When the idea of historically themed weeks started on The Great British Baking Show, they began with quintessentially English ones. The first, Victorian Week, celebrated the longest-serving monarch before Elizabeth II and the quirky delicacies that trended during her reign. The second, Tudor Week, also celebrated historical relics of baking, but this time, the ones associated with British's most famous king, Henry VIII. Both had the bakers make creations that are no longer everyday staples but could be if viewers were so inclined.
Last year, the show brought the concept back, but with an unabashed commercial angle. The Roaring 20s just so happened to coincide with the Downton Abbey film's release on their side of the pond, an attempt to jump on the show's interwar period coattails. Unfortunately, perhaps because it's only been 100 years, the challenges weren't nearly as impressive. That brings us to "the 80s" and this year's "historical" challenge. On the one hand, the 1980s were a time of significant food fads, as technology and a growing nouveau riche gave rise to short-lived favorites. On the other, this might just be an excuse to let Matt and Noel have at it with the references and remind American Netflix watchers Stranger Things will eventually return.
As the show emphasizes, this week was always going to be difficult, no matter the theme. The pandemic delayed July/August filming period catches up with the production, creating two of the hottest days of filming in the tent in the show's history. The Signature challenge kicks off with eight quiches, two flavors. This French pastry was invented back in the 1800s, but the first English version, quiche Lorraine, didn't hit in England until the mid-1920s. That being said, the pastry does have 80s cred, as it was the kind of thing that was served as posh during the "Greed is good" era. As always, the Signature is judged on a pass/fail metric.
- Lottie English Breakfast & Summer Salad Quiches (Pass) They look neat, and the pastry is perfect. The two flavors are delicious, despite Prue's dislike of beans in the breakfast quiche.
- Dave Novel Quiches (Fail) The spices are too strong in both pastries -- Paul breaks a sweat eating the first one, though Prue does like the sausage in the second.
- Marc Cornish Quiches (Pass) His smoked haddock quiche is perfect. His cod one is also good, but Prue complains it's too similar to the haddock.
- Laura Pea & Pizza Quiches (Pass) Her pea quiche is leaky, but the pea and asparagus and pizza flavors are perfect.
- Peter Thai Curry & Salmon Quiches (Pass) They are beautiful to look at, and the pastries are perfect, but the Thai is a little too spicy.
- Hermine Classic Quiches (Pass) The bottoms are slightly underbaked but not soggy, and the flavors bowl over Paul and Prue. Paul takes the leftovers to eat for lunch.
As the Technical Challenge commences, Noel goes full Weather Reporter, announcing the temperature outside the tent is a healthy 40 degrees celsius, which is 104 degrees Fahrenheit (give or take), as the contestants try hard not to fan themselves. (Moments like this, one wishes that the tent moved around every week, as initially intended. Either that or the bakers were allowed inside since the show's location has been static for a good decade.)
Anyway, the challenge, set by Paul, is six filled finger doughnuts, custard, and jam. Yes, it's 104 degrees in the tent, and we're deep frying. Doughnuts (or, here in America, donuts) were initially invented in the 1840s. They were popularized at the turn of the century, especially as a treat during the Great War. As for how they related to the 1980s, they became a pop-culture symbol in films and TV, think Police Academy, or The Simpsons. The finger donut (which is not something that caught on over here), like quiches, was part of the era's posh pop foods among the upper-class set.
Let's see who makes doughnuts and who says d 'oh.
6. Dave: It didn't rise, and it's over fried
5. Lottie: Over fried, tough, and inconsistent sizes
4. Laura: Slightly over fried and messy, but good flavor
3. Marc: The sizes are inconsistent
2. Peter: The pastries are a bit small, but the flavor is correct|
1. Hermine: They are practically perfect and deliciously fried
One would hope the weather would break for Day Two in the tent, but no. (Matt Lucas does helpfully let us know precisely when this was filmed by mentioning Day One wound up in the record books as the third hottest day on record in the U.K. ever.) While the bakers pray for rain before the next set of challenges and the semi-final, the Showstopper challenge will go on in the blazing heat. And better yet, it's ice cream cakes. The last time the show has done anything close, it was Baked Alaska. That also one of the hottest filming days in the tent and led to the infamous Bingate incident. Notably, this time the bakers get home-style ice cream makers to create their frozen desserts, taking one stressor out of the equation.
Ice Cream Cakes date back to the Victorian era, referred to as bombes. But the commercial version didn't take off until the post-war period when freezers and refrigeration became standardized. Even so, they were seen as a luxury treat, especially in post-war England. They did not become a staple of puddings until the Thatcher era.
Let's run down who freezes up and who melts down.
Marc's "Retro Ice Cream Parlour" His chocolate and vanilla striping is super impressive on the outside, but the inside is another story. The honey ice cream didn't set due to the extra sugar, and the cake instantly buckled on slicing. Still, he gets high marks for ambition.
Hermine's "Holiday Ice Cream Cake" She went for the traditional square ice cream cake with an 80s themed decor. The sides are a little messy, but the ice cream inside is solid. Prue loves the flavor combination, and her biscuit is perfect.
Peter's "Christmas Cake Surprise" It certainly looks like Christmas on the outside, and Prue loves the decor. The ice cream is frozen hard due to the boozy fruit inside, and Paul has to work to cut it. But the flavors are delicious.
Dave's "Tiramisu" The top is a little melty-looking be4cause he piped soft ice cream on top, and it didn't freeze well. The cake itself is also a little melty, but that adds to the tiramisu texture, and the sponge and the flavor are perfect.
Lottie's "80's Mix Tape" Her ambitious design was supposed to be a cassette tape, but the result is more of a deconstructed sketch. The cake also didn't freeze properly, so it's more of a messy collapsed square covered in chocolate glaze. Paul sighs that she should have backtracked, considering the temperature working against her. That being said, Prue loves the chocolate, but the rest of the flavors have melted away.
Laura's "Death by Chocolate" More like death by melting. Her cake is practically a collapsed puddle. Her problems started with the ice cream machine failing her and just spiraled from there. The ice cream is so melty Paul has to hold it together while slicing. At least the ice creams kept their flavor, even if they aren't frozen, but the brownie bottom is just ruined.
Hermine is a shoo-in for Star Baker, having aced this week with flying colors. As for who goes home, it's between Lottie and Laura. Laura's stemmed from technical problems, but Lottie's issues were all of her own making, leaving her the obvious one to leave the tent.