British Bakers

I am certainly saddened by the end of Downton Abbey’s season last week, but I am devastated by the conclusion of its lead-in, The Great British Baking Show, to which I became positively addicted. Everything about this show drew me in: the amiable (never snarky) contestants, the chatty hosts, the authoritative judges, and (most of all) the setting: a turreted tent in the midst of a perfect green English field dotted with sheep and bordered by blooming perennials. Under the tent, all is pastel perfection: the set designers seem to have taken their cues from the classic 1903 Book of Cakes by T. Percy Lewis and A.G. Bromley (which was reissued in 1991 as The Victorian Book of Cakes).


Pastel Time

Book of Cakes 2

Great British Baking Show (Bake-Off in Britain) judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, this past season’s contestants under the tent, and a page from Lewis & Bromley’s Book of Cakes (1903).

I never knew baking was so difficult, requiring so much precision and patience! The weekly technical and “showstopper” challenges make those on Top Chef look like cakewalks. And all for the title of “star baker” and (the ultimate prize) an engraved cake plate. Victoria sponge cakes, Farthing biscuits, Swedish Princess cake, twenty-layer Schichttorte: these British bakers can do it all. I learned a lot (not that I will ever really use this knowledge) and really enjoyed being plunged into this cozy world on a weekly basis. I’ll miss all the people and all the pastry, and most especially all those beautiful Gorenje refrigerators on set, so much so that I might have to buy one for my own kitchen!


Baking Winner

THE refrigerator; Berry and Hollywood with this season’s best baker, Nancy Birtwhistle.

8 responses to “British Bakers

  • agnesashe

    The recipes including some for the showstoppers are in the GBBO books. They are detailed, but easy to follow and the result is . . . success. I’ve even made Mary’s Dobos Torte and felt moved to blog about it!!

  • thedailydish

    It’s all so irresistibly British! I only caught one episode prior to Downton, but what I loved most was the elegant simplicity of the baked goods, the set, and the setting itself. Talk about perfect English! Heheh

  • Dawn

    It was delightful to watch the GBBO while waiting for Downton Abbey! I agree, Donna! I always commented on how polite the contestants were, encouraging and making suggestions to one another. I would have crumbled under the pressure within moments! The setting was truly irresistible. Looking forward to next season! ♡

    • daseger

      I think it’s going to be difficult to watch my favorite American cooking shows after this–everyone seems so mean by comparison to these guys!

  • Laura

    I absolutely loved that show too, for all the reasons you site so well. I loved how earnest everyone was–as only amateurs perfecting their skills can be.

    • Laura

      I have to add, that show and also the Great British Sewing Bee, reminds me of the original meaning of the word “amateur”–someone who engages in a skill or sport for the pleasure of it. And I would add because they care so much about it!

      • daseger

        You’re so right, Laura; we’ve really lost that sense of pride in excellence for the sake of excellence–and enjoyment. It’s gone downhill since professionals were allowed into the Olympics!

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