Semi-final week on the 'Great British Bake Off'

A flurry of savoury canapés, Charlotte Royales and decadent opera cakes

by Natalie Hammond

It was semi-final week in last night’s ‘GBBO’ and you could slice the tension with a (cake) knife as the four lady bakers were whittled down to three. The theme was French and kicked off with a signature challenge of three types of savoury canapé.


Frances’ French legumes – ‘Chantenay carrots’ pastry cones, choux pastry ‘tomatoes’ and ‘cauliflower cheese’ scones, all served on a turf ‘plot’ – were an instant crowd pleaser, with Paul pronouncing them, ‘Lovely, lovely, lovely.’ Kimberley pushed the boat out with fiddly decorations (deep-fried lotus root adorned her steamed chicken buns and a whisker-thin slice of seaweed was wrapped around her crab and wasabi profiteroles) and was rewarded with a ‘genius’ from Paul. Next to Frances’ veggie garden (each carrot was crowned with dill sprigs, each tomato with a shiny red blob of icing), Beca’s canapés were a snooze-fest. Her Welsh rarebit tartlets (the decoration amounted to a snip of chive) were overwhelmed by the ale and her macaroons, with a massive cheese hunk sandwiched between the delicate wheels, lacked any real finesse.


This week’s technical challenge was a Charlotte Royale – slices of Swiss roll sponge that form a pudding-shaped dome around set custard. The finished product looked uncannily like a brain - blame the flesh-coloured sponge and red jam. Ruby’s Charlotte was the least attractive of the four, with its squat height, almost non-existent custard and unappetising splodges of jam. While Beca’s and Frances’ Swiss rolls weren’t tightly-packed enough, allowing the custard to seep through, Kimberley claimed first place and looked increasingly like a shoe-in for one of the final spots.


The showstopper challenge was to bake an opera cake - clearly-defined layers of sponge, jam, ganache, custard - in just two and a half hours. We all know Frances loves a bit of wordplay and last night was no exception with her lavender-flavoured ‘soap opera’ cake.  Paul voiced concerned about the potential shower gel taste (it didn’t bode well when she started spraying on lavender essence with what looked like a Molten Brown soap dispenser), but the floral flavour didn’t come through in the tasting, with Mary saying it needed a hit of acidity to make it less sickly sweet.


After an underwhelming batch of canapés and bronze position in the technical, Beca needed to work her socks off in the showstopper. Her banoffee-flavoured opera cake looked like a giant nutella and peanut butter sandwich, but sadly had little of its deliciousness. Her caramel buttercream was unmistakably grainy and the artificial banana flavouring used in one of her layers made the overall taste cloyingly sweet. While Kimberley’s elaborate chocolate opera cake was enough secure her star baker, Beca was struck down like an opera singer with laryngitis and forced to retire before the final act next week.


Seeing as its National Chocolate Week, treat yourself in a spare evening and make one of these decadent desserts. If chocolate’s not your thing and you fancy something savoury, try these mozzarella and basil choux buns (challenge yourself to make them as dinky as Frances’ tomatoes). We doubt many of you have the time (or the inclination) to whip up a Charlotte Royale, but this chocolate and buttercream Swiss roll will hit the spot and won't look anything like an organ, we promise. Don’t forget to look at our week 9-inspired recipes too...




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Carla  Griscti

Carla Griscti

Editorial assistant on allaboutyou; Music lover, travel bee and food fanatic.

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Emma Marsden

Food consultant of All About You, loves creating something out of nothing and decluttering.

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Bernadette Fallon

Editor of All About You; an online journalist with a fetish for glossy magazines.

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Adrienne  Wyper

Adrienne Wyper

Deputy editor of All About You. I love cycling, cooking and creating

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Carol  Muskoron

Carol Muskoron

Associate editor of All About You, loves life (mostly) and one-pan recipes (always).

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