The nation’s most famous tent was pitched in the grounds of Welford Park once again. Presenters Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas returned to lead the latest batch of bakers through brand new challenges set by Judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.
In Tuesday’s night’s episode of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4, Syabira was named Star Baker and Dawn, 61 from Bedfordshire left the tent.
It was Halloween Week in The Great British Bake Off and for the remaining bakers Halloween came early as they tackled three terrifying challenges. There was a seasonal signature in the form of an apple cake, a 's’more-ish" Technical and finally in the showstopper they created a Halloween pinata perfect for any spooky celebration.
It was over halfway through this year’s series of The Great British Bake Off and at the end of the sixth episode Noel announced that Syabira was the Star Baker. Matt followed with the hardest job of announcing that Dawn would be leaving the tent.
On the show Dawn said: ‘Game over! I really don’t want to shed tears over it, because it’s just been the most amazing experience, really one of the absolute best experiences of my life. I can’t wish for more than that you know, there’s a tear look – don’t let anyone see that! My kids will say mum doesn’t do emotion – what’s going on? I am really really proud of what I have done, and I have had fun, such fun!’
Dawn talks here about leaving the show: ‘I love Halloween and at home we tend to really go for it, so my leaving in that week won’t put me off! I always do lots of bakes for the local children and I always try and bake something cool for them, and of course this year it will have added meaning. The kids won’t know who I am but the mums and dads will know who I am because it’s a small place where we live. So I think we will have quite a few children come knocking this Halloween.
‘I tend to put candles on the windowsill and fake lights on the doorstep. I will persuade my daughter to do the pumpkin carving, and so that shows to the kids they can knock for their Trick or Treat.
‘I honestly felt that the Spectre of Halloween was on my shoulder (as I tend to be a bit spooky with my sculptures) so I set the bar quite high to myself in the tent that day, I could feel it wasn’t happening. I am quite good at recovering the situation as a rule, but on this occasion it was pretty catastrophic, and I knew it wasn’t going to work when I got my Halloween pieces out of the oven. I knew I was in trouble.
‘Although I have to admit it was fun to be in the tent as it was dressed as Halloween and it had a great vibe to it. The bakers got together and decided to dress up for this episode, and they all looked great. We had to keep doing running repairs on Sandro’s black wings. I think his muscles were stretching the elastic a bit too much.
‘I was one of the oldest in the tent – so I had to use all my stamina to keep going to the sixth episode, I would suggest a workout at the gym before you go into the tent for the first time. But then that also means you have a wealth of experience and tend to keep calm when everyone else might be losing their baking head. At the end of the day you are baking cakes, that’s all - so you have to strike a balance and a bit of life experience does help.
‘My partner and kids and the whole family have loved watching it, they have been totally on board with it and so excited. It’s been fun to enjoy it with them each week, and I will continue to be watching with them. I make a bake each week for the show, and my workplace have been requesting cakes, so I will keep on baking.
Dawn, 61, Bedfordshire, IT Manager
The eldest of three children, Dawn lives with her partner Trevor (the self-styled person who tidies up the kitchen after her!) and is mother to three, step-mother to two, and gran/step-gran to four. Describing herself as an artist in and out of the kitchen, Dawn loves the challenge of an illusion cake (the more impossible-sounding, the better), favouring wacky and intricate designs that allow her to express her creative talent. She prides herself on her steady hand and attention to detail, especially when it comes to the intricacy required for lace patterns on biscuits. Her favourite flavours are lemon, salted caramel and anything nutty.
Dawn looks back at her time in the tent:
"There were loads of funny moments in the tent, and my best one personally was when Paul Hollywood said I reminded him of his mum. I almost fell over, cheeky devil! I managed quite a swift reply to that (No disrespect to Mrs H). The judges and presenters were all really kind and the feedback is only honest, polite and constructive."
"My favourite part of filming was when they come along with the teeny-tiny handheld camera to do very close up shots of whatever you are making. This was puzzling for a little while – a revelation. I missed my partner Trevor and my family but in particular my new baby granddaughter Emmeline who I haven’t seen half enough of! I said to friends that I was away working on a special project. I think I got away with it."
