Belfast Telegraph

Bake Off serves up champion crown for Candice Brown and crumbs of comfort for Andrew Smyth

By Eilis O'Hanlon

Never before has Northern Ireland entered the final day on The Great British Bake Off with a stake in the outcome.

There were high hopes for Iain Watters from the 2014 series - then the bearded hipster sensationally dumped his melting Baked Alaska in a bin, and that was the end of that. This year was different.

Co Down native Andrew Smyth made it to the last three, where he was up against PE teacher Candice Brown and garden designer Jane Beedle for the crown - the first time that one man has faced two women in the final since Series One back in 2010, fact fans.

Yesterday evening, battle commenced.

Though this being Bake Off, it was a very nice battle, and no one really minded losing, and it all ended with cake. Lots and lots of cake.

Alas, things didn't go well for Andrew at the start.

His meringues with "jelly jewels" (don't ask) were the only ones not to get the coveted Paul Hollywood handshake, and he also had problems with his nuts (sorry, innuendos are pretty much compulsory when watching Bake Off).

The Ulsterman was back in the game, though, after acing the feared technical challenge with a Victoria sponge crafted with the precision of an engineer.

Being an actual engineer who designs Rolls Royce jet engines for a living probably helped.

His talent for tricky calculations came in handy in the showstopper round too, where every five minutes of the five hours' baking time was mapped out on a colour coded spreadsheet.

Thankfully, he eventually cracked under the pressure and said "screw the measurements".

That's more like it, son.

There's nothing more Northern Irish than throwing out the instructions and making it up as you go along.

That's how the Titanic got built on schedule, and that worked out all right, didn't it?

In the end, the finalists had each made 49 mini quiches, sausage rolls, fruit and custard tarts, scones and a chocolate cake, which does seem like an awful lot of work just for some nibbles.

That's what Ashers was invented for.

We are allowed to mention them these days, aren't we, or has the Equality Commission issued a fatwa yet?

Andrew didn't win in the end, but, when it comes to the big competitions, we're usually happy just to be there; and it would have taken a miracle to stop Candice.

She was the favourite all along, having been star baker three times during the show's run, and also for inventing everyone's new favourite piece of cursing ("oh, Mother Hubbard").

She has her fair share of haters, who took exception to her dazzling lipstick, but it would take a heart as hard as a stale bap to begrudge her the prize.

Her win was nowhere near as emotional as Nadiya's last year, when Mary Berry was in tears.

What could be?

But last night's episode had a poignancy all of its own, because it was, of course, the very last time that Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue will be on screen together.

Apart from the two upcoming Christmas specials, obviously.

Paul's been lured away to join the Bake Off's new home on Channel Four, and Mary Berry is reportedly about to start work on a new gardening show with her two female co-hosts - The Great British Rake Off, perhaps? The iconic tent won't look the same on another channel, and there's no point pretending otherwise.

Last night was the end of an era.

That's a cliche, but the reason cliches become cliches is because they're true.

The only thing that can now stop the country rising up in a massive Brexit-style revolution would be for Mary to say "sod gardening" and "sod all our contracts", and come back to the BBC next year with exactly the same show under a new name.

They could call it "Continuity British Bake Off" or "The Real British Bake Off".

Unlike other outfits who've tried the same trick, the people would actually want that.

In the meantime, we have our memories.

We didn't get a Northern Irish winner in the show's seven seasons, but we do still have yer woman to cheer on in The Apprentice.

You can knock us down, but, unlike Iain's baked Alaska, we will always rise again.

Belfast Telegraph


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