This past Friday, the beloved baking competition show the “The Great British Baking Show,” returned to Netflix for its 13th season.
For the next nine weeks, Netflix users can look forward to a new hourlong episode of the “The Great British Baking Show” dropping every Friday, with the 10th and final episode set to release in November. Spoiler-averse Netflix viewers should be wary of the fact that episodes premiere three days earlier in the U.K.
Longtime judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith have returned along with comedic hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas. Fielding has been hosting “The Great British Baking Show” ever since it controversially switched from BBC to Channel 4, prompting the two previous hosts to depart. Up until last season, Fielding was accompanied by Sandi Toksvig. However, Toksvig departed the show and was replaced by Lucas only last season. Although he is still a fresh face for many, the duo’s chemistry has only gotten stronger and more established with the new season.
A fresh set of 12 amateur bakers — a baker’s dozen if you will — are welcomed into the iconic “The Great British Baking Show” tent. The contestants come from a vast array of backgrounds and careers, from a Malaysian cardiovascular research associate to a 60-year-old IT manager, yet they are all unified by the same passion for baking. Over the course of 10 weeks and 30 challenges, one baker will be eliminated from the show every episode until only three contestants remain. Those lucky three will then compete head to head in the finale. Although there is no cash prize beyond just the title of being the season’s victor, the honor of winning — and even simply doing very well on the show — often comes with book deals, TV appearances and public acclaim.
Each episode of the series, with the exception of the finale, has an overarching theme — such as Biscuits Week or Bread Week. Per Bake Off tradition, the first episode’s theme was cake. As is the case for every episode, the bakers underwent three challenges over two days — the signature challenge, the technical challenge and the showstopper challenge. The first day began with the signature challenge, where the bakers were given a specific type of bake to complete — for example, chocolate florentines or fruitcake — although they can be as creative and experimental as they want with the recipe they use.
The second challenge is the notorious technical challenge, which has elicited a panicked meltdown in many bakers over past seasons. The challenge requires the bakers to execute a recipe made by either Hollywood or Leith to perfection, but the catch is that they aren’t given the exact recipe, only a bare guide of ingredients and vague simple instructions that never include measurements, bake times and other vital information. Unlike with the signature and showstopper — in which the bakers are told ahead of time what the bake is so they can prepare and practice their recipe at home, the bakers have no idea what the technical challenge bake will be. More often than not, whether a baker succeeds at the technical challenge comes down to whether they’ve heard of the bake before or not. The challenge is also judged blind, with Hollywood and Leith ranking the bakes from best to worst, having no idea whose bake is whose until the end of their deliberations, when each baker is revealed in order from last to first place.
Finally, on the second day, the bakers complete their third and biggest challenge — the showstopper. As the name implies, this challenge asks the bakers to create a large, grand display that demonstrates their technical proficiency and creativity. Often, the challenge is at least two hours and requires the bakers to manage their time more than any other bake. For bakers who underperform the previous day, the showstopper is often the Hail Mary that decides whether or not they remain for another week. Along with the elimination, at the end of each episode, the best baker for each episode is rewarded the coveted title of “Star Baker.”
This week, the signature challenge required the bakers to make miniature sandwich cakes, while the technical challenge required them to bake a gigantic red velvet cake, with a recipe courtesy of Hollywood. Finally, for the showstopper, the bakers were required to create a 3D replica of a place they consider home — entirely out of cake of course.
Even only one episode in, some contestants have already made a lasting impression as possible contenders for the finale. 34-year-old Janusz in particular established himself as the one to beat, offering up fantastic bakes for every challenge and ultimately earning the first-star baker title. Hot on his heels for the star baker title was 32-year-old Syabira, a Malaysian baker with a flair for incorporating her home country’s flavors into her bakes. With a strong showing in the signature and a first place win in the technical, it’s likely she could have won star baker over Janusz had she not stumbled in the showstopper with weak flavors.
30-year-old Sandro also proved to be a steady, confident competitor with strong technical skills. Usually, the baker that goes home during the first episode is very clearly not at the same skill level as the other contestants, and it’s usually clear who’s going home midway through the episode. This season was no exception. Will, a 45-year-old former charity director from London, was struggling from the get-go when his buttercream for his ginger and caramel squares split, resulting in a messy final product that the judges deemed bland and disappointing. Note for new viewers — it’s never a good sign when Hollywood finishes his judgment by saying “nevermind then.” Will was also near the bottom of the technical rankings, and an overbaked showstopper unfortunately cemented his fate. Still, it’s an incredible feat to even make it onto the show, and it was touching as always to watch Will’s fellow bakers hug and comfort him after his name was announced as the first episode’s elimination. Rest assured, it gets even more heart-wrenching each week.
Each season, certain weekly themes are recurring, such as Biscuits Week or the notoriously difficult Patisserie Week, which is always the penultimate episode. Traditionally, this Friday’s episode will be Biscuits Week, and the episode after will be Bread Week, wherein Hollywood, who specializes in baking bread, is even more of a scathing judge than usual. Along with the recurring themes, each season also debuts brand new theme ideas, such as a dairy week or caramel week, and it’s exciting to imagine what new themes will appear this year.
Tune in to the Great British Baking Show every Friday and begin your weekend with a wholesome, feel-good hour of impressive bakes and thrilling competition.