This year, I have diligently watched a whole series of The Great British Bake Off, pulled towards it by a need for the shot of wholesome boringness that only watching bread being baked by people with kind eyes can provide. I have witnessed the ups and the downs, the Hollywood Handshakes (gross) and the pavlovas gone arse over tit onto the marquee floor. I have seen it all, I have loved it all, I have thought 'mood' re: Rahul's facial expressions more than once.
The best thing about Bake Off – the reason it's so comforting – is that you know exactly what to expect from it. Someone says they’re having a "mare" in the technical, the whimsical presenting duo (Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig actually do a very un-hateable job of it on Channel 4) will do stupid voices, someone will cry and someone else will make a biscuit so good that Prue will go "that's an exquisite biscuit". This is Bake Off. We watch it because we like the familiarity in the same way that we like our nan's mash and Coronation Street. There is no peril here.
Every now and then, however, something weird happens. In response to their given tasks, which are definitely getting harder (selfies and chandeliers made out of biscuits, come the fuck on), one or two bakers will go violently off piste. Their bakes – not necessarily wrong as such, more just uncanny in a "how does this exist" sort of way – take on a quite incredible haunted quality, exacerbated by the show's matter of fact editing and glossy Food TV-style, background-blurring camera panning. Every series of Bake Off has a few of these utterly batshit bakes (remember?), and because they appeal to my quite specific and definitely bad sense of humour I have collected the 2018 batch here.
Terry's Brandy Snap Selfie
Terry was praised by the judges for the almost-3D rendering he made of himself out of biscuits, and it's certainly very accomplished! It's just that it also looks very much like someone rendered the "Here's Johnny" scene from The Shining out of shortbread! Much respect, Terry.
Jon’s Hawaiian Shirt Pina Colada Cake
This cake is doing fancy dress for its friend's 40th, and it fucking loves it, mate. It's down the pub early getting the rounds in, and then it's having a massive go on the big plate of cheese and pineapple and mini sausage rolls on the buffet. It's doing " Don't You Want Me Baby?" on karaoke (both parts, by itself), then having a row with its wife for doing it without her ("you was in the toilets, love"), then getting a kebab and waking up tomorrow with doner meat and glitter fringing stuck to its face. This cake is better craic than any of us, and it's a cake.
Luke's Raspberry and White Chocolate Collar Cake
I'm interested in two things about this cake, the first being that it looks congealed, the second being that Luke appears to have done the GCSE Food Technology thing of covering up the problem with fruit. The issue here is that, unfortunately, the whole cake is the problem, which the fruit has only served to further highlight. Atrocious. I love it.
Dan’s Salmon Coulibiac
Just to clarify, this is meant to be a pie. Dan was my favourite GBBO contestant this year because he was quite clear about the fact that he Wanted to Win, which I admire because most people are on there pretending it’s about making friends and getting better at baking – which, yeah OK, but what you really want is a book deal and preferably also a cooking programme and, crucially, a load of lovely money. Dan had ambition in his eyes from the beginning, and I appreciated it (he could see himself doing "quick and easy profiteroles" on Saturday Kitchen, I’m sure of it), but unfortunately he tripped himself up by making this, which looks like an especially scary eel.
Jon’s Welsh Dragon Pie
If the emblem of Wales was The Very Hungry Caterpillar and not, famously, a dragon, this would have absolutely smashed it.
Bryony's Blood Orange and Amaretto Sticky Toffee Sphere
The shot of the sphere all melted and fucked up has, to me, the exact spiritual DNA of me when I have had a bottle of wine to myself. You know those ones where at about half the bottle you're thinking, 'This really could go either way,' and within the hour you're either asking the DJ if he's got "'Cher Lloyd' by Cher Lloyd" or crying snot out of your mouth for no reason? This chocolate sphere is the "chaining 20 fags and Instagram Direct-ing someone who aired you three weeks ago" end of that spectrum. See the way she hangs there, limply? God, I actually need to stop looking at it now because it's upsetting me how profoundly it speaks to me.
Terry's 12 Days of Christmas Chandelier
The bakers were asked to make a chandelier out of biscuit, which obviously is cruel and not something anyone would ever need. Regardless, Terry did not come up with the goods. The figures on the top ("Maids a Milking") look like they are trying to escape. It's so weird. I feel weird.
Manon's Birthday Girl Kagekone
Obviously this looks quite good and there's nothing discernibly wrong with it, but I'm considering it now and I do just feel strongly that if I get strangled in my sleep, it will be by this thing.