‘The Great British Baking Show’ Season 11, Episode 1 Recap: “Cake Week”


There are spoilers about the episode in this article.

The Great British Baking Show is back! If you are new to the show, it is a quaint series that sees 12 amateur bakers show off their creativity each week. The bakers must compete in three challenges: a signature bake (where they show off their favorite flavors), the technical challenge (where they must struggle through a recipe produced by one of the judges), and the showstopper challenge (where the appearance of their bake is just as important as the taste). These challenges are judged by professional bakers Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith and hilariously hosted by Noel Fielding and newcomer, Matt Lucas. Each week, one baker is crowned ‘star baker,’ and another is sadly eliminated.

The Great British Baking Show was filmed this year during COVID-19, and the episode started with a hilarious skit of Matt Lucas as Boris Johnson, which wouldn’t have been out of place in Saturday Night Live. Although things may be different this year, we are so excited to be back in the tent. The bakers were quarantined and had to live together in a bubble due to the virus, and although they missed their families, they were raring to go!

Image Courtesy of ‘The Great British Baking Show’

Each week follows a theme and this week is ‘Cake Week.’ So, grab a cup of tea and some cake of your own, and let’s begin!

Signature Challenge

This week the bakers had two hours to put their spin on the classic Battenberg cake. They could use any kind of sponge they wished and use any flavoring. The judges looked for at least two different flavors (which needed to pack a punch) and an interesting design inside the cake.

Some bakers wanted to stand out from the pack with their flavor combinations. Loriea produced a bright blue bubblegum and cream soda flavored Battenberg. Mak produced an East India inspired Battenberg, featuring orange and spiced stem ginger sponges. He strayed from the traditional almond marzipan and instead produced pistachio marzipan. Unfortunately, these gambles did not pay off. Although Loriea’s cake was striking, the judges were overwhelmed by her flavors and found her cake dry and marzipan too thick. Mak’s cake was very neat, but the judges were not impressed by his complicated flavors and would have preferred traditional marzipan.

Other bakers decided to go all out on the appearance of their Battenberg. Peter produced gluten-free chocolate and orange Battenberg with a clever polka dot marzipan. It wowed the judges with both his flavors and design. Linda aimed to make her Battenberg look like an ambulance in honor of her cousin, who was a paramedic. Unfortunately, she ran out of time, and so her ambulance lacked defining detail and just looked rather sad. The judges also said that her cake was overbaked and dry.

Image Courtesy of ‘The Great British Baking Show’

Music teacher, Rowan, was the most ambitious as his The Magic Flute inspired lemon, vanilla, and rose Battenberg. He aimed to replicate the night sky in marzipan, to represent the forces of darkness, with an intricate temple of enlightenment design inside the cake. Unfortunately, he needed large cakes for his intricate cooking, which resulted in his cake being raw in the middle. He managed to salvage the cake by microwaving it but had to scrap his intricate design in favor of a simpler, less time-consuming design. The judges were disappointed that he didn’t produce his promised design, and although his new design still looked good, his cake was heavy.

Some bakers struggled with their cake but managed to pull it out of the bag. Lottie produced a rhubarb and custard Battenberg, complete with beautiful striped pink and yellow marzipan. Her first batch of batter curdled because her butter was too cold when she mixed it. She had to throw out her first batch and start again, which put her behind. This meant her cake was still warm when she needed to cut it and so her design didn’t entirely hold it’s shaping. However, the judges were still impressed by her design (including the cake being wrapped like a sweet), colors, and delicious flavors. Sura also struggled with her lemon and orange Battenberg. Her cake overflowed in the oven. However, she managed to cut off the crunchy, overbaked parts, and got good feedback from the judges. Her presentation was very pretty, with little glazed fruits on top, and her cake had a lovely texture.

Technical Challenge

This technical challenge, the bakers had to tackle a Paul Hollywood recipe to produce six miniature pineapple upside-down cakes. The bakers had not seen the recipe before, and they were given a pared-down recipe, full of helpful instructions like ‘make the sponge.’ This forced the bakers to rely on their baking knowledge and intuition. They had 90 minutes to produce the perfect caramel syrup-soaked cake topped with a pineapple ring, cream, and a cherry.

Image Courtesy of ‘The Great British Baking Show’

The judges pointed out how difficult this cake could be because if the bakers did not put enough caramel syrup on the cake, it wouldn’t taste right, but if they put on too much, it could prevent the sponge from rising. The caramel syrup could also cause the cake to stick to the mold and rip on the way out.

Several of the bakers, unfortunately, fell into these pitfalls. Marc forgot to butter his molds, and so his sponges ripped on the way out. Linda added too much syrup, and her sponges were flat and looked slightly raw. Several bakers, including Hermine, Loriea, and Linda, struggled to cool down their cakes after baking them and so their cream melted and slid off the top.

