The Great Christmas Bake Off, review: A cosy special that's just what's needed over the holiday
This cosy special could have been underwhelming on any other day, but it fits the Christmas season beautifully
It’s that time of the year again – time to head back to the Great British Bake Off tent and reacquaint ourselves with bakers of seasons past, as our hearts once again beat to the tune of consecutive signature, technical, and showstoppers challenges.
This year’s Great Christmas Bake Off sees Tom Hetherington and Yan Tsou, both featured on series eight of the show in 2017, return, accompanied by Briony Williams and Terry Hartill from season nine, which aired last year. Tom, you might recall, left the competition after four weeks, while Yan was eliminated on week seven after becoming a fan favourite. Briony, meanwhile, almost made it to the final but left on the ninth week; Terry made it to week five. They are joined by returning judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood, as well as co-hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig.
It all begins, in traditional Bake Off form, with the signature challenge, for which our four contestants are asked to fashion cake pops, ie small cakes on sticks. Timing is of the essence (then again, is it ever not under the Bake Off tent?) and the bakers must ensure that their festive-themed cake pops manage to remain on their respective sticks.
Despite those technical complications, everyone seems rather relaxed – and here lies the specificity of a Bake Off Christmas special. Because this is a one-off, the stakes are obviously much lower than on regular episodes of the competition. This is a chance to check in on past contestants while enjoying a bit of Christmas entertainment – an exercise that the bakers, judges and hosts all embrace smoothly. Terry, for example, isn’t too worried when he falls two cake pops short of the requested 24 – and on this light-hearted note, we’re on to the technical challenge.
This time around, Paul and Prue are asking the bakers to craft sausage roll wreaths, guided only by terse instructions. The trickiest part is perhaps getting the texture of the pastry right – but even that isn’t enough to rob the contestants of their festive spirit. When all is said is done, Briony comes in fourth and last place, followed by Terry, while Yan finishes second and Tom comes first – winning a technical challenge for the first time in his Bake Off career.
Finally, the bakers get to show off their skills by way of the showstopper challenge, for which they’re asked to create gingerbread houses inspired by their favourite Christmas locations. This New-York-based writer is admittedly biased towards Terry’s, which is shaped like the Chrysler building as a tribute to what he (rightfully) calls one of his favourite places to be.
Eventually, though, Briony’s steam-trained-inspired gingerbread house, coupled with her impressive cake pops, convince the judges to award her the title of Star Baker – a respectable decision.
This is a cosy episode that leaves only the sweet part of Bake Off. On any other day, it might have felt somewhat underwhelming, but it’s just what’s needed over the festive season.