Belfast Telegraph

Time to serve up Bake Off's new recipe

By Francesca Gosling

The wait is almost over as the hotly anticipated return of The Great British Bake Off makes its Channel 4 debut tonight.

After months of fears and concerns over the show's move from the BBC, the proof of the pudding will finally be tasted as judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood test 12 fresh faces in a bid to find Britain's best amateur baker, a coveted title claimed last year by Candice Brown.

Changes to the show - including the line-up of hosts and the introduction of ad breaks - have sent debate among fans to boiling point over recent months.

The broadcaster is taking on a programme that averaged 13.6 million viewers per episode last year.

Its outgoing chief creative officer Jay Hunt told listeners at last week's Edinburgh international Television Festival that she would be "absolutely delighted" if the new run drew in even half that number.

During a Press launch for the series just days before, TV chef Leith, who takes over the baton from previous host Mary Berry, allayed fears about the ad breaks, reminding fans they do not have to watch the episodes "in real time".

Hollywood also promised viewers the new set-up, which is made by same firm Love Productions and keeps the same theme music and competition format, will have the "same feel" as the long-running series they are used to.

The controversial replacement of comedy duo Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc with Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding has been another concern among fans.

Fielding, the creator behind surreal comedy series The Mighty Boosh, joked: "When it was announced I was doing it, some people thought: 'What the hell is he going to do, wear a top hat and throw all the cakes on the floor?' But I have the biggest respect for the show and I just wanted to slot in."

Toksvig, meanwhile, has said she and Fielding were not prepared for how emotionally involved they would become with the contestants. She has admitted to being rather naive over how much it would impact on her on a personal level.

Writing for Good Housekeeping magazine, Toksvig said: "It seems ridiculous now, but neither Noel nor I had quite prepared ourselves for how involved we would get. We make one episode a week, so end up spending two-and-a-half months with some of the contestants.

"That is long enough to feel a real sense of kinship. We laugh and cry in equal measure."

The Great British Bake Off airs on Channel 4 at 8pm tonight.

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