This is it: the big day. The finale of everything the bakers have worked towards over ten gruelling, flour-dusted weeks.
At the end of this, only one will stand tall in the crumble of the others’ shattered dreams to be crowned winner of the Great British Bake-Off 2022. But who will it be?
We start with some teaser shots of the upcoming episode – and an ominous one of Paul Hollywood saying that “any one of the bakers could win. At this point I cannot call it.” Eek, sounds like we’ve got a stressful hour ahead.
The bakers must think so too: the minute they get into the tent, the three remaining, Syabira, Sandro and Abdul, gather in close for a group hug. Whether intentionally or not, they’re all wearing blue – maybe because it’s a calming colour.
“I’m lucky to be here in the tent with these guys,” Abdul says. Less so Noel: as Matt explains, he’s not feeling very well and has had to sit this one out. Sounds like the stress has gotten to him too, unless he’s eaten too much cake.
First up is the last signature bake of this year: a seasonal picnic using ingredients from around the UK. As Matt explains, the brief is to make six mini cakes, six veggie pies and six finger sandwiches – surely this is more showstopper territory?
They have a whopping three hours to do it in, and Paul is clearly champing at the bit to eat them. As he says, “what’s not to like about having a picnic near the Bake-Off tent?”
As he goes onto explain, sustainability is at the heart of the challenge (hence the bizarre polar bear sculpture placed outside the tent) – though the only nod I can see to sustainability is the fact that it’s vegetarian. Having said that, Abdul appears to have gone the extra mile and sourced his feta from the UK to make some excellent sounding leek, rocket and mint feta pies.
Syabira perplexes the judges with the name of her “no porky pie” veggie tart (containing aubergine). She’s also got her hands full making broad bean and coriander sandwiches and elderflower-infused Swiss rolls; excuse me while I wipe away the drool.
And of course, Sandro is going the extra mile with a redemption-themed bake, aimed to address everything he’s gotten wrong over the course of the series (mate, you’ve made it to the final, stop beating yourself up). That means shortcrust pastry “done the right way” for his cauliflower cheese pies – but he still hasn’t learned to manage expectations, because he’s also making six fruit tarts AND blueberry biscuits on top.
“This guy, man,” Abdul tells the camera knowingly. “If you ask him to do three things, he’s going to do nine things.”
Matt has a different problem – when he asks Sandro how much he wants the title. “I do want it. I do want it bad,” Sandro replies. “Wait, what are we talking about, actually?” Ding, ding: off goes the innuendometer.
As the challenge ticks on, the bakers begin the batch bake to end all batch bakes – in fact, there’s so much remember that Abdul has made a chart to tell him what to do, when.
While they sweat, we’re also treated to some heartwarming backstories from the bakers: Sandro tears up explaining that he never thought “this would ever really happen to a boy like me”; Abdul explains that the other bakers are “like a family” to him; Syabira tells us that getting to the final is like winning the “lottery jackpot”.
With an hour left, the bakers get cracking with their pies. Sandro is still fantasising about the Hollywood handshake - and he’s still struggling to create the ridiculous list of extra goodies he promised.
“I’m going back to my old story of panicking at the very end,” Abdul says as the music veers towards frantic. But when the time is up, everybody has managed to produce what they said they would. Even Sandro, who attempts to bribe the judges with a glass of prosecco.
“You’ve made a big mistake, because you’ve just put me in a very good mood for judging Syabira,” Prue says merrily.
Despite that, all of the bakers come away more or less equal: Abdul’s bakes are messy but appetising; Sandro’s are overlarge but tasty and Syabira’s are neat and delicious. But time waits for no man, and next up is the technical.
This, we’re told, will be a summer pudding bombe: an elderflower and berry jelly, meringue and a pâté à bombe filling encased in strips of syrup-soaked bread. Sounds bizarre – the outside looks rather like a trifle made of bread – and indeed, none of the bakers have ever made anything like it before. And the twist: they’ll be using their own loaves from the signature to make it, which tickles Syabira no end when she finds out.
As the bake gets underway, things start inevitably going wrong. Sandro decides to cut his bread into circles rather than rectangles, the bakers run out of syrup to soak it in, and none of them have the faintest idea (myself included) what the pâté à bombe is supposed to be, or look like.
