Great British Baking Show Power Rankings – Roaring 20’s Week

Being a baker on Great British Baking Show seems not entirely unlike being a contestant on Jeopardy!. If you’re a contestant on Jeopardy!, there are a handful of topics you want to be pretty familiar with going in. You’ll need to know every U.S. President and the years he held the office, and the more in-depth knowledge you have of each, the better. You’ll also likely to need some working knowledge of the Bible, familiarity with all of the major Shakespeare plays (and some of the minor ones, to boot), and a bare minimum of art history knowledge. There’s no guarantee that any one of these categories will come up should you make it, but man oh man, if you lose on Jeopardy! because you couldn’t remember anything about As You Like It or Chester A. Arthur, you’ll be kicking yourself pretty hard afterwards.

Similarly, if you find yourself baking in the Tent, there are a few pastry types you’re going to want to have down cold. You’ll definitely need to know how to make a proper Victoria sponge at some point, and you’ll probably have to make a Genoese sponge, too. The same goes for rough puff pastry and hot water crust (although without looking it up or anything, it seems that hot water crust hasn’t come up as much in recent seasons. It was absolutely mandatory in earlier seasons, though). If you don’t know bread making works, you might as well not even audition. And you better dang well know what choux pastry is and how to make it.

This week’s Technical wasn’t nearly as brutal as the Dairy Week Technical, but it’s never a good sign to see bakers who have made it halfway through the season, and who therefore can be trusted to know what they’re doing in most instances, struggle to make a decent choux pastry. While it seemed that nobody could make a decent sabayon (and honestly, who can blame them – I had never heard of such a thing until watching the episode for the first time), the real concern is seeing some of the better bakers have a tough time with a pastry that everyone in the Tent should be intimately familiar with.

Roaring 20’s Week imposed some degree of real struggle on every baker remaining, and as a result the hierarchy of those bakers is less clear than ever. Those bakers who have the top two spots in these rankings both appear to be a cut above the rest, while everyone else listed appears to be more evenly matched. As such, this week’s rankings feature a lot of fluctuation. The middle class of this season’s Tent is jockeying for position on the road to the Finals, and the baker that is to emerge from this peloton of patisserie remains anyone’s guess.

Methodology is here, and even though it’s already way too late for this anyway, here is a gentle reminder that everything written here is a spoiler.

Week 5 – Roaring 20’s Week

Signature Bake: Four Decorative Custard Pies

Technical Challenge

-Recipe: 18 Beignets Souffle with Sabayon (Shoutout to this site for telling me how to spell ‘sabayon’)

-Judge: Prue

-Judging Parameters: Choux pastry-making knowledge and skills. Ability to properly shape and fry choux balls. Airy, soft dough. Quality of sabayon

-Did Anyone Succeed? Not Really; some pastries were good, but no one made both good pastries and a good sabayon

Show Stopper: Prohibition-Era Cake (Cocktail-flavored, multi-tiered cake with 1920’s-themed decoration)

Star Baker: Steph

Eliminated: Helena & Michelle

9. (tie) Helena

Last Week: 8th Change: -1

Place in Technical: 1st

The timing of Helena’s Elimination is unfortunate indeed. After Dairy Week, there was a chance that Helena was about to round a corner and make a real push for relevance after spending the first three weeks doing just enough to scrape by. Coming in 1st in the Technical may have seemed to continue her upward trajectory, but Helena’s Signature and Show Stopper were not up to par, and the benefits of snagging that top spot are always mitigated in a week when nobody nails said Technical. Her Signature had entirely too much lavender (which, like it’s fellow floral flavor rose, can be a real stumbling block for many bakers), and her Show Stopper, while well-baked, mostly just tasted like vodka. On top of that, Paul dinged her decoration, citing shoddy piping on the sides. Helena had made it this far largely on the strength of her Show Stoppers, and while it wasn’t an out-and-out disaster this week, it just wasn’t quite good enough. Now that the season is halfway over, not quite good enough often gets bakers Eliminated. Helena did a good job sticking around for a while, but her decent run has come to an end.

