The Great British Baking Show Returns, Defying Both Gravity And Our Expectations

GBBO Season 12 has arrived, with a dozen new bakers and lots of Paul Hollywood hijinks.

This is my fifth year recapping The Great British Baking Show, and normally I like kicking things off with some thoughtful, poetic reflection on what this show has meant to us all. But as I sit here staring wide-eyed at my laptop with my fingers aquiver, it has dawned on me that no matter my talents, this year, I cannot. The season 12 cold open has left me damn near speechless, and as you can plainly see from the image above, nothing I write will match its beauty. After so many years of brutal disappointment, I spent the off-season lowering my expectations. And then, this happened:

I'm writing this whole recap in a bizarre state that hovers between terror and amazement, my brain overloaded with jokes and no idea where to begin. This episode was like 1,000 episodes rolled into one, and I'll need to watch it at least 16 more times before I fully understand it.

Signature Bake: Mini Swiss Rolls

This is the first chance for Paul and Prue to judge the bakers' tasty bakes, and my first chance to make broad generalizations about them based on 10-second video clips of their personal lives. This is also when I decide who I want to win the whole shebang—not for their talent, but for my own personal amusement. See our full writeup about Season 12's bakers here.


For the sake of brevity, I will not be giving Amanda, Crystelle, Rochica, Jairzeno, Giuseppe, Freya, or Tom all that much attention this week. They didn't deliver the sort of overwhelming emotional thrills I expect from a miniature Swiss roll competition. I'm sure that they're all lovely and talented people, but unfortunately, not a single one of them is a 56-year-old German man.

Right out of the gate, Jürgen gives every indication that the next nine weeks of GBBS recaps will contain at least 40% Jürgen content. Will he attack every challenge with the obsessive perfectionism that reverberates in the core of every German soul? Of course he will. Will he say sweet, innocent things that I will take wildly out of context? Absolutely. Do his hobbies include trombone jam sessions with his wife, his son, and a rabbit? You fucking know it.


For his first bake, Jürgen decides to firmly establish his German-ness by making Swiss rolls inspired by Black Forest cake. Certified English people Amanda and Tom also decide to go with a Black Forest theme, even though I'm 99% sure they had been warned that one of their competitors was a 56-year-old German man. Unsurprisingly, Jürgen is perfect, and the Amanda and Tom look incompetent in comparison.

Telephone salesman Chigs is the most inexperienced baker in the tent, having picked up baking as a hobby over lockdown. Still, he manages to wow the judges with his chocolate-dipped strawberry and cream rolls. There's not much else to say about Chigs because he is dreadfully boring in this episode, but the reason he's not hanging out in the recap waiting room with Crystelle and Rochica is because very, very attractive, and I can't pretend there's any other reason I find him compelling.

I don't know how many weeks we'll get to enjoy with Chigs, and I want to make every single moment count. I feel the same way about George, the Greek baker who spends the entire episode losing his shit because cooking on television is fucking traumatizing. He's an enjoyable baker to watch, but he'll need ice-cold emotional control to make it past week five. I didn't pay all that much attention to whatever George was baking, because his contestant bio mentions he has a dancing dog, and yet, when it was time to show us a behind-the-scenes video of George's life, we got this:


I have been looking forward to seeing this dog dance for over a week, and this is what I'm given? The GBBS crew probably spent a few hours filming B-roll at George's house, and they weren't able to get one second of dancing dog footage? I really want to like George, but I don't like people who lie to me, especially about important things like this. I'm not going to get myself too worked up over this, though, because even though George's chocolate hazelnut Swiss rolls were an abysmal mess, he managed to survive Cake Week. This means there will be future opportunities for his dog to do something interesting.

Technical Challenge: Malt Loaf

Prue kicks off the first technical challenge of the year by saying that no one under the age of 35 will be familiar with this cake. It's Malt Loaf, and even though I'm 41 I've never heard of it either. Good thing, too, because this old person cake is filled with raisins and prunes. Raisins are the fucking worst.


This round belongs to the oldest baker in the tent, the lovely Miss Maggie, who at 70 years of age is brimming with malt loaf wisdom. The Great British Baking Show suffers immensely whenever there isn't a sage older woman in the tent, and after several seasons of various retirees tapping out early, we may have finally found one who can go the distance. This is excellent news for me, because I cannot sum up my feelings for this ray of sunshine in one recap.

Showstopper Bake: Gravity-Defying Cakes

In this challenge, The Great British Baking Show confirms that it has become a patently ridiculous show that is desperate for its bakers to humiliate themselves on television. Once upon this time this show was about civility and dignity, and now, it's about setting people up to fail. I have accepted this, which makes it easier to accept a challenge that tells 10 amateurs to bake cakes that require an advanced knowledge of structural engineering, and then tells them that they'll be competing against a professional engineer.


Italian engineer Giuseppe's cake is inspired by a book that's close to his heart: the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, which he reads to his young sons at bedtime. Jürgen, too, takes his inspiration from a beloved piece of literature. His cake is an homage to the very first book he ever read in English: Thomas More's wacky 1516 sociopolitical romp Utopia.

I will not nitpick the remaining contestants' cakes, because no matter how good or bad they did, they did their best—except for Tom, who decided he was having nothing to do with any gravity-defying nonsense and made a regular cake instead. For his insolence Tom was banished from the tent, meaning we'll never get to hear any stories about what crazy shit goes down at his family's model railroad store.


The upside is that the hot mess that is Lizzie gets to stick around for another week, and much like my darling Maggie, I cannot even begin to unravel the wonders of Lizzie in one recap. I shall let this fine selection of Lizzie screenshots do all the talking while I work on getting my feelings sorted.

As expected, Jürgen is crowned as the first Star Baker of The Great British Baking Show season 12. He calls his family to share the good news, but no one picks up the phone, which is probably because they can't hear it over the sound of their trombones. Even if Jürgen is out of the house, that rabbit still needs to be entertained.