The Great British Bake Off, now almost a UK institution, returns on August 24th for its 7th series. Who will win this year after the intense 10-week challenge of everything from baking perfection to culinary disasters? After an inter-channel battle to win the series, the BBC have managed to retain this most-viewed programme with a top rating of 15m for the finale in 2015.
What makes this programme so popular – is it the eclectic mix of contestants from grandmothers to teenagers, or purely and simply the wonderful, ‘typically British’ way of putting an excellent, charming and gentle programme together. Maybe it’s the presenters – Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc return as hosts in their inimitable comic fashion, with Mary Berry and her steely blue-eyed gaze and Paul Hollywood with his classic one-line put downs. Who knows, but what is obvious is that this great cooking competition is a massive hit with viewers. There is an amusing rapport between Hollywood and Berry – innuendos and double-entendres abound, with Berry treating Hollywood almost like a naughty schoolboy! Their baking prowess and knowledge however, is indisputable.
You have the feeling that the production location manager simply turned up and found a rolling meadow in a tiny English country village and pitched up a marquee in the middle of nowhere – such is the atmosphere and ambiance of the programme – somewhat akin to a local Womens Institute event. Not so – the iconic Bake Off marquee is erected in the grounds of Henry VII’s old hunting lodge at Welford Park, near Newbury in Berkshire.
Series filming generally begins in April, and contestants are put up in a nearby hotel and shoot an episode every weekend, enabling them to hold down their normal lives, be it work or family commitments during the week. Undoubtedly, their homes are full of delicious smells on a daily basis as they practice for the following weekend.
Previous contestants have not had it easy in the lead up to the attainment of the coveted trophy. Martha Collinson was a 6th year student and at 17 years of age, she was the youngest ever participant in the GBBO. Her participation in the series came slap bang in the middle of her school examinations, so between studying for school and baking, she never had a minute to spare. Now with her own blog and recipe website, whilst she didn’t win, she did beat other contestants on her way to baking fame.
At the other end of the spectrum,Nancy Birtwhistle was the 2014 winner. A grandmother of 8 (yes, 8!) she never leaves her kitchen such is her passion for baking. It was this passion that drove her on to victory in the series. Nancy has her own popular blog and website, where she shares her recipes and tips for successful baking. Also a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, she is thoroughly enjoying her retirement and her baking! One of her favourite cakes is ‘Raspberry Ring Cake’ so check out her recipe.
So is there life after GBBO? It would certainly appear so with not just winners making a career out of baking, but also many of the other contestants.
Watch the next series of GGBO, pick up tips and get baking with one or two london baking courses listed on our website, to boost your confidence. You could be the next champion!