9. (tie) Michelle

Last Week: 4th Change: -5

Place in Technical: 7th

Roaring 20’s Week featured the long promised and long dreaded Double Elimination, and the second victim was Michelle, the Star Baker of Week 1 and the first former Star Baker to get sent home packing. Since it is the goal of these rankings to avoid overreacting to a bad week here and there, Michelle had remained in the top half for the duration of the season, but the fact is the flaws in Michelle’s baking game had been poking out more and more over the course of the season. Her tendency towards the messy but well-baked Signatures and Show Stoppers slowly but surely gave way to the messy and not quite as tasty, and her Technical scores were never all that great to begin with. Michelle’s Show Stopper this week was emblematic of her recent struggles. Thee decoration was busy bordering on gauche, with a color combination straight out of a 90’s teen sitcom. What’s worse is that it wasn’t all that delicious, either, and Paul was compelled to give her a talking to about not putting flaked coconut in sponge. Michelle also didn’t do great in the Signature, with her blueberry custard not tasting like blueberries, and the crème brulee effect she attempted on the top of each pie not working out. Michelle’s Elimination was a tough loss for a baker who seemed to have some real talent, but she seemed to take it well, so that’s something.

7. Priya

Last Week: 9th Change: +2

Place in Technical: 2nd

Somehow, and for reasons that are explicable if not fully clear, Priya managed to stave off Elimination by the slimmest of margins for the second week in a row. Going into the Show Stopper, Prue specifically called Priya out, saying she needed to pull off something special in order to remain in the Tent. And then, her cake wasn’t quite up to the same standard as many of the others. The decoration was plain, being comprised mostly of white fondant and a few floral patterns. The flavor was good, but it didn’t elevate the overall cake into ‘special’ territory. Priya struggled with the Signature, too, as her custard boiled over in the oven and her decoration was rushed, which is typical the time management issues Priya has often faced. When a baker who seems destined to face Elimination survives the week, a lot of times it is due to a superior placement in the Technical. Priya did pretty well for herself in that round, snagging 2nd, but in a week where the winner of the Technical went home, that’s not a sufficient explanation. So why is Priya still in the Tent? Because her flavors are good. Paul described the taste of her otherwise ruinous Signature as “amazing”, and her Show Stopper tasted pretty good, too, even if there wasn’t quite enough passion fruit. Priya will get another chance next week, but unless she can improve her time management, that might be all she gets.

6. Alice

Last Week: 5th Change: -1

Place in Technical: 6th

Once again, Alice had a low-key tough week, putting her ace showing all the way back in Biscuits Week (still the best single performance of the season so far) even further in the rear view mirror. While Alice was not in real danger this week, the problems she had with her bakes are exactly sort of problems that are likely to get a baker Eliminated in the middle portion of a season. While every season is different, one constant of the show is that the judges hate it when bakers take shortcuts, such as excessive use of extracts. For her Signature bake, Alice decided to add orange extract in addition to the orange juice and orange zest, and she was called out for it. Another problem that becomes more pronounced over the course of a season is inattention to detail, and this was on display in Alice’s Show Stopper, which prominently featured sloppy decorative drawings and giant pineapple chunks that detracted from what was otherwise a decent cake. Alice’s recent Technical scores haven’t inspired much confidence, either. Alice may (or may not) have the tools needed to make a playoff push, but she will have to clean up these issues if she wants to get back to contention.

5. Rosie

Last Week: 3rd Change: -2

Place in Technical: 5th

Speaking of tough weeks, Rosie had her worst showing since Cake Week. Obviously, her worst bake came in the Signature, which saw Rosie drop one of her four custard pies on the floor. While Rosie was understandably quite upset about this turn of events, the judges are historically forgiving of this sort of thing, provided the surviving bakes are good. Unfortunately, the three pies that made it weren’t quite right, with soggy pastry and unfinished custard. In the Show Stopper, Rosie continued to have issues. The decoration was a mess, in no small part because of a mirror glaze that was meant to evoke the glossy sheen and class of 1920’s art deco but instead made the whole cake look melted and gloopy. What’s worse is the rest of the cake was ensconced under entirely too much chocolate ganache, which detracted from what was otherwise a well-baked, tasty sponge. Clearly, the dropped pie in the Signature stuck with Rosie for the rest of the week. She’s shown some real flashes of skill and could easily rebound, but the challenges are only going to get harder from here. Rosie may benefit tremendously if she has a shorter memory the next time things don’t go her way.

