The Great British Bake Off: European Cakes

“Art is a lie to which one gives the accent of truth.”

Edgar Degas

Unfortunately, this sixth episode of The Great British Bake Off may well be the last one I review, since I have a feeling that all the episodes have now vanished from BBC iPlayer. Thus I consign it to the Purgatory of Lost Programmes, joining The Widower, Whitechapel and Silent Witness among others as Shows that Never Ended (at least for me).

But European Cakes was a pretty good episode to end on, all things considered. There is, at least, much chocolate: every single cake made for the showstopper looks like it might well cause a heart attack if you ate it. The showstopper brief pretty much orders each contestant to put as much caramel as is consistent with time restraints into a two- or three-tier dobos torte, or, as I like to call it, a diabetes tower, containing as it does ten layers of sponge, several litres of ganache or cream, and a bucket of sugary icing to top it all off, as well as the aforementioned caramel.

Mmmm. It makes you hungry just thinking about it.

Then there’s the techical challenge, a Swedish princess cake: a concoction of Genoese sponge (“tricky sponge to make,” comments Mary Berry gleefully), raspberry jam, cream and creme patissiere, all topped off with a dome of whipped cream, a layer of green marzipan, chocolate piping and a sugar rose. And I haven’t even begun to describe the incredibly decadent and extremely calorific yeast-leavened cakes offered up for the signature bake, or this week’s segment on Interesting Baking Stories!, which sees Sue Perkins travelling to Jutland, Denmark for a kind of cake banquet involving about thirty different sweet things and much, much coffee. “I’ve never been drunk on sugar before.” This episode makes it sound like Europe is run on cake.

Oh, and the other nice thing about this episode? Nobody left, ostensibly because Paul and Mary had an unresolvable argument about which baker to send home, but really, one suspects, because two people left last week (Diana, you remember, retired due to illness, while Norman, he of the Pieffel Tower, was sent home for being an unadventurous old fart). In any case, there was an amount of contrived and unnecessary tension-building uncomfortably reminiscent of the frankly manipulative tactics used by the dreaded juggernaut that is The X Factor, which here just felt cruel and out-of-place in a show which otherwise projects an image of fluffy, supportive, sugary niceness.

But it was, at least, only a moment. And I suppose even the best of shows have to make some concessions to reality TV conventions. I’m not boycotting Bake Off just yet, if only because the chocolate looks too nice to resist.

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