The Great British Baking Show recap: Just desserts
Anyone else feeling slightly, nay, extraordinarily unmoored heading into week 6? If Dairy Week was a headache, Roaring ’20s Week was an actual fever dream come to life. The themes have been odd, the bakes have been weird, and the double elimination last week was pure pandemonium. But just as the whole thing threatens to plummet head first into a chaos pit from which it may never emerge, they’ve lined up a theme so purely Great British Baking Show that we just might make it out alive. It’s Desserts Week, and gosh darn it, we deserve this!
Signature challenge: Layered meringue cake
Large meringue sandwich cake with a minimum of three layers.
David is making mixed-spice meringues to sandwich with vanilla cream and blackberries. David has a tendency to choose bold and unusual flavors, but Paul is concerned that the spices won’t go together well and admonishes David for not trying it out on his friends. Paul, buddy, you don’t know David’s life; don’t assume he has any friends. Prue says the resulting cake looks like a painting and is “absolutely lovely,” but Paul turns out to be right about the overwhelming spice flavors.
Henry has upped the challenge by adding a fourth layer to his pistachio meringue, which will be filled with chocolate creme patissiere and topped with fresh raspberries. He fiddles about with a butane torch at one point and we’re forced to remember that despite his somewhat surprising use of the word “voluptuous,” he is actually still just an adorable large boy. The resulting cake is a little sloppy-looking (“Design-wise, it’s wanting”) but Paul and Prue think it tastes great.
Apparently Rosie was sure she was going home last week, which was a silly thing to think because aside from her custard-splat situation, she’s been really killing it. Her cake is a salted caramel French meringue topped with raspberry and lime curd and finished with a chocolate ganache. Paul and Prue love the flavors but don’t love just how much chocolate there is on top. They also note a lack of decorative flair, but still seem largely happy with the result.
Alice is honoring the flavors of a black forest cake with her chocolate meringue, chocolate mousse, cherry buttercream, and cherry compote. Alice is back, baby! I feel like she’s been pretty quiet the last few weeks, and ever since that amazing macaron sheep I’ve been waiting for her to make a triumphant return. And this beautiful cherry blossom cake is just that. Prue calls it “very attractive” but suggests a different kind of cherry might have delivered a punchier flavor.
Queen Steph, the only baker who managed to rise above the chaos of the last two weeks, is making a nod to an Eton mess with her white chocolate cream cheese, pistachio, and raspberry cake. Prue and Paul look very excited to dig into the beautiful creation. Paul’s only complaint is that there are too many nuts. They both shrug, clearly happy, and walk away. Michael whispers reassuringly from the bench next door, “Never too many nuts.”
Michael, whose endless closet of striped shirts I used to be rooting for, has resurfaced my disdain for chocolate and orange and even goes so far as to remind us all of those dreaded chocolate oranges that I confessed last week still give me nightmares. His cake features an orange creme au beurre filling, covered in a dark chocolate and orange ganache, and adorned with caramelized hazelnut spikes. I am pretty sure it’s in this show’s network contract that someone must make caramel hazelnut spikes at least once a season, so I’m happy to see we’re finally getting that box checked. There’s also booze it in, and Prue tries to play it cool but it’s obvious she’s psyched. We honestly cannot blame her; she has to hang out with Paul all weekend. She probably gets really tired of having to look at iPhone pictures of sports cars he wants to buy (just a guess). In the end, the chocolate ganache blanket has caused the meringue to sweat a bit, rendering the cake soft inside. No matter, because Prue loves the flavors and now I think she deserves Paul’s company.
Priya, who, and let’s be honest here, probably should have gone home already after several weeks of disastrous baking, is taking inspiration for her cake from her husband’s love of amaretto with an amaretto creme patissiere sandwiched between layers of almond dacquoise and topped with blueberry creme au beurre. In the judging, Prue takes the opportunity to reprise her blueberry smack talk from last week, citing that mauve is not a color she likes to eat. Paul thinks the meringue is overbaked. They walk away unimpressed.
Should you make this at home?
Definitely. Practice your meringue first with cookies before upgrading to the full layer cake.
Technical challenge: Verrine
Six layered desserts featuring mango compote, coconut panna cotta, raspberry jelly, and topped with a coconut and lime streusel and a sable biscuit.
After a rather disappointing judging in the signature challenge, Sandi tells the bakers that this is one of the most technically challenging technical challenges they’ve ever had on the show. I’m not sure that’s quite true, but there are a lot of elements. The trick to these verrines is going to be layering everything very precisely so that nothing melts the layer before it and a lovely, stripy layered pattern can be seen on the outside of the glass. Priya is the only baker we see struggle with that task, as her raspberry jelly drops straight through her panna cotta. No one seems to struggle a tremendous amount, though. That is, until the very last task of challenge, in which they carry their tray of six precariously balanced biscuits and verrines up to the gingham table. We are treated to a wonderful aerial shot of the bakers inching their way through the tent, like a scene in an action movie when all the office workers who have been held hostage work together to escape. It’s glorious.
