Well obviously, the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2016 is Candice.
In practical terms, it always was going to be. A baker who was determined to do the best she could, whose meeting of own personal expectations of her levels of excellence were probably more important to her than the Bake Off trophy . That, doubled with a dry wit and lipstick that was on point, means that the win for Candice is massively well deserved.
People of ambition will have recognised moments of their own lives in her experiences: the repeated warnings that she was taking on too much, that she was making it all far too complicated, the expectation that of course you’re going to fail if you continually make four tiers when you only need to make three.
But Candice continually defied critics and went beyond expectations: never content with doing merely what was needed, she rolled up her sleeves like a latter day Rosie The Riveter, declared ‘I can do it,’ – and went ahead and did it. There was a fear that the successes of this year’s finalists would be overshadowed somewhat by the sudden and fairly unexpected departure of Bake Off to Channel 4, but in the end the charisma and hugs shared by the final three demonstrate why we will always need programmes like Bake Off more than, say, The Apprentice.
It may change slightly in its new home. But if Channel 4 are clever (cleverer than they were with Big Brother, for instance where the format was changed from the second season onwards while they panicked about shrinking audiences), they won’t touch a thing.
The three finalists have won Star Baker six times between them (although half of those times are Candice, which gives you a fair idea of how things are going to turn out around these parts), and while it’s obvious to us who’s going to be walking out with the trophy, it’s clear that the bakers themselves are not nearly as certain: Jane has the Eyore-ish air of someone who shouldn’t have turned up in the first place, Candice is lost pensively inside her own mind palace (you just know that her mind palace is three times bigger than the Taj Mahal), and Andrew looks not only like someone who’s not only just been handed the keys to the Large Hadron Collider, but also like he’s one calculation from working out time travel.
The first challenge is to create a Filled Meringue Crown, that should contain three layers – ‘at least’ (that clanging sound you just heard was a gauntlet being thrown at Candice’s feet). No wonder Andrew is nervous. Jane is less so, until Paul makes the oh-so-casual observation of her work in progress: ‘You’ve kept it simple for the final.’ Jane goes white, and later states that she suddenly feels very nervous. It’s no wonder, really, when she’s got Paul prowling around glowering like a bearded bad Daniel Craig cosplayer.
‘My engineering credentials will be tested,’ states Andrew, like he hasn’t already successfully made a clockwork pie (seriously, we’re still not over that), before telling us that he’s ‘on crack watch.’ Jane declares that it’s all ‘in the hands of chemistry. And the Gods.’ She then makes the mistake of looking over at Candice’s efforts, before declaring ‘Oh look! They are amazing!’
With Candice, this is less an exclamation, more a banal statement of fact. The woman has very high expectations of herself, and a tolerance for only the highest of standards: one can only imagine her PE students hated her and idolised her in equal measure.
When it comes to presenting the bakes, the script is as it always is: the judges delicately tell Candice that ‘there’s a lot going on there,’ before working out that she’s done everything (and more) once again. In fact, Candice earns a fabled handshake from Paul, which depresses Jane right up to the point that she gets a handshake as well. He’s giving out handshakes willy nilly, Candice declares, before checking herself. Andrew, left out of the congratulations, looks on worriedly.
For the signature challenge, the bakers are required to make a Victoria Sponge – which may seem easy enough, but they have to do it from memory: without any instructions or measurements, which panics them. Jane is worried early: ‘Mine are flatter than Candice’s’, she tells us, and unfortunately we are not rewarded with an answering eyebrow raise / pout combo from the woman herself.
There’s not much to choose between in their offerings, so in theory, it’s anybody’s game as the Showstopper trundles into view.
The final (final!) challenge is to make an entire picnic fit for a queen, comprised of 49 separate bakes (‘You’ve got twenty minutes!’ the bakers are teased, and they appear to genuinely believe that they really do have less than half a hour, at least for a moment). ‘I think it should be ..’ Jane starts to say, and falters. ‘I think it should be ..’ she begins again, not entirely sure what she thinks it should be. She tries a third time: ‘I think it should be ..’ she considers. ‘…. fine,’ she says eventually, not entirely convincingly.
Andrew, like the engineer he is, has all his timings on a spreadsheet. He grins, bashfully. If nothing else, he’s surely worthy of a guest presenter spot on whatever Brian Cox / Dara O’Briain programme is coming up next in the schedules.
In the final analysis, it’s abundantly clear – even more so than last year – who the winner will be, if for no other reason than both Jane and Andrew deliver bakes that are slightly clumsy and undercooked. Candice, however, has a knack of soaring under pressure, and delivers a picnic that the judges can’t find a negative thing to talk about.
‘You’re very brave,’ Mary Berry tells her. Candice – despite the fact that the other two bakers are metaphorically already putting their coats on – isn’t entirely convinced. When the winner is announced, nobody is surprised except possibly the winner herself, who appears to almost stumble in shock. ‘I never thought I’d get on,’ she tells us. ‘I did it! I am good enough!’ Jane, who for a couple of weeks there gave Candice a serious run for her money, is cheerfully bittersweet: ‘I predicted it! Dammit!’
Apparently, Candice and Jane have already planned a roadtrip together (which should make a decent BBC travelogue this time next year). Hopefully they won’t go full Thelma And Louise on us, as the only people that have driven the Bake Off over a cliff are Love Productions, and to a certain extent, the BBC themselves.
It’s curious that a programme of frippery and baking could be so often be dismissed as lefty-agenda-PC-pleasing-BBC-typical when, in reality, the BBC didn’t make it. But the cliché is an apt one: as comfortably British as Radio 4 and – well – a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake – The Great British Bake Off is a slice of comfort food that has been a glimmer of light in what has been a seriously weird year.
We wish it well in its new home, and hope that even without Mel, Sue and Mary it retains its charm without too much glitz and glamour. It now lives on at Channel 4: Please do not swear.
Aired at 8pm on Wednesday 26 October 2016 on BBC One.
What was your favourite moment this week? Let us know below…