After 10 long weeks of soggy bottoms, terrible sketch comedy, and triumphant towering showstoppers, we are finally here—the Great British Bake Off finale!
The bakers enter the tent for the penultimate time all on a surprisingly even playing field. Each one has 2 Star Baker wins and two handshakes, so it really is anyone’s game. However, their roads have been very different. Giuseppe has been amazing from the beginning and is probably the most consistent baker the show has ever seen—absolutely delicious flavors combined with incredible engineering finesse. Crystelle is “peaking at the right time” and has wonderfully modern and bold flavors combines with exquisite decorating skills. And lovely Chigs is “one of the least experienced bakers to reach a final”—one of? Is there anyone else who reached the final with only a year’s baking?!)—but he really shines in highly technical complicated bakes, which bodes well for a strong finale appearance.
Chigs feels he’s the underdog going into the final which is a strange thing to hear a man that handsome say.
The signature challenge is carrot cake, a pretty broad brief to let the bakers show off their skills and express themselves. Chigs doesn’t like carrot cake but that doesn’t seem to have made him any less ambitious. There’s a frantic energy in the tent and everyone is dashing about like headless chickens. Staying true to form, Giuseppe is going with Italian flavors, adding figs and walnuts to his carrot cake, and Crystelle is going with some wonderful sounding spices and pistachio, cardamom, and orange curd.
Unlike other episodes, the show steps out of the tent to reflect on what this all means to the bakers and tug on our heart stings. Chigs talks about how his father dying young gave him a “seize the day” attitude and Crystelle talks about how family’s support pushed her to apply. Most moving of all is Giuseppe, who speaks to his parents in Italy. As he’s previously mentioned, his father was a chef, and much of what he knows about baking he learned from him. His father hasn’t been well of late but works up the energy to tell Giuseppe, “You have really surpassed me.” Giuseppe is in tears and so am I.
The cakes themselves are a surprisingly mixed bag with no one really smashing it out of the park. It’s a shaky start which is strange, given the quality of the bakers inside the tent. Everyone’s flavors are perfectly fine but there are some iffy textures and sloppy presentation in the mix.
We get on to the technical and it’s deliciously cruel. They have to make “Belgian buns” and that’s about all the instruction they are given. It is my firm belief that no one should know how make a Belgian bun, which is kind of like an iced Chelsea bun, because they are an abomination. Dry, dense, and overly sweet, they are a menace given out in British school cafeterias to sad children. Getting our bakers to make these in the finale is a bit like asking Frank Lloyd Wright to make a you a sandcastle, but it is quite fun that the bakers are so openly cheating by spying on what the other is doing.
Chigs cuts his the wrong way, which is, sadly, a mistake you can’t undo and ends up with small, dense buns. Giuseppe makes an even worse error by massively over-baking his. Which means, for the first time ever, Crystelle wins a technical!
It’s been a weird first day for our bakers; the pressure seems to be really getting to them. Perhaps they are just exhausted? Either way they’ll need to pull it together to not make this a flat, anticlimactic finale.
Going into the Showstopper challenge, on a typically wet and cold summer 2021 day, Crystelle has a slight advantage going in, but it’s truly anyone’s to win. They’ve been asked to make a full “Madhatter’s Tea Party,” which is quite a cool idea—lots of different skills get to be shown, and they are expected to make sweet and savory elements. Savory has been seriously lacking this season and it’s a real shame.
Chigs is making a Cheshire cat cake, playing card biscuits with starberry and pepper jam, a chicken and mushroom pocketwatch pie, and brioche toadstools. Normally, this would seem like someone biting off more than they can chew, but Chigs is great at multitasking. Giuseppe is doing slightly less with a giant toadstool brioche filled with chocolate and hazelnut, “Drink me” panna cottas with mango and vanilla, and choux buns with mascarpone, asparagus, and pea filling. While Crystelle is cracking out the spice rack with goan chickpea curry-filled pies, chai cakes topped with cream cheese sunflowers, and a large focaccia clock.
The first disaster strikes when Giuseppe’s oven doesn’t heat up—a potential disaster when every minute seems to count. No one seems to pause for a second and they are only getting more frayed as the day goes on. There’s a lovely moment where Chigs admits he’s using a technique that Jürgen taught him and we’re reminded of the genuine camaraderie in the tent.
There do seem to be some weird choices being made. Everyone is kneading by hand, not using the much quicker machines. There isn’t time for this! And Crystelle’s focaccia dough looks way too oily to me. Sure, focaccia has oil, but oil also slows down yeast, so I don’t see how she’s going to get the lovely open focaccia texture with this. Giuseppe seems to bounce back from his oven drama by the midway point and seems cool as a cucumber when he kisses Noel’s spatula, and then decides to add ginger snaps to his picnic. Once everyone gets their many elements on their elaborate displays (did they bring these from home?), there is a very sweet group hug. They did it! All the bakes of #GBBO2021 are completed.
Giuseppe is up first for judging and his display is “simple but effective.” The judges love his giant toadstool of chocolate hazelnut bread and his fig-topped muffins. They’re a little less keen on his choux caterpillar, but absolutely adore his panna cottas. Chigs’ giant display wows the judges, but to my eye, his Cheshire cat centerpiece lets the whole thing down. The judges don’t seem to object to it, though, and the chicken pies, brioche mushrooms, and cake biscuits are all fantastic. Crystelle probably takes the prize, aesthetically speaking. The sunflower cakes are gorgeous and delicious, and the hot watercrust hats contain a phenomenal curry, but her focaccia is unrisen and raw. That amount of oil must have destroyed the leavening power of the yeast and the short bake simply didn’t cut it. Crystelle is devastated but seems resigned to her fate. The other elements wont be able to compensate for such a massive misstep.
The judges and the entire crew gather for the announcement and there can be only one winner. It’s Giuseppe! While this hasn’t been the most spectacular finale, the win is well deserved for a great baker that rarely made a misstep. Truly, one of the most consistently excellent contestants the show has ever seen. Giuseppe is as humble as ever, saying, “There are no words. I’m speechless for once.” From his first mini-rolls to this final Mad Hatter picnic, the man has exuded skill, precision, and flourish at every turn. It’s a beautiful moment that he attributes to his father: “All I can think of is the reaction from my Mum and Dad and the fact that everything I did to deserve this comes from his heritage. I think it’s the best thank you note I could send him. He’s going through a very hard time health wise and I think this is going to be a boost.”
It’s a lovely end to a great season, where positivity has reigned supreme and hard work has been rewarded. They dedicate the season to “everyone from around the world helping to get us through 2021. Thank you.” And honestly, the feeling is mutual—this has been a beacon of light in the midst of unrelenting darkness. Thanks, Prue, Paul, Noel, and Matt.
- Very sweet to see Lizzie & Freya’s road trip around to visit the bakers. I would love nothing more to go have an ice cream in Brighton with Jürgen and listen to him play the trombone.
- Thanks so much to everyone who’s been reading these. I really appreciate the lovely feedback and the fantastic debates in comments section. Seems apt that a Bake Off recap would somehow lead to the kindest comments section on the internet.
- Hopefully see you all next season!