We had our first drama of the series when the bakers brought their cakes to the front for judging. Sura sent Dave’s cakes flying to the floor as she tried to bat away a fly. Dave was clearly devastated, but accidents happen. However, the good news was that two cakes survived intact and could be used as a template for judging the rest. Personally, I thought the cakes being upside-down made his pineapple upside-down cakes more authentic.

The technical challenge is judged blind, as the judges do not know which bake belongs to which baker. The bakes are then ranked from worst to best. It was no surprise that Linda came in twelfth place and Marc in eleventh. Then came Loriea, Dave, Mak, Mark, Laura, Hermine, Lottie, and Rowan. Peter came in second with his uniform cakes with the perfect balance of flavors. However, Sura narrowly beat him out because of her perfect piping of the cream. Her win was bittersweet as she was clearly devastated and feeling guilty over her incident with Dave.

Showstopper Challenge

The first showstopper challenge had the bakers trying to bake a cake bust depicting their celebrity hero. It had to be 3D and made mainly from cake; however, the details could be made from other edible parts. They had four hours to tackle this mammoth challenge. The bakers had to navigate the correct amount of icing and buttercream to add detail but not to be overly sweet. Similarly, they had to have a good structure, or else their bust would collapse.

I absolutely loved this challenge, purely because it gave us so many monstrous bakes. It was incredibly stressful to watch the bakers assembling their busts. They faced the risk of their cakes collapsing or breaking apart, and many did.

Linda and Marc both received mixed feedback over their cakes. Marc had many problems with his cakes splitting, so his chocolate and vanilla David Bowie looked squashed and absolutely hilarious, but terrifying. However, the judges did like the flavor of the cake even though it was overbaked, which turned out to be his saving grace. Linda produced a pretty pastel-colored lemon and orange Bob Marley, who unfortunately lacked some minor details…. like a mouth and eyes. However, the judges found her cake delicious.

Both Loriea and Hermine were praised for their creativity in their cakes’ details, but unfortunately, their celebrity’s features went all wrong. Loriea produced a spicy chilli and chililate version of poet Louise Bennett-Coverley, whose necklace looked lovely but her face looked rather like E.T. Unfortunately, the judges once again found her flavors overwhelming. Similarly, Hermine’s coffee and chocolate Lupita Nyong’ o had a stunning dress, but her features went a little awry. She added a little humor to it by writing, “guess who?” on the base. Hermine was redeemed though by the judges finding her cake delicious.

Laura and Peter decided to be clever with their busts and avoid their celebrity’s faces being too difficult. Laura tried to create a lemon and elderflower Freddie Mercury in his iconic yellow jacket with cute, simple features. The judges loved her flavors, but unfortunately, her cake was very moist, which resulted in a very squashed Freddie. Peter produced a Victoria sponge version of cyclist Sir Chris Hoy. By adding a helmet and goggles, he avoided having to do hair and eyes. His cake came together amazingly, and it even attracted the attention of the celebrity himself on twitter.

Mark, Lottie, Dave, and Mak seemed to fall within the middle of the pack with their cakes. They produced busts of Charles Darwin, Louis Theroux, Tom Delonge, and Bill Bryson, respectively. They were all recognizable, but Lottie and Mak were criticized for their dry cakes, and Dave was criticized for his strawberry and mint cake tasting like toothpaste. Mark’s design was more simplistic, but his flavors were good.

Once again, Rowan promised intricate chocolate and cherry Marie Antoinette, complete with choux buns for her hairdo. He cleverly used a mold to make her face; however, he had problems with his choux buns not rising, so he once again had to improvise. He used rice paper for her hair instead. His cake looked and tasted incredible, but once again, he did not deliver as much as he promised, which disappointed the judges.

Disaster almost struck Sura again. She had produced a delicious coconut David Attenborough with raspberry Italian meringue. Unfortunately, he wasn’t properly balanced, and so after the challenge had finished, he almost toppled over. Sura ran to his rescue and managed to prop him up with some icing bags.

I truly hope we have more challenges than producing mixed results like this. Whilst it is amazing to see beautiful results from the bakers, the bakes that go wrong make us all feel better about our own baking skills!


Unsurprisingly, Peter won star baker this week. He truly shone this week and proved himself to be the one to beat. He narrowly beat Sura, who is also looking as though she will be a formidable competitor. They both also showed their lovely personalities by offering to help the other contestants once they had finished their own showstopper challenges.

Sadly, Loriea was eliminated. Her bold flavors did not go down well with the judges. This elimination shocked both Marc and Linda, who also found themselves near the bottom due to the issues with their bakes.

Next week’s theme is ‘Biscuit Week,’ and the preview shows the bakers set to build intricate 3D designs. Be sure to tune in and check back here for the latest recap!

Lynette has been a lifelong nerd and over the last few years finally learned to let her freak flag fly. She likes to dip her toe into almost every fandom but is particularly passionate about Supernatural, Stranger Things, Marvel and Disney. When she isn’t binge watching programs, she loves to swim, sing and (true to her Ravenclaw nature) read. Lynette joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2019 and loves sharing her nerdy knowledge with the world.

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