Let’s talk about the Great British Bake Off. For those unaware, Bake Off or GBBO is a baking competition filmed and aired in Britain. It began in 2010 and is still going strong. The basic format is that there are twelve contestants, who each week produce three different baked goods. Judges are Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, both successful bakers with many a cookbook between them, and presenters are Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. Each week one contestant is knocked out, until there’s a winner.
For such a simple format, Bake Off has swept the UK and caught it up in baking fever. I’m quite late to the party – I only started watching it with the latest series, and only then because a friend made me. And it’s enjoyable. But why is it quite a big a deal as it is?
For anyone who is unsure as to whether or not it’s a big deal, last year there was a scandal on the show, commonly referred to as Alaska gate, where cries of sabotage against one contestant wracked the nation. It was all anyone talked about for two weeks. I know summer is a slow news time, but honestly.
Maybe Bake Off is so popular because it’s a genuinely nice show. The contestants are routinely seen helping each other and offering advice after a disaster, rather than gloating and cackling. There are no sob stories like on the X-Factor. And everyone likes cake.
There are also many ways to enjoy watching Bake Off. You can get caught up in it, in the drama of whether or not a crème brulee will make the right cracking noise. You can watch it to yell at the TV, because you think the judges are wrong. You can watch it for the sheer joy of Sue and Mel, because they are fantastic. Maybe you’re really into baking. Maybe you want to be able to join in the conversations on Thursday at work. I live tweet watching it because it’s enjoyable but ridiculous, especially the amount of dramatic music they put over shots of people taking cake out of tins.
I think, at the end of the day, Bake Off is both lovely and easy to watch. And being completely honest, the bunting in a tent where cake is being made makes it feel very British, which seems to be a powerful commodity these days. For me, it reminds me of village fairs I went to as a kid, where even if you were the only entry in a category, it didn’t mean you won first place. And it means I know what my friends are on about when they get over excited about it down the pub.
I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like Bake Off, but I was pleasantly surprised. And though I’m not fanatical yet and can’t see myself ever being, if you dislike Nadiya or Tamal, I will fight you.