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What we learned from Episode 1 of the Great British Bake Off


In case you missed it last night - where were you? - The Great British Bake Off is officially back. Having settled its soggy bottom nicely into its new BBC One home, the biggest cooking competition in the country was ready to impress once again. If you don't know your lemon curd from your Swiss Roll well enough to get through the watercooler moments today, here's what we've learnt from the first episode:

This year's batch of keen Great British Bake Off contestants

Presentation is key

Last year's Bake Off winner Frances Quinn was applauded for her beautiful looking cakes throughout the series, and this year's contestants have really stepped up their game in the decoration stakes. Simple Swiss Rolls were decorated with strawberries, oranges, pink flowers and one even had its own skateboard to rest upon. And that's before we start on the ingredients. Cardamom, homemade honey, basil and thyme all made their way into cakes. Plain old chocolate cake just isn't an option any more, is it?

The humble Swiss Roll got a bit of a make over on last night's Great British Bake Off

Perfecting the Swiss Roll swirl is essentially rocket science

Resident hipster Iain (fifth from the right in the shot above) had a very clever method of mastering the Swiss Roll in the Signature Bake challenge - cutting slits into his sponge to make rolling it up a lot easier. Paul and Mary were having none of it, and sadly for Iain, he wasn't proved right as his Swiss Roll split. We're pretty sure if he wasn't so Northern Irish and beardily charming, it would have been the end of his baking career right there.

New aprons change everything

Moving the show from BBC Two to BBC One is apparently something of an upgrade, and the bakers were treated to new grey aprons after four years in white ones. This doesn't seem to mean that the contestants are allowed to change their clothes during the show, however. The filming takes place over two days, but it has been well documented that the contestants have to come back for the second day in the same clothes they were in previously for continuity. Hopefully they're treated to a laundry session overnight....

The contestants now sport these chic teal aprons

Distributing cherries is more difficult than you think

The Technical Challenge was to make a Mary Berry cherry cake recipe - obviously with the Baking Queen herself there to inspect, the pressure was on. But one thing the bakers weren't expecting was that it would be something of a challenge in itself to get an 'even distribution' of cherries throughout the cake. Washing, drying, flouring were all tried, and few succeeded.

Mary Berry's flowery jackets will never wane in popularity

Mezza Bezza caused a Kate Middleton-esque fashion storm during series three when she wore a Zara jacket, which sold out in hours. Since then, her Bake Off uniform of patterned blazer and jeans is an inspiration for women across the country, proving that you can never be "past it". Rock on, Mary.

Mary Berry always looks great in florals

If you're not using a tiny guillotine to cut your cakes, you're not precise enough

This week's fancy equipment award goes to Nancy (sixth from right), who stole the show with her method of ensuring her cake slices are exactly the same size. In the Showstopper Challenge, the contestants were asked to make 36 miniature cakes, and Nancy was so worried that she would cut the tiny halves unequally that her husband made her a mini guillotine to ensure identical cakes all round. The cakes earned her Star Baker for the week, so clearly she was doing something right.

Baker Nancy used a miniature guillotine to perfect her cake slices

Getting a 'scrumptious' from Mary Berry is the Bake Off equivalent of a gold medal

While Paul Hollywood's teacher-like instruction to the bakers are stern and instructive: "I think they're too tall - less layer, but the bake is good", commenting on Chetna's (fourth from right above) four-layer miniature cakes, Ms Berry can floor contestants with the use of one old-fashioned word. Builder Richard (second from right) was astounded to be told his cakes were "absolutely scrumptious".

Mel and Sue are just big kids at heart

If you couldn't guess from their innuendo filled banter (Sue told the bakers they had half an hour left to "pop Mary Berry's cherry... cake in the oven"), Mel and Sue have a whale of a time presenting Bake Off. Nabbing "off cuts" from the bakers reached an all time high when they nicked Diana's chocolate ganache and chased each other around the room to keep hold of it - and we loved them all the more for it.

Mel and Sue take licking from the bowl to a new level

Don't mess with a Scot in an apron

66-year-old contestant Norman (second from left above) became a firm favourite with his no-messing-around quips. After being told his Swiss Roll was "bold, fat and big", he gruffly replied "it's for men", and his only care in the technical challenge was whether the judges liked the homemade jam he'd used to make his mini cakes. In the short shot of next week's show, we see he's going to veer into the world of cheerleading ("Give me a B-A-K-E!") - we can't wait.

So what's going to happen next? Our predictions for the rest of the series:

It's looking like it will be a hot contest between this week's star baker Nancy and the show's youngest ever contestant, 17-year-old Martha (sixth from left above). Both have got the technical skills to shine, but as the weeks wind on will the pressure get to them?

Meanwhile, beardy Iain and jazzily-jumpered Jordan (third from left) look like they're fighting for the place of next evicted - neither impressed Mary and Paul particularly, so will they be able to step up in the next few weeks?

And of course, we're hoping for more bake-drama - last series gave us dropped bakes, stolen custard and collapsing cakes. Will this year's challenges lead to a case of poached profiteroles or sabotaged sponge?

Words: Victoria Gray, Images: Rex Features/BBC/Love Productions



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