The Great British Baking Show’s technical challenges are the best part of the series
This past week, Slate posted an article called “The Great British Baking Show Kind of Sucks Now.” When I first saw this headline, I was worried. I’ve been looking forward to this new season for months. What better way to spend living during a pandemic than by watching a nice, cake-filled British reality cooking competition.
It turns out, the article isn’t about the new season at all; it’s about the dreaded technical challenge and how it has become more and more complicated over the past couple of seasons. Anyone who has watched every season (AKA me) can definitely see that. I guarantee some professional bakers couldn’t make some of the technical challenges right off the bat.
The Great British Baking Show is back and so are those technicals
But, to me, the technical challenge isn’t about perfection. It’s about trying and failing and that being okay. The writer notes in the article that there are zero stakes to the shows because the winner doesn’t get any money.
She also seemed to say that the winner of the show should get a cash prize based on how difficult some of these challenges are.
I think the opposite is true. Because there is no money at stake, the technical challenge gives the bakers the chance to try something new that they may never have even heard of before and if they fail, they still have the showstopper challenge to make up for it.
While we don’t know what the judges really take into account (or how much producers or executives have a hand in judging), I’m betting the signature and the showstopper have much more weight than the technical.
With both the signature and the showstopper, it’s a recipe the contestant has been able to practice so if they get it wrong on the day, it means a heck of a lot more than if they mess up a recipe they had a couple of hours to get right on the first try.
I also don’t think that upping how complicated the technical challenge recipe is, is hurting the tone or impression the show is so well-known for. It certainly hasn’t changed the attitude of the contestants. There are still anxious people, people who just go with the flow, and people who have fun with it. It’s still interesting to watch them make something new.
It should also be noted that the technical challenge in the first episode of the latest season was a pineapple upside-down cake. Not exactly the most complicated recipe for a baker. Sure, some of the bakers had never made one before, but the major problems they had were with how long they cooked the caramel and if they prepared their cake pan or not.
The Great British Baking Show is still a comfort show (although, I, a writer/culinary school dropout, finds it anxiety-inducing. Will the swiss roll crack?? Will it??). It’s still filled with hugs, warm wishes to people who end up leaving, and encouragement to those doing what they can to make the best of a stressful situation. It’s still the show where contestants don’t throw each other under the bus and help one another to finish their bakes.
While I’ll always miss the early seasons with Mary Berry and Sue and Mel, the new hosts and judges that have come along as the show has gone on have stuck with the original vibe of camaraderie, support, and it being “just cake.” The technical challenge being more complicated hasn’t changed that.
What do you think about the technical challenge in The Great British Baking Show? Do you think the vibe of the show has changed? Let us know in the comments below!