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Comic Relief Bake Off

ByKerry Gilsenan

Mar 10, 2015

This time, four more celebrities try to create ‘masterpieces’ – try being the operative word in this instance. 16 fairly equally hopeless stars took to the tent to bake for Comic Relief, and we were relieved by the comic failure of their talents. Their haphazard efforts reminded us of our own kitchen disasters, proving a welcome break from the shame of making a Hummingbird Bakery recipe look like a dead swallow. But not to worry, it’s nothing that an Instagram filter can’t fix.

The crème de la crème of the Comic Relief cast included, “what have I done” Joanna Lumley, “je ne sais quoi” Jennifer Saunders, “uh oh” Zoella, the screeching Abbey Clancey, and the practically perfect Gok Wan. A dash of David Mitchell, a generous portion of Dame Edna Everage, the oozingly competitive Michael Sheen, and Chris Moyles, Alexa Chung, Victoria Wood, Sarah Brown, Jameela Jamil, Lulu and Kayvan Novak completed the mix. And of course, we thoroughly enjoyed watching Jonathan Ross take a whisk. Panic-stricken bakers united over the inevitable question: “What’s going on there?” Unprecedented burning smells, welded tins, and collapsing constructions kept the heat high in the kitchen as the celebs chased Bake Off glory. Yes Alexa, everyone else’s are in the oven. And no, Jonathan, dubbing your style misunderstood “avant-garde” baking will not save you here. But it ultimately didn’t matter if, “textually, it’s quite lunar”, or “if it were a horse, you’d shoot it”, because baking should be about the trials and tribulations – especially when it’s for a good cause.

The Comic Relief spin-off may even have taught a thing or two, addressing the important issues of the day, such as: to drizzle or not to drizzle? When is a cake not a cake? And how on earth do you cut a mango? We’ll continue to brush over the most pressing question of all: if this was filmed over a weekend, then why on earth did everyone, including Gok Wan, have just the one outfit?

Sadly, in this series, the Sue and Mel  duo have been rationed as they, along with Jo Brand and Ed Byrne, presented solo episodes. Nevertheless, ‘Mez Bez’ and Paul Hollywood terrified our celebrities into producing some noble, yet often futile creations. We have to agree, Chris, it does look like it was baked in the dark – but it looks better than the one I tried last week. Nevertheless, we can forever now call our most shameful kitchen faux pas: “doing a Jonathan.”

Fortunately, to stop us feeling too threatened by the more seasoned hands, karma appeared to squash the culinary hopes of the cocky. The relentlessly conceited Kayvan Novak learned the hard way that you can’t just blame a bad bake on your mother’s jam. It was the surprisingly skilled who whipped up a fuss among the judges, with everything to play for across the signature challenges, technicals, and showstoppers. Week three’s pork pie fiasco had even Mary boiling over.

It was nothing but refreshing to see that, outside of a closely edited YouTube tutorial, even Zoella’s dainty bakes have their flaws. Abbey Clancy’s screams might be enough to deflate any profiterole, but with hands clamped over ears, we empathise. We ought to laugh, otherwise we might cry when custard burns and piping bursts. In the inspirational words of Michael Sheen: “If at first you don’t succeed, bake, and bake again.”

The bake sale is a familiar ingredient in our collective Comic Relief experience, from our rice crispy cake school days to the remarkable treats that occasionally await us outside the library. The Great Comic Relief Bake Off reinforced the accessibility of baking, however blunder-filled the process may be. Ed Byrne reminded us of the importance of the money raised by this simple tradition, considering the impact of Comic Relief across Africa and the UK. Feigning Star Baker status at your local fundraiser is not only a much-needed ego boost, but an effective way to help those in need, and have some fun along the way.

Star Bakers Jennifer Saunders, Gok Wan, Michael Sheen and Victoria Wood proved that you can muddle your way to the top. If Abbey can get marbling through her chocolate rod, imagine what you are capable of. And while one hour 50 minutes seems like a bit too much of an ordeal for a humble crumpet, baking for Comic Relief makes for a good bake indeed.

Illustration courtesy of Zöe Jorro.

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