'The Great British Bake Off': week four review

Things hotted up in ‘Bake Off’ tent this week. Desserts were on the menu and self-saucing puddings, tiramisu cakes and baked Alaskas pushed the remaining nine bakers to boiling point

by Natalie Hammond

It would be nice if the signature challenge gently eased the bakers into a weekend of soggy bottoms and Mary Berry’s bomber jackets. No such luck. Our nine were tasked with making eight identical self-saucing puddings (the most famous of which is probably the chocolate fondant). The timing on this one is a complete ‘mare. Overbake the pud and the sauce sets; underbake and the sponge will be raw. Gulp.


Highlights were Kate’s chocolate pudding with its molten salted caramel centre and Diana’s orange and lemon curd pots served in teacups. Richard’s were ‘proper leaky inside’ according to Sue (or was it Mel?) and he was praised by Paul for his consistently excellent execution. Norman’s sticky toffee puddings with treacle sauce sounded dreamy, but looked like a hot mess as his piped cream melted into an unappetising puddle. While he defended his puds – he lost us a little when he said they’re the opposite of a person who’s beautiful on the outside and rotten on the inside – the judges have got a (rather aggressive) bee in their bonnets about the simplicity of his bakes.


The technical was one of the trickiest so far – Mary’s tiramisu cake. The pitfalls were plentiful. Each slice of sponge had to be evenly soaked with coffee and brandy, then neatly stacked with mascarpone and cream to make a perfect square. Oh and topped with tempered chocolate – what could be easier when the tent’s thermometer was pushing 25°C? Norman summed it up nicely when he said he couldn’t even spell tiramisu. Richard and Iain had issues with their sponges’ thickness and had to bin their first batches (the bin got a lot of action at one baker’s work station, but more on that later). As the only baker who had baked the Italian behemoth before, Martha cruised to first place, with her beautifully tempered chocolate decorations and neat, even layers. Luis came second with his ‘classy decoration’, according to Paul, while poor Diana came last for going a bit OTT on the piping and having a collapsed centre to her cake. The nation’s heart bled a little when she said she was just a home baker and it was showing – where are Mel and Sue when you need them?!


It was the hottest day of the year – chocolate was melting faster than the aforementioned presenters could eat it and even Mary must have considered taking off her jacket…but resisted – so of course the showstopper was a baked Alaska: a tower of sponge, ICE CREAM and meringue that had to be blow torched. Luis said what could possibly go wrong with a bit of cake and ice cream? Well go wrong they most certainly did. The ice creams weren’t setting (probably because the anxious bakers kept flinging open the freezer doors, while exclaiming, ‘MINE’S NOT FREEZING!’) and chiller space was at a premium.


Nevertheless, some fantastical creations emerged – Diana’s swan-shaped meringues, Martha’s riff on a key lime pie, Richard’s tiramisu Alaska and Kate’s glittering tower of raspberry meringues. Chetna had to resort to using her hands like paddles to rescue her melting mango ice cream. Then disaster really struck. It went something like this…Diana took Iain’s Alaska out of the freezer, Alaska got left on the side, Iain found Alaska, cake tin was removed, Alaska exploded, Iain hoofed the whole lot in the bin and stormed out of the tent with a face the colour of his beard – russet as Sue keeps mentioning.


So to the judging. Norman’s strawberry Alaska failed to impress (despite its lofty height), with Paul saying he was missing the point. With second to last in the technical, this Scot could have done his last jig. Richard’s ticked all the right boxes, with its clear layers and swirling design on his meringue. The judges forgave Chetna’s mango and cardamom mess because the marriage of flavours was impeccable, making it clear that Iain’s rash decision was definitely the wrong one. As he carried the bin up to the judges’ table, Mary said kindly that they could have tasted his sponge and meringue. Their hands were tied and Iain’s meltdown made him the fourth baker to hang up his apron. Richard scooped star baker for the second time in just four weeks, while Norman escaped by the skin of his teeth. Will his luck run out next week?


Some delicious dessert recipes you're going to love...


Sticky toffee puddings
Saucy hot lemon puddings
Vanilla tiramisu
Baked Alaska


And don't forget to check out our cheat's guide to this week's recipes.


Image: BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon

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