"Overall I felt my best moment in the Tent were the Macarons (I expected the worst). Cats are notoriously fickle creatures, I found that out with my lantern! - they were my worst moment."
"I have a huge list of things I’d like to do next in the baking world! Collaborations, more obsessive baking, grow my social media presence, teach, show and share what I can do. Really importantly, keep learning and growing as a baker!"
"Out of the three challenges each week as in showstopper, signature or technical I would say showstopper was my favourite because the extra time makes it more enjoyable and in the main less rushed."
"To name my worst challenge is easy, I call it ‘Lemon Meringue Pie Gate’. It’s my signature dessert at home. I have made 500 hundred at least with never a fail. I got a bad case of tent fever that day! It was the only time I left the tent close to tears."
"I was so impressed with the crew and production team. It’s a machine! A very technical, complicated and professional machine where everyone knows what they need to do. Brilliant!"
"I feel that I will take away from Bake Off more confidence in my baking! I’m still thanking my lucky stars that I got to do it. Wow, just wow! I’m fired up and ready to go on a whole new adventure, I’ve come away with the knowledge that I make some pretty decent cakes and bakes. I might even be able to make something of this baking lark! Oh and finally, I have total respect for the judges, watching them eat so many mouthfuls of cake/bread/biscuit and being so professional about it on a freezing cold or boiling hot day – bravo!"
Q&A with Dawn:
Did you ever dream that you would actually get into the Bake Off tent, and what was your reaction when you got the call confirming your place?
I dreamt about it but did I really? No, not in a million years! I just remember saying “Oh My Word!” Or possibly something less polite! I had goosebumps and was shaking like a leaf!
Over the years, who or what has helped your baking improve?
Practise, experimentation, loads of failures and successes. Writing down my recipe and method for each bake so that I could learn from both the successes and the failures.
You are given the prize of going up in a hot air balloon with a previous baker, who would you choose and why?
Firstly I would decline the hot air balloon, they fill me with terror. If you could manage a private jet, I would say Giuseppe. I would pick his brains about Italian baking and also find out all the best places to visit and eat in Italy from someone who knows!
What’s the one kitchen utensil that you can’t really be without?
That’s a new thing.. a Mexican elbow, something I discovered in my Bake Off utensil drawer!
In the very first week of filming what special memories do you have of that time?
Firstly, the absolute joy that emanates from every single person involved in the show is delightful. It was lovely meeting lots of people who had been speaking to me regularly in the run-up. Then getting to know my fellow bakers, everyone was so unique, our shared passion for baking was terrific and we just laughed constantly even though we were petrified! And the grounds are so incredibly beautiful.
If you had to make a cake of yourself in your proudest moment – what would it be and why, and what kind of cake would it be?
Ooh this is a tough one. My family fill me with pride all the time. If I need to talk about me personally then it has to be getting picked for Bake Off. I just couldn’t believe that someone thought I was good enough to take part. The cake would be a rainbow layered Genoise sponge cake, covered in sugar flowers with tiny models of all my fellow bakers peeking out from between the petals.
As a baker what would you say are your strengths….and what are your weaknesses?
My strengths are staying pretty calm under pressure (on the surface anyway), I have a lot of knowledge stashed away in that head of mine. Weaknesses, I’ve been inclined to play it safe with flavours sometimes.
Can you describe your emotions when you walked into the tent on the first day, was it what you expected it to be?
Delight, excitement, nerves and ‘fight or flight’ was definitely kicking in. The tent seemed smaller than I imagined it. I just kept thinking, “I’m Alice and I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole.. any minute now the Mad Hatter is going to turn up”!
If you had plenty of time at home, what’s the craziest kind of Showstopper you can think of to make?
An enormous cake modelled on Hever Castle and featuring animals in period costumes depicting current and historic royal characters. My daydreaming brain is always wandering off to historic locations, don’t know why. Weird!
Is there any kind of cake or biscuit that you really don’t like and what is your all time favourite?
I really don’t like Battenberg cake at all. Another pet hate is cake filled with lots of English/American buttercream – way too sweet! I love a really good lemon drizzle cake. By really good, I mean it has to be very ‘drizzly’! Nothing beats it in my book.