As The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer returns, entertainment director Helen Bownass analyses another night in the tent.
“You wouldn’t know if you looked at those four bakes, that they weren’t in the main tent and not the celebrity version.” High praise indeed for tonight’s bakers from the high priest of flour Paul Hollywood.
And the baking prowess wasn’t the only impressive thing happening in the tent tonight. The roster of talent on show was a particularly good one, taking in actor James McAvoy, Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, singer Anne-Marie, and comedian and writer David Baddiel, who all provided much amusement.
The four took on decorative tarts as well as a cake that represented themselves - as McAvoy said of the experience “It feels like I’m on some mind-altering drug.”
But I didn’t just learn how to make buttermilk cheese scones tonight, each of the contestants had some wisdom to impart, too.
There was much to enjoy about McAvoy’s appearance on the show tonight - and the thirst for the Scottish actor on social media could not be satiated. From sharing his pastry with David Baddiel, doling out shots of rum to his fellow contestants and naming his snow leopard cake Brendan because it’s “his wee boy’s name, he’s the best wee boy ever” to showing off his cheeky side with his impression of Paul Hollywood’s wide-legged stance and discussing his ‘stiff peaks’
Meanwhile, his meditation on how being an actor taught him a valuable lesson in winging it is something to embrace: “I’m constantly thrust into situations where it’s like, hold this gun, ride that horse even though you’re allergic, jump over the hill, swing on the rope and do calculus at the same time. And you’re like: ‘I can’t do any of those things but I’ll give it a go.’ You get used to not letting your nerves take over.”
No wonder he took home the star baker’s apron.
“To be honest, whatever I do, I want to be the best at it. The best one out of everyone.” Singer Anne-Marie made no excuses about her competitive edge, despite her lack of experience in the kitchen, and we love to to see it.
So often women feel like they need to squash their ambition to appear pleasant or make others feel comfortable. But Anne-Marie was brilliantly open about how she both wanted to, and felt like she deserved to win. “I’m the winner in my head” she decreed, a picture of chaotic energy.
Also we can only respect the singer, whose monkey cake looked surprisingly brilliant, for admitting: “If they could have just not cut into it or try it, I might have won. .” She’s got a point…
Dame Kelly Holmes
Of all the people I expected to be nervous about making a decorative tart it wasn’t a gold medal-winning Olympian. “You have performed on the world stage and you’re nervous of doing a little bit of baking,” said Matt Lucas to Dame Kelly Holmes. But lest we forget, and of course sometimes we do, that humans are deeply complex. And just because you spend 20 years fearlessly smashing sporting barriers it doesn’t mean making sweet pastry, when you’ve never done it before, won’t send you into a tailspin.
When you do push yourself to do something out of your comfort zone, it will have its own rewards: “I don’t challenge myself in that way anymore. They actually like it, that was amazing” said Holmes, whose mum died of myeloma (blood cancer) three years ago, and so had a particularly personal reason for appearing on the show.
The comic and writer didn’t know what kneading or sifting was, had never iced anything before and looked constantly bewildered throughout tonight’s episode. In fact admitting “I don’t know” was a refreshing theme tonight: Anne-Marie unashamedly talked about she didn’t know what a cheese scone was and none of the contestants knew what a muslin was when they had to make butter.
In a world where we’re all so used to secretly googling something we don’t know so we don’t look stupid, there’s something nice about hearing people admit their lack of knowledge. It shows your vulnerability, helps you learn and creates better relationships. Also: it makes funnier telly!
The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer is on All 4
Images: Channel 4