The finale of The Great British Bake Off was filled with surprises, but none more shocking than the unexpected twist that completely changed the outcome.
“I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelming,” commented Paul Hollywood, “but it’s definitely impressive.” He was referring to the showstopper cake that Josh, a 27-year-old from Leicestershire, presented to him. Josh had high hopes that his three-tier cake showcasing the four seasons of England, along with a biscuit greenhouse, would secure him the win in the 14th season of The Great British Bake Off. However, the experienced judge’s statement could also apply to the overall competition this year.
At the beginning of the final episode, it was clear that Josh was the frontrunner, despite the presenters and judges attempting to showcase his competitors’ accomplishments in previous rounds. Prue Leith commented, “They’ve all received a handshake!” in reference to the gesture of approval that used to be rare and subtle, but now feels uncomfortable and somewhat unpleasant. Maybe we have just become oversaturated with this show.
In the first round, also known as the signature bake, the three contestants – Josh, Matty, and Dan – encouraged each other in a friendly manner while preparing their mixes. They were tasked with making eclairs in two different flavors. Josh exuded positivity and charm, while Matty was personable and Dan was upbeat and friendly.
During the Bake Off, the finalists’ homes were visited and their families were met, amidst their shaky attempts at filling choux cylinders with creme pat. While the show cannot be held responsible for having three white middle-class men as the finalists – if they are the top three bakers, then so be it – it was difficult to differentiate between Matty and Dan. Both baked every evening and were described as humble about their talents by their loved ones.
The only grit in the Taste the Difference oyster came from Josh’s mother, who, while strongly giving the impression that her son had always been humble about his baking skills, attributed this to her mother, Freda, who had often picked her grandson up from school and spent many an afternoon with him in a kitchen strewn with caster sugar and flour.
Unfortunately, Freda passed away in 2021, before she could witness the joy of watching her son in the final of the Bake Off competition. Baking has always been seen as a simple and enjoyable activity that brings families together, and this was exemplified by the heartwarming bond between Freda and her loved ones.
After evaluating the eclairs, Dan’s were deemed to be disorganized, with critiques on the grainy texture of his chocolate praline and the soggy state of his Wimbledon-inspired strawberry and cream creation, raising concerns of a potential impromptu singalong with Cliff Richard. As expected, Josh’s were exceptional, including a delicate combination of mango, coconut, and raspberry and a cleverly crafted mocha eclair with a blend of coffee and chocolate. Despite considering himself an underdog, Matty impressed Prue with his firm and well-filled cream eclair, catching her intense gaze as she praised his creation.
In the technical round, the contestants were tasked with creating a traditional dessert called lardy-cake slices. The instructions were given in an elliptical manner, making it challenging for the bakers to understand. The dessert consisted of layers of pastry and unsophisticated butter, with candied fruit added in. The key to success was accurately determining the proofing time for the dough and carefully folding the layers. Josh’s creation looked like a special-edition book with a golden edge. Each contestant presented nine squares of the dessert, with Josh’s being perfectly done. Matty’s were undercooked and Dan’s were burnt and hard.
With only two potential winners and one clearly in the lead, the last challenge called for a multi-layered cake inspired by the contestants’ first ever bake. Despite the low expectations for this task, the results were underwhelming. There were variations of Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle, and chocolate Genoese – simple recipes that could have been elevated with exceptional execution. However, Matty’s top layer was uneven, as described by Prue, and his use of color only made his cakes appear incomplete. Dan’s decoration was so damaged that he attempted to cover it up with lemon macarons, but they too were in poor condition.
Josh had three fully coated sponges that were standing upright. It appeared that his only task to secure a win was to avoid falling face-first into his buttercream while walking to the judging table. However, upon tasting Josh’s creation, Hollywood was displeased. The flavors were deemed only “satisfactory” and the sponge was overcooked. Additionally, the design was heading towards being uninteresting. In contrast, Matty’s sponges were praised for their lightness.
Under the bright sun, the winner was revealed: Matty Edgell, who had previously been unknown, emerged victorious. In its final moments, a poorly executed series finally added some excitement.