Great British Bake Off: same recipe, same taste, same jokes

Move from BBC1 to BBC2 need not have scared fans: it remains as light and playful as spun sugar

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:18 ON Thu 7 Aug 2014

Be not afraid. The Great British Bake Off is in safe hands.

Since news broke that it was moving from bohemian BBC2 to the bright lights and shiny floors of BBC1, the provisional wing of the GBBO Appreciation Society has been spoiling for a fight.

One false move and an army of flour-dusted counter-revolutionaries would have marched on Broadcasting House, their cake forks held aloft in carb-fuelled fury.

Their fears were vague but deeply felt. Producers might jazz up the format, they said, but few were prepared to speculate as to how. Perhaps what they imagined was literally unspeakable, or perhaps they worried about giving the BBC ideas.

Thankfully, though, the BBC has had no ideas, or has had the good sense to discard them. There is no celebrity guest judge, no gunge tank filled with crème patissière. Mel and Sue have not been replaced by Ant and Dec.

In fact, the Great British Bake Off arrives on BBC1 not only unscathed, but utterly unchanged. If you loved it before you will still love it now, and if you never liked it in the first place there's no need to change your mind.  

Mel and Sue still vamp their way from challenge to challenge, lobbing terrible dad-jokes about like rotten eggs. "There are two ways to make a Swiss roll," Sue says, and the contestants are groaning even before she delivers the punchline.

The competitors themselves are also largely unchanged. Pre-show reports noted the presence of the oldest ever and youngest ever contenders, but since there's always a young one and an old one that shouldn't cause too much angst.

Taken as a whole they're a congenial slice of modern middle Britain. Alongside Kate, a furniture restorer from Brighton, and Louis, who bakes with honey from his own hive of bees, there's Richard, the well-spoken builder who is, inevitably, a dab hand with delicate floral decorations.

It's too early to sense which of them will provoke this year's round of digital venom (last year it was Ruby Tandoh), but my money's on Jordan, the mildest of eccentrics, whose Swiss roll was Japanese and whose hair and eyes may be just wild enough to ignite the online pyres.

As for the actual baking, it lived up to the standard of previous series – which is to say that some of it looks lip-smackingly good and some head-bangingly bonkers. Episode two, in particular, involves some truly monstrous biscuits.

Yet the judges approach each offering with courtesy and courage. "Looking at that, it doesn't wow me," says Mary Berry of one confection. "It's a bit of a mess," says Paul Hollywood, who is meant to be the nasty one.

And that, I think, explains the Great British Bake Off's polite conquest of our airwaves. While Masterchef has succumbed to bombast and self-parody – its desperation to explain why we should care betraying a fear that we might not – the Bake Off remains as light and playful as spun sugar.

Its spirit resides in Mel and Sue, who tease the judges, pinch stray ingredients and lard the script with innuendo. "How does it feel to be commended on your nuts by Mary Berry?" Mel asked one contestant last night.

For while the bakers and judges take the contest seriously, the presenters most certainly do not. Without their clowning it would all be a bit too earnest – and the world is a grave enough place that an hour a week of good-natured frivolity is sometimes not nearly enough.

The Great British Bake Off continues on Wednesday at 8pm

Holden Frith tweets at twitter.com/holdenfrith ·