Pictured: Great British Bake Off finalists Steph (left), David (middle) and Alice (right)
The Great British Bake Off
Holy souffle pots, that was traumatic. The final of The Great British Bake Off (C4), once the gentlest competition on TV, left millions feeling as if they’d been squashed flat by a runaway bread lorry.
When Alice wasn’t talking to herself and clutching her face, she was in floods of tears.
David seemed to retreat behind an icy facade, as if the airily camp pastry wizard had been replaced by a hitman.
Poor Steph suffered worst, though. As the three finalists walked into the marquee holding hands at the start of the two-day trial, it was Steph who was the bookies’ odds-on favourite.
She had won the weekly contests four times and with so many Star Baker awards under her apron belt it seemed the big prize was just a formality.
By the end of the show, she was slumped on the floor, her back against a cupboard, too exhausted even to cry. Even judge Paul Hollywood, a man who usually displays all the compassion of a debt collector with an ingrowing toenail, gave her a hug and consoled her that her disastrous showstopper ‘didn’t matter’. He was right.
Steph had already torpedoed her chances when she served flat, runny souffles in the technical round. As they were brought out of the oven in a porridgey mess, the sound effects team couldn’t resist adding the rubbery noise of a broken trampoline.
Pictured: David with Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood after the Great British Bake Off final
For her grand finale, Steph Blackwell attempted a cake that looked like a chicken burger, but she was trembling so much she caught her fingers in the electric egg whisk
Paul and fellow judge Prue Leith called them ‘pancakes’, then ‘soup’ and, after tasting them, as something that had been ‘beaten to death’.
Shop assistant Steph Blackwell, 28, whose confidence had been shaky from the first week, fell to pieces.
For her grand finale, she attempted a cake that looked like a chicken burger, but she was trembling so much she caught her fingers in the electric egg whisk. Ouch!
When her cake disintegrated as she tipped it onto the cooling stand, her last hopes crumbled. The cameras love to see a bit of emotion but, as Steph sobbed her way through the last hour, this was painful to watch.
Pictured: David Atherton, 36, with his showstopper, which featured a cheeseboard and pork pie picnic created from various kinds of cake
Alice Fevronia, 28, made a clever scotch egg and pie illusion for her final GBBO showstopper
Rival Alice Fevronia, 28, was crying her eyes out, too, but this was because her parents were stranded on the other side of the Irish Sea after a family wedding. Their flight had been cancelled and they weren’t sure if they would be able to watch her in the final.
You’d think the programme team could have reassured Alice, by sending a helicopter. Channel 4 paid £75million for the rights to this show – surely there’s enough left over in the budget to hire an aerial Uber for Mum and Dad.
The eventual victor, health advisor David Atherton, 36, got off to his usual downbeat start. He was the only finalist who had never won the Star Baker’s ribbon – in fact, from all the previous nine series, I can’t recall any contestant to reach the final week without coming first at least once. He hasn’t featured on-screen much.
For weeks, he was barely noticeable among the louder personalities and more flamboyant bakes.
We’ll all remember Gothic Helena and Boyish Henry. Even Bumbling Jamie, who was dropped after two weeks, made a bigger impression.
Victorious David was the only finalist who had never won the Star Baker’s ribbon
For the first round of the final, the bakers were asked to conjure up the perfect chocolate cake. As ever, David’s looked stunning, and yet Paul and Prue criticised its flavour.
‘Too much armagnac,’ they said. ‘Can’t taste anything but the alcohol.’
In Bake Off’s heyday with Mary Berry, there was no such thing as ‘too much armagnac’.
Nevertheless, David’s twice-baked stilton souffles emerged from the oven like cupcakes made from champagne bubbles, and his showstopper – a cheeseboard and pork pie picnic created from various kinds of cake – was obviously so good that an official Government inquiry would have been demanded if he hadn’t been crowned winner.