CHRISTOPHER STEVENS on TV: The Great British Jaffa Cake Off? That really does take the biscuit

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: The Great British Jaffa Cake Off? That really does take the biscuit

Bake Off: The Professionals




Some controversies are at least worth discussing. Was David Tennant a better Doctor than Tom Baker (no, he wasn’t), and when was the last British Eurovision entry you could actually hum (I’d say Engelbert Humperdinck’s Love Will Set You Free in 2012).

Other questions are beyond debate. There’s a right answer and a wrong one. And one of those is Jaffa Cakes: cake or biscuit?

They’re cakes. Of course they’re cakes. They are made of sponge, they have a jammy orange topping and a chocolate glaze — that’s a cake. Don’t be confused by their size. Being small is irrelevant: if size was all that mattered, Kylie Minogue would be a biscuit, too.

The argument is settled, but Bake Off: The Professionals (C4) insisted on reopening it anyhow. Six pairs of pastry chefs were challenged by judges Cherish Finden and Benoit Blin to create a new design for Jaffa Cakes. None of the contestants tried to make their confections more biscuity. Most of them went continental, with Jaffa patisserie and Jaffa mille feuille.

Bake Off: The Professionals insisted on reopening the age-old Jaffa Cakes debate

Bake Off: The Professionals insisted on reopening the age-old Jaffa Cakes debate

There was a lot of mousse, and even ‘gold chocolate’ — white choc swirled with caramel. Someone attempted a Jaffa Swiss roll. My fillings ached, just from watching. But the adjudicators were impressed by none of it. ‘Dry, dry, dry, dry,’ complained Cherish. ‘It’s dry,’ she added, in case her message had been missed.

But at least she was willing to taste it. Surveying the next platter, she shuddered and said: ‘It looks a bit of a car crash.’ Benoit was no easier to please. ‘Boring, boring, boring,’ he complained.

For all their complaints, the standard was plainly superb. And that’s the problem with Bake Off: The Professionals — they’re all too good. ‘Make nice or make twice,’ murmured one cake craftsman, inadvertently serving up an oven-ready catchphrase.

Drama and disaster have to be artificially created in the studio, with impossible time constraints. I suspect the crew also turn up the heat, literally, to melt the delicate creations. In the second round, the teams had to build elaborate structures from spun sugar, load them with dozens of cakes and carry them across the studio.

Snug undies of the night:

Brooklands curators Alex and Vicky, unpacking boxes from storage on Secrets Of The Transport Museum (Yesterday), discovered a wartime RAF Bomber Command uniform . . . with a pair of long johns. Cosy!

‘The threat of centrepiece collapse is everywhere,’ gasped presenter Tom Allen — and, of course, that was what the producers wanted. Every time the sugar scaffolds cracked and a meringue tumbled to the floor, cameras zoomed in as if they’d spotted a mouse.

The theme for this challenge was to construct Wimbledon tableaux with strawberries and cream. That raises another sticky controversy: is the strawberry actually a berry? Plant scientists claim that, because it has so many seeds, it is actually a ‘multiple fruit’.

I’m staying out of that debate. It’s even more perplexing than the Eurovision Song Contest.

Hospital (BBC2) ended on an equally mind-bending puzzle, as little Henry celebrated his birthday . . . four months after he was born. In fact, the party hats marked his due date, the day Henry was meant to make his first appearance. He was more than 17 weeks premature, born at 22 weeks and six days, and his parents spent the next 100 days living at the hospital while he was in neonatal intensive care.

Just 190g or 6.7oz when he was born, Henry’s survival was a medical miracle. So, too, was the operation to stave off blindness, with injections into his eyeballs.

Other scenes were heartbreaking. No sympathy could ever be enough to comfort the couple whose baby was stillborn, after she died at 37 weeks. This series often has to balance joy and tragedy. The poles were never further apart than in this episode.


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