The Great British Bake Off: the Final

Channel 4/All 4


WEEPING meringues, a contestant sobbing into a freezer, and a fight to the culinary death waged with marshmallow and Victoria sponge. It could only be the final of The Great British Bake Off, the programme that takes the temperature of the UK as surely as an infrared thermometer.

As predicted by this paper in episode one, the winner was Peter Sawkins, 20, from Edinburgh – the first Scot and the youngest ever baker to lift the title.

There was another winner besides the finance student, and that was television. The coronavirus could have put the kibosh on GBBO as it did for so many programmes. Who knows what might have happened had heaven and earth not been moved to place 120 cast and crew in their own protective bubble in Essex for six weeks? Governments might not have fallen or stock markets crashed, but the sheer normality of Bake Off was a comfort when so much else was anything but normal.

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It was a memorable series in other ways, with Matt Lucas replacing Sandi Toksvig in the presenting team alongside Noel Fielding. Lucas and Fielding were more of a match in their shared love of surrealist humour, while the Little Britain comedian endeared himself to many with his willingness to take the Michael out of judge Paul Hollywood, and his impersonation of Boris Johnson’s baffling coronavirus briefings (“If you must bake in a tent bake in a tent, but please don’t bake in a tent.”) Back with ‘ole blue eyes Hollywood on judging duties was Prue Leith and her colourful to the point of retina-searing spectacles.

Finally, 12 had come down to three. Laura Adlington from Gravesend, who has earned a reputation as a messy pup but a maestro of flavour, came a cropper in the signature challenge: custard slices. Hollywood told the three that their use of fridges would be critical, not least because it was 35 degrees in the tent.

Sure enough, the digital manager’s custard slices were a disaster. Had they been a work of modern art they would have been titled “Carnage”. Hence the sobbing into the freezer. “You’ve come back from worse,” Noel comforted her. Only if her middle name was Lazarus was she coming back from this, mate.

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Peter told the judges he had been watching Bake Off for half his life, which cheered up Paul Hollywood, 54, no end. The Scot's signature challenge, a Cranachan Custard Slice with whisky and raspberry, was a typically creative foray “with a kilt on” as newspapers say. Peter himself favoured shorts rather than a kilt, just as well as the temperature climbed. Doubtless cheering him on from home was Sir Chris Hoy, immortalised in sponge by Peter in an earlier round.

Since family and friends could not join them for the final, video messages were the only way to go. Peter’s mother, alongside his father and brother, said: “It’s amazing to see how far you’ve come from those rainy afternoons when you were about four years old making cupcakes with your brother. Must say, I couldn’t have lost my oven to a better person.” No Oscar winner could have had a finer tribute than that salute from a Scottish mother.

The third finalist, Dave Friday from Hampshire, had a message from his partner and their new baby boy. Dave had been heralded as “one of the most improved bakers in the competition’s history” and this, plus the baby, might have given him an edge in the (unofficial) back story round against Peter. Dubbed by Noel “the baby-faced assassin”, Peter had youth on his side, but Dave the security guard was that perennial favourite, the underdog.

Peter came second to Dave in the technical challenge of making walnut whirls. It was neck and neck between the two going into the showstopper round. Perfectionist Peter, who has wielded a ruler almost as often as he has a wooden spoon, decided to embrace his inner culinary anarchist with a tower of desserts called “The Bonkers Bake Off Bubble Cake”. Dave took an even riskier path, opting to have another go at all the cakes he had fluffed before. His cake was called “The Tower of Redemption”. Of course it was.

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With so much to do and time running out, Peter was beginning to regret throwing caution into a passing thunderstorm (yes, the final had one of those too). “Slapdash is our friend today,” he said, finishing with seconds to go.

Laura’s cake looked wonky but tasted delicious, as per. “There is nothing wrong with your baking,” said Prue. The lads' efforts were part triumphs and minor disasters, with Peter’s friands stodgy and Dave’s babkas a bust. “This is as close a tie as I’ve ever seen,” said Paul.

But the title went to the youngster for consistent excellence throughout. First Scotland qualifies for the Euros, and now a Scot wins Bake Off. The icing on the cake indeed.

Peter Sawkins will join Jo Brand on The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice on Friday, 8pm, Channel 4