4. Henry

Last Week: 6th Change: +2

Place in Technical: 3rd

Finally, five weeks into the season, Henry may have started to put things together. For the first four weeks, Henry had pulled off some pretty neat bakes but also had several misfires, most of which were the result of stretching himself beyond his abilities in misguided attempts at showing off. This time out though, Henry finally tamped down on that impulse. Still, none of Henry’s bakes were perfect. His custard pies looked neat and had pretty good flavor, but once they were cut open, there was too much crust and not enough custard. On top of that, the pies themselves were overbaked. For the Show Stopper, Henry went for a minimalist decorative scheme that worked to his advantage. The cake was on the dry side, but at least it tasted good. While Henry showed greater promise Roaring 20’s week than he has in previous weeks, it remains to be seen if Henry can put this kind of performance together consistently. He will have to not only continue to bake within his means, he will have to refine his fundamentals while doing so.

3. Michael

Last Week: 7th Change: +4

Place in Technical: 8th

Michael’s struggles with the mental aspect of baking in the Tent have been noted in this space on an almost weekly basis, and yet as worrisome as this may be at times, after five weeks it hasn’t slowed him down all that much. In Roaring 20’s Week, the poor guy had a near-total meltdown in the Technical, even though the end result didn’t net him last place. It got him in second-to-last, but still. Michael does a lot of things at a high level. His Signature bake would have been flawless had he filled his pastries with more custard. The custard itself was excellent, and received high marks for the ginger flavoring. His Show Stopper wasn’t in this week’s upper echelon, but he still did a lot of things right. It looked cool and unique, and had some good lemon flavors coming through, even if there wasn’t quite enough blackberry drizzle. Michael has a pretty good week, all things considered, and has the tools necessary to make it a long way, especially if he can bake at a high level without bothering to calm down all that much.

2. David

Last Week: 1st Change: -1

Place in Technical: 9th

If it’s a bad sign to be Eliminated (or in danger of being Eliminated) despite getting 1st in the Technical, then it follows that it’s a good sign to come in dead last in the Technical and not be in any trouble whatsoever. His Signature netted him a coveted (and, in this season, once again rare and protected) handshake, and deservedly so. Every aspect of David’s pies was done at the highest level. The crust to filling ratio was perfect, as was the custard itself. The decorations were a cut above in their neatness and their ambition. David had a pretty good Show Stopper as well, but it wasn’t in that same upper echelon. He added a third tier to his cake (the judges only required two tiers), and perhaps as a result of that, or perhaps due to some other structural issue, the upper tiers sagged into the lowest tier, so the whole looked droopy. The sponges themselves were nice and lemony, but Paul still took him to task for the grainy texture of the buttercream frosting. Nonetheless, David still remains in the upper echelon of the Tent. His misfires can be counted on one hand in a season where almost everyone has had major issues. And yet, for all his success, the Star Baker title still eludes him. Hopefully a nigh-inevitable Finals appearance softens that blow.

1. Steph

Last Week: 2nd Change: +1

Place in Technical: 4

After a second consecutive Star Baker award, and the first repeat Star Baker award of the entire season, to deny Steph the top spot in the rankings would constitute gross negligence. She may not have gotten a handshake, but once again Steph put together a complete performance in a season where consistent excellence is a rarity. Her Signature pies didn’t net a handshake, but they were still well don all around. The decoration was neat, the custard was tasty, and the pastry itself was on point. Her Show Stopper looked the best of anyone’s; Prue seemed quite pleased with how well it evoked the Pina Colada flavors contained within. The bake itself was perfect (I’m pretty sure a knife dropping right through a cake is, in fact, a good thing) and the flavors were perfectly executed, as well, unorthodox lime sponges and all. Outside of a few problems in Biscuits Week, Steph has been the most consistent baker in this season’s Tent, including in the Technical. Neither of her two Star Baker awards were flukes. She earned it last week, and she earned it this week, and she’s earned the top spot in the rankings, too. Steph is gonna go far.

It’s now halfway through the season, which means the competition is going to heat up. Mistakes that were small in Week 1 are going to be much more damning in the weeks to come. Good bakers are gonna start getting bounced, because pretty soon the good bakers will be the only ones left. Next week is Desserts Week – all three challenges in Roaring 20’s Week were desserts, but whatever – and next Thursday I’ll be back again to examine the wreckage. Peace out!

One thought on “Great British Baking Show Power Rankings – Roaring 20’s Week

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s