton soufflés with thin Lavash crackers in one hour and 10 minutes. Soufflés are notoriously difficult to make, as they do not include a raising agent and so rely entirely on the whipping of egg whites. If you don’t beat the egg whites enough or over-beat them, then the soufflés will not carry the air. I truly thought this challenge was much too challenging to give to amateur bakers and was proven right by the disasters that followed.
Both Alice and Steph felt the pressure in this challenge and seemed panicked from the start when the recipe asked them to make a roux, with no additional detail. David just seemed to continue in his usual unflappable way and that seemed to be the key to his success in this challenge.
Steph started to become unstuck when she added her egg whites to the rest of her mixture and realized she had over-beaten them, which left her mixture lumpy. She just didn’t have time to redo it, unfortunately, and had to carry on. After that, her panic overtook her, and she couldn’t seem to think straight. The soufflés needed to be cooked once in a bain-marie in the oven before being demolded, and then put in the oven again. Despite watching Alice and David put hot water into their bain-marie, Steph thought it needed to be cold.
It was horrifying watching the bakers demold their soufflés after being cooked in the bain-marie. Alice and David had issues with the soufflés sticking to the mold, which left many of them with very uneven tops. Steph didn’t have an issue with sticking. This was because her mixture hadn’t cooked in the cold water, and so when she turned over her mold, liquid just poured out. It was heart-breaking to watch her fall apart as she realized there was nothing she could do to salvage this bake.
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) October 29, 2019
The judges rank the bakes from best to worst without knowing which bake belongs to which baker. Unsurprisingly, Steph came last due to her uncooked soufflés. She didn’t have any luck with the crackers, either, as she hadn’t rolled the dough thin enough, so they weren’t cooked either. Alice came in second place, as her soufflés were under-baked and were gluey. Her biscuits also needed longer in the oven and were floppy rather than crisp. David came in first place. His soufflés, although not perfectly risen, were well baked, although his crackers were slightly under-baked.
The bakers’ final showstopper challenge was to produce a picnic basket and its contents. The bakers had to produce an illusion using cakes, biscuits, and enriched breads disguised as other foods. Nothing could be as it appeared. Bakers had a whopping four and a half hours to produce their masterpieces, giving them a final chance to impress the judges. After the marathon bake, bakers previously eliminated from the season and the bakers’ friends and families were invited for a large carnival party at which the winner of the 2019 season would be announced.
The bake was particularly difficult for Alice, as she was in tears from the start, worried that her parents may not be able to make it. They had been at a wedding in Ireland the previous day, and their flight home had been cancelled. She was distraught at the thought that her parents might not be there, but she managed to pull herself together to get on with her bake.
There was a lot of multi-tasking going on with the bakers needing to produce their enriched breads first to allow it time to prove, then making cakes, biscuits, and then the all-important decoration to pull off the illusions, which involved lots of spray-painting of cakes. The bakers also needed to make nougatine picnic baskets, which seemed very difficult and sticky to work with, and the bakers seemed to be burning themselves when trying to shape and glue the pieces together.
Steph seemed to have another unlucky day. She was creating almond macarons that looked like strawberries, spiced orange bread buns that looked like fairy cakes, and a large lemon and poppy seed cake disguised as a chicken burger. She was baking a domed cake to look like the burger bun as part of her illusion, and it stuck in the pan, which tore the top off the cake. She managed to replace it, and with decoration it didn’t seem to be an issue, but that was the beginning of her panic. Her macaron mixture was also runny. She didn’t have time to make another mixture, but she knew it wasn’t right. Steph knew that after her disastrous technical challenge, everything needed to be perfect if she wanted a chance at winning, and everything just seemed to be going wrong again. To top it all off, she trapped her fingers in the electric beater, which looked very painful. She was calmed down by host Noel Fielding and continued onwards, knowing the chance at winning was slipping through her fingers. The judges picked up on the problems she had experienced and also the problems with her basket, which lacked a handle. Although her burger cake looked great as an illusion, it didn’t have much flavor and was over-baked. Her other elements weren’t convincing illusions. During the critiques, she knew she definitely had no hope of winning and was given a hug by Paul. It was such a shame to see a baker who had been so strong throughout the competition crumble under the pressure and just not have luck on her side during the final.
Alice had created raspberry macarons to look like strawberries and tomatoes, orange and cardamom bread buns to look like ice cream, a large meat pie, chicken drumsticks, and scotch eggs actually made of carrot cake, and blueberry buns made to look like apples. The judges complimented her flavors and her illusions, particularly her scotch eggs, which were amazingly deceptive. However, they said her ice creams didn’t look convincing, although other than having melted ice creams, I’m not sure what the judges thought would be more realistic. The judges also weren’t happy with her blueberry buns, as they were a little bland.
David produced a biscuit cheese board accompanied by lemon pound cake made to look like cheeses. True to form, he also had lightly spiced saffron, orange, and apricot bread made to look like peaches. Previously eliminated contestant Jamie had been critiqued during a technical challenge for glazing fig rolls, which made them look like sausage rolls. Hilariously, David stole this idea to create an additional illusion for his picnic. His bake was extremely clever. He had included so many little details in his baking, even including edible fondant wax paper for the cheese, although his blue cheese looked a little odd to me. The judges were amazed by his illusions and loved the flavors and textures, including his spiced bread. It was truly outstanding.
The bakers all held hands as the winner was announced, although we knew that Steph was out of the running. Underdog David was announced as the winner, much to his surprise. The contestants were all handed flowers, and David was given his engraved glass winner’s cake stand. His calm attitude throughout the challenges in the final made sure that his bakes were completed to the highest standard. He was most definitely the strongest baker during the finals week.
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) October 29, 2019
It was great to see all of the previously eliminated bakers again, and it was particularly amusing to watch Jamie see David’s glazed fig rolls. It was a lovely reunion for the bakers. Steph said that she had made amazing lifelong friends. Just before the credits, various clips were shown of the bakers meeting up and visiting one another up and down the country. The friendship and camaraderie between the bakers is the heart of the show and what makes it so endearing.
Well, that is it for The Great British Baking Show for another year! I think I may go console myself with some tea and cake.