Prue and Paul are very pleased with all of the verrines overall and are forced to find small ways to differentiate. Steph’s biscuit is very slightly overbaked, but her verrine is delicious. Rosie’s jelly is a little bit under-set. Michael’s panna cotta is a little thick. Henry’s lines aren’t perfectly straight.
It turns out Priya’s under-set layers were the worst of the lot and earn her seventh and last place. David lands in second place for the fourth week in a row, and we can see through his very forced grin that it is clearly beginning to get to him. Alice’s perfect verrines win her first place, and she is wide-eyed with excitement.
Should you make this at home?
Make these for your mom’s retirement party to impress all her friends and co-workers with how elegant and precise and loving her child is.
Showstopper challenge: Celebratory bombe dessert
A highly decorative semi- or fully spherical bombe containing at least one baked element and two other dessert elements.
It’s Michael’s birthday! He’s 26! Suddenly I am understanding the emotional journey he seems to have been on the last few weeks. His Saturn is returning and his whole life is about to be a righteous mess. To celebrate his birthday and the last few fun years of his life, he’s making a black forest bombe with a cherry cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and cherry jelly.
Going into the final round, two contestants are clearly in the lead for star baker. Alice, who wowed the judges with her cherry blossom signature bake and first place in the technical, is making a tiramisu bombe with an espresso chocolate mousse, pistachio parfait, and mascarpone rum mousse (heavy on the rum). Steph, who has won star baker the last two weeks running, is making a dark chocolate mousse, coffee bavarois, and joconde bombe decorated with a chocolate glaze. Steph has opted not to line her bombe with a sponge structure, a risk that clearly has Prue and Paul a little nervous.
Priya, who is clearly in the running for elimination, is going for a fruity bombe with dark chocolate mousse and summer fruits bavarois, surrounded by a fatless sponge and decorated with raspberry meringue shards. Priya’s problem is consistently poor time management, and the judges take the opportunity during their check in to remind her to stay on task.
Rosie is celebrating her parents with her bombe, which will be a honey cake filled with mango bavarois and lemon hibiscus mousse and caramelized salted white chocolate. Henry is employing a very cool trick with cardboard cake circles that will allow him to pour and set all his layers at once. Prue seems very impressed with his ingenuity and we’re all left to hope this risk works out. His bombe will be built to look like a bonfire, featuring a cinnamon sponge, cinnamon meringue, and a spiced honey mousse. David is also taking a risk in that he’s the only baker who has assumed the challenge of a frozen element. His lemon and shiso leaf sorbet will be accompanied by a raspberry and rose jelly and white chocolate raspberry mousse. These flavors are an homage to his in laws in Bulgaria, an area known for its affinity for all things rose.
Rosie’s colorful bombe comes out a bit “clumsy.” David’s more-cabbage-than-rose bombe is an uneven blend of unpleasant flavors. Michael’s bombe is a somewhat unpleasant color but reminds me of a cake one might watch a well-meaning house elf drop on their emotionally abusive aunt, so I think we should all agree to let it slide. The cheesecake isn’t set, but Paul likes the flavors anyway.
Henry’s bombe is “simple” and “elegant,” but the cake is tough and the apple flavor is lacking. The only part of Priya’s bombe that the judges seem to like is the cake, which is not really enough to make up for the mismatched sweetness of the chocolate and raspberry mousses.
Alice’s tiramisu looks “perfect” and tastes “beautiful” and “delicate.” Prue declares it a “triumph.” Steph’s successfully mirror-glazed bombe is “stunning.” Prue says the chocolate mousse is “just what a chocolate mousse should be,” and Paul breaks into a massive grin and says that the dessert is one of the best things he’s had to eat in a long time. He calls it “perfect,” and I think we all know how hard that is for him to admit.
Should you make this at home?
As Rosie very correctly points out, the proper way to do this at home would be over the course of a few days or a whole week. That way everything has loads of time to set properly, and you won’t be rushed in the decorating stage.
Steph’s extremely impressive mirror-glaze bombe wins her star baker for the third week in a row. The best thing about Steph, though, is that even though she’s separated herself so distinctly from the pack, she seems genuinely honored and pleased each time. At this point, it will be truly shocking if we’re not still watching her turn out glorious and triumphant bakes all the way to the final round.
Going home this week is Priya, which should not be a surprise for anyone. Priya has struggled with time management for the last several weeks and has managed to stay in the contest by the grace of other bakers’ even worse failures. This week was her final undoing, though, as her overbaked meringue led into last place in technical, and followed with a not-so-bomb bombe.