“This is a very calm tent,” Matt remarks to Abdul. “It won’t be calm when we flip over our pudding bombes,” he answers. All the sassy comebacks for Abdul today, and he’s soon proved right, as Sandro discovers his jelly has not set and he will have to serve it to the judges as extra syrup instead.
“I’m going to pray to Beyoncé,” he says, as he shuts the freezer door on his compromised bombe. His one consolation is that none of the others seem to have set either, though his has definitely come off worst, practically melting on the plate as he attempts to garnish it with fruit.
“It needs more glaze even though I don’t know what I’m glazing… that is finesse,” he says, finishing with a manic smile and asking if any of the bakers need any help, which sends Syabira into fits of giggles.
When the judges come in, Paul looks like he’s having a hard time keeping a straight face as he surveys the three bombes, all in various stages of collapse. Prue tactfully says that Sandro has done “one thing right” by glazing his fruit properly, but at the end of the day it’s Abdul who scoops his first-ever technical win.
“Don’t clap!” Paul says. It’s true: all the bombes are a mess, but as Sandro says, at least Abdul’s is half-set.
But here’s something to raise the spirits. Noel is back, clutching a cup of tea and sounding rather drained as he gets the low-down from Matt and the judges. As Matt says, it’s all down to the showstopper.
“I don’t care who wins. I just love them all,” Prue says. N’aww – but we all know she’s waiting to see who puts the most booze in their bake.
That said, God knows how they’re going to put alcohol into their showstopper: the brief is a large edible sculpture with a theme of Our Planet.
Oh boy – but at least Sandro has a head start. Building on the success of making Planet Sandro back in Dessert Week, he’s now trying it again on a grander scale. As he says, he’s “a bit faster than God” – and his bake will involve a three-tier lemon and plum cake, profiterole clouds and blueberry cake-pop planets.
Abdul, meanwhile, is going the bee route, making a honey-drenched cake with bee-shaped macarons (he has another chart to help him), and Syabira as ever, is embracing the bizarre: she’s making an orang-utan out of her pepper-flavoured cake, which will be holding the forest above its head.
It’s all very lovely, but there’s a lot to do – and Sandro has eschewed timers completely and is “going with my gut” to tell him when his various items are baked. Needless to say, this goes badly, and soon Paul is watching as Sandro pulls an almost-burned cake from the oven and frantically pokes skewers in to try and find out just how burned it is. Plus he’s potentially overproved his bread.
As the bakers start to assemble their sculptures, Noel and Matt are feeling the pressure too, wincing as Abdul precariously stacks his cake layers on an increasingly wobbly stand, while Noel starts giggling at Syabira’s “proper ugly” orang-utan. But in the blink of an eye it’s all over, and suddenly the sculptures look rather beautiful.
Even better, it looks like friends and family are allowed back for the final, plus the bakers from previous episodes – Janusz is there, looking very fetching in a bright pink jumper and novelty sunglasses.
Opinion among the ex-bakers on who’s going to win it is split – but the only judgement that matters is Paul and Prue’s. As might be expected, Sandro has overbaked pretty much everything (though the flavour is good); while Syabira’s is a tad messy, but Paul complements her flavours as “superb”.
Arguably, Abdul comes in for the most stringent criticism: while his honey cake is good, the choux buns he made to go alongside them are described by Prue as a “proper failure”.
“Regardless of the outcome, there’s going to be a party,” he says afterwards. That’s the spirit – certainly Sandro seems rather down in the mouth, admitting that he’s “keeping my hopes up”.
But of course, when the time comes, it’s Syabira who deservedly takes the crown for winner of The Great British Bake-Off 2022. Of course she does: she’s been a triumph the entire way through and has only gotten better week-on-week. Three Star Baker achievements and now a trophy! Not bad.
Speaking to camera afterwards, she’s lost for words. “It’s not sunk down,” she says, before announcing that “this is the biggest achievement of my entire life.” Amen to that Syabira: I’ll never look at baking the same way again.
And with that, it’s time to wrap our coverage! Thanks all so much for reading along: I’ll see you in 2023...