I was not expecting to enjoy Dessert Week on The Great British Baking Show as much as I did, and that makes me angry. Helena, Mistress of the Dark, should still be here, amazing us with a bloodshot eyeball bombe that oozes vanilla bean custard when stabbed with a knife. Michelle should still be here, making Welsh-inspired desserts with lots of flair and zero vowels. But they’re not.
So what’s responsible for my good mood? Surprisingly, it’s Michael. I’ve been tremendously bothered by this show’s insistence on showing Michael at his most mentally frail, because I’ve been in that state many, many times. I, myself, am the proud recipient of not one but three exciting psychological disorders—anxiety, attention deficit, and depressive—and they’ve made my life difficult enough. Imagine handling that while appearing on international television. And while all these disorders are common (and highly manageable!), since everyone is too scared to talk about these sorts of things, nothing ever gets better and everyone feels completely alone. When I see a show zooming in on the throes of a severe panic attack, and then I see more deserving bakers go home, I can only assume it’s because the producers are hoping for more on-camera meltdowns that make for exciting television. I tuned in this week fully expecting to see Michael spiral, but he didn’t! It’s Michael’s birthday, and that jolt of celebratory excitement has catapulted this dear man into one of the most beautiful territories an anxiety-crippled brain can venture into: the Land of Literally Zero Fucks.
Unfortunately for Michael, 26 years ago he chose to enter the world on Prue’s birthday. Prue did not come to work this week to share her birthday with some little trollop, so she is going to spend Dessert Week smiling politely, pretending she’s fine, and nonchalantly destroying everyone’s souls.
Signature Bake: Three layered meringue cake
All the bakers need to do is make three simple meringue layers, fill them with whatever, make it look fancy and that’s that. It should be simple, but we all know that if you do something too simple on this show, Prue will have a tiff over it. As the bakers get to work on their excessively complicated meringue plans, Prue leaves the tent and explains the key to this challenge will be to not overcomplicate things. It was a trap! Man, that Prue is not to be trusted.
Speaking of predatory older women, let’s check in on everybody’s favorite morsel of cougar bait: Henry! He’s ditched his schoolboy look for a shirt that screams “Here I am, world!” and is so freaking cute I could cry. This is the kind of shirt a pre-GBBS Henry would never have dared worn in public, because only a real man could take on the world in a bold floral print. But by Dessert Week, Henry’s seen some shit. He’s grieving the loss of Helena. He’s debating growing a beard. He’s making a pistachio meringue with chocolate custard, casually dropping in a bit about his time “in Le Touquet, a little coastal town in France.” Henry is a man of the world, a man to be taken seriously, a man who can wear a shirt that says “I may be sensitive, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not strong.”
David is making a three-spice meringue with fresh figs and vanilla cream, and would like me to remind you all that he, too, is sexy.
Michael is singing and dancing about the tent, because now that he’s accepted that there’s nothing wrong with losing, he’s finally free. There are far better things to be upset about than a silly baking competition, right? Which is why I didn’t stand up and scream at the television when Priya talked about the amaretto meringue she was making. Many of us had theorized that the only reason she was not eliminated for making a non-alcoholic cake during last week’s cocktail-inspired showstopper challenge was for either religious or sobriety purposes. Nope! Priya has no problem baking with booze, so Helena and Michelle went home instead of her because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Que sera sera.
According to Prue, nobody’s meringue cakes are any good. She tells David his is “not as delicious as it looks.” She tells Priya her cake is ugly. Michael doesn’t even let Prue taste his cake before announcing how he messed it up. Steph— who has no confidence despite having won Star Baker two weeks in a row—made a cake with “too many nuts,” which I refuse to believe is a thing.
Technical bake: Verrines
Instead of recapping this part, I’m going to refer you to this piece published in The Atlantic a few days ago about how this round is ruining the show. They put it far more nicely than I was going to do it. Plus, they actually paid attention to this part of the episode, while I instead chose to ignore it in favor of going to the kitchen and making myself a peanut butter sandwich. It was a good sandwich.
Showstopper Challenge: Bombes
I love bombes! I know they’re supremely easy to make, and yet, I rarely ever find myself enjoying a bombe. That needs to stop. I’m going to start writing more celebratory bombe recipes for The Takeout, and non-celebratory “just because” bombes, too.
With Michael failing to provide any sort of drama or tension, the producers have chosen to focus on poor Alice who cannot seem to get her bombe out of its mold. Although in reality it’s doubtful this struggle lasted any longer than 40 seconds, through the magic of film editing we are made to believe she struggled to unmold her bombe for at least two hours. The producers have soundtracked this tense moment with a single high pitched tone that implies that, before the competition’s end, someone will die.
Alice does get her tiramisu bombe together, though, and it’s spectacular. It’s obvious at this point that we’re just riding out the next few weeks to get rid of everyone who isn’t Alice and Steph. Meanwhile Steph, who has now won Star Baker two weeks in a row, puts out this crazy sexy bombe you see on the right, which I will be forcing my husband to make for me immediately. Paul and Prue are gobsmacked by this. Paul lays on the admiration thick, saying it’s one of the best things he’s eaten in a long time. She gets a round of applause from everyone, but does not yet get the coveted Paul Hollywood handshake.
Rosie decides to celebrate her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary with a ruby-colored bombe, which is sweet. The judges tell Rosie that her anniversary bombe is a bit clumsy; her mousse is really more like a fool; and the flavors are nice but don’t really go together. It just so happens that today is my 13th wedding anniversary, and I dare say that Rosie has completely nailed the essence of married life and cased it in atomic red meringue.
David’s bombe is gorgeous. Michael’s looks like it was ripped out of a TIME-LIFE cookbook from 1964. Henry tried, really, he did. Priya’s is beautiful, but Prue hates her flavors and, besides, it’s too little, too late. She goes home this week, which means that Michael will be forced to endure Festival Week, whatever the hell that is. But he is all about it, and has a great new attitude about losing! He is waltzing into his 26th year knowing that life is just a series of failures we are all stumbling through. Sometimes your cake falls, your buttercream melts, your bottom gets soggy. Just because things aren’t perfect doesn’t mean they don’t taste damn good.
Steph wins Star Baker for the third time in a row, and Alice says she’s happy, because all she wants is for low-confidence Steph to realize how great she really is. And just like that, this damn show has me hooked all over again. Goddamnit. I just cant stay mad at you, Paul Hollywood.