I recently contracted COVID-19 for the second time and much like an over-baked friand, it was shit. I was coughing to buggery and was so feverish my dreams could’ve been feature films directed by Bong Joon-ho. While I withered away like a pale, sickly Victorian child dying of consumption, there was only one force in my life giving me the strength to keep going: The Great British Bake Off.
I was obsessed. Every single waking thought was guided by Paul Hollywood and his musings on crème pâtissière; whenever I completed my daily pilgrimage from my bed to the bathroom, his Northern English accent followed me.
“No one likes a soggy bottom,” he would say. Of course, he was referring to the pastry variety. However, I couldn’t help but feel like he was describing my own damp cheeks which were moistened by a combination of the hot Perth heat and a high fever.
“That choux bun should’ve come out of the oven 10 minutes earlier,” he posited. Was I the choux bun (burnt out, shrivelled) and my bed (warm, constricting) the oven? Or were my inner thoughts and anxieties the pastry, and he was beckoning me to release them unto the world? We’ll never know.
Whenever I tried falling asleep I saw Paul Hollywood’s intense blue eyes staring at me. Orbs so cold and vivid they could belong to a prized assassin of the former Soviet Union.
Alas, the only murders these lurid irises have witnessed are that of bakers’ dreams, which were annihilated as fast as you can say “soufflé” because their panna cotta didn’t set.
Plummy women from the Lake District who clean house at work bake sales with their decadent cupcakes, and Cornish Dads in their sixties who were told to apply for The Great British Bake Off because their grandkids like their scones.
There’s always an exceedingly polite 19-year-old lad who is so gentle and kind it’s almost unnerving, and an extremely talented queer man committed to advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights via a beautifully decorated cake.
There are completely useless eccentrics who are eliminated by week three because they actually can’t bake for shit and were only there to add a bit of zest to the show.
I think we all stand in solidarity with the bakers who, every season, try to expand the judges’ palettes beyond Black Forest gateau and salted caramel.
I adore them all.
And the bakes! Ah, the bakes. Who could forget Jurgen Krauss from Season 12 and his bread baby showstopper?
Or the cake bust showstoppers from the first episode of Season 11? Where would we as a society be without Laura Addington‘s buck-toothed, neckless cake bust of Freddie Mercury?
Or Marc Elliott‘s deformed, sunken ode to David Bowie?
Who could forget Sura Mitib — who was unfairly eliminated too soon, if I’m being honest — and her stunning attempt at replicating Sir David Attenborough‘s wrinkled visage with fondant?
Each and every bake is a thing of pure, unadulterated beauty in my eyes. “A triumph,” as judge and resident sweetheart since Season 8 Dame Prue Leith would say.
And the hosts — when Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig comforted weeping bakers who were distraught because Hollywood and Leith forced them to bake 10 baklavas without a recipe, it was like they were patting my own sickly head and telling me it would be OK.
Even though I haven’t seen all of The Great British Bake Off — I watched Seasons 8, 10, 11, 12 and 13 during my COVID-induced six-day siesta and my boss actually told me to stop — I know Fielding and Toksvig are the best hosts. The former has hosted the show since Season 8, and Toksvig sadly departed in Season 10.
She was replaced with Matt Lucas, who is a man I cannot voice my opinions on as I believe they would be classified as “libel”.
Although I adore Fielding and Toksvig, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to indulge in Seasons 1 to 7, when Mary Berry was doing Leith’s job and Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc were hosts. I take great comfort in the fact there is a smorgasbord of amateur bakers waiting for me to form parasocial relationships with, and hundreds of bakes to judge while I’m sitting in bed with crumbs all over me like a piece of shit.
But most importantly, Paul Hollywood will be there to guide me with his rough Northern lilt until I reach the ultimate nirvana: a Hollywood handshake.