The ninth series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ is almost here, and after last year proved to be a huge success in its new home on Channel 4, the show’s bosses are keen keep the momentum going.
They’ve kept faithful to the show’s format, so seemingly impossible challenges, sweaty brows, innuendo and yes, tears, are all present and correct.
Not only did HuffPost UK get the chance to watch the first episode ahead of the new series kicking off next Tuesday (28th August), but we also got the chance to chat to judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.
Here are 17 things we learned at the 2018 ‘Bake Off’ press launch.
1. The move to Channel 4 hasn’t changed a thing behind the scenes
Although the show has changed channel, not much else has behind the scenes.
Show veteran Paul said: “It’s this bubble that you live in, the crew are fantastic, we pretty much kept huge amounts of the original crew from the very first series and everybody knows everybody, and that’s the beauty of ’Bake Off’, so we keep it quite tight within the surroundings of the tent and it was lovely.”
But it was when Paul first got on set with Prue that he knew nothing would change.
He said: “When we found Prue and as soon as we were in the tent it just felt normal, it felt right, as if nothing had ever happened nothing had ever changed, it was quite bizarre for me.
“Literally within a week, it was perfect.”
2. Prue has learned how to criticise
Prue had big shoes to fill when she took over from Mary Berry last year, and she admitting she barely knew anything about the show before she joined.
Luckily, in this season she’s become as confident and quick to criticise as Paul.
“I think that because I am more relaxed and a little bit more confident I think that I’ve been straighter. I’ve found it easier to just say, you know that’s not properly baked, to just be straight about it,” she said.
Although she does admit “there isn’t a lot of talent in eating food”.
3. No one will ever let Prue live *that* gaffe down
Last year, Prue infamously leaked the winner of ‘Bake Off’ hours before the final aired, having gotten confused by timezones when she was on holiday in Bhutan.
4. However, Prue loves the attention
“I’m such an egotist I love it,” she admitted without a hint of shame.
“I can’t tell you what it does for my street cred with my grandchildren when somebody stops me in the street, because you know, I’m the lady off ‘Bake Off’, and you can see the sort of six-year-old thinking, ‘She’s my nan!’”
5. Innuendoes are still the lifeblood of the show
It wouldn’t be ‘Bake Off’ if some innocent cake wasn’t made to be rude.
In the very first episode, one of the bakers mistakes a biscuit baked in the shape of a baby wrapped in a pink shawl as “something else”.
Even when explaining why innuendoes are part of the show, Prue couldn’t help herself: “We don’t cock them up, you know no one tries to, they just happen, don’t worry, you’ll get some.”
I think that counts as two in one sentence.
6. The stars have a secret WhatsApp group and they’re all the best of friends
Paul, Prue, Sandi, and Noel aren’t the most likely of pals, but in the space of two seasons, they’ve become firm friends - even communicating by in the world’s most exclusive WhatsApp group.
Prue admitted she didn’t know anything about social media (as she’s already proven) she said the WhatsApp group was “really friendly and we all like each other”.
She added: “Sandi is really funny and so is Noel and they’re just like they are on set, they can’t stop, so we do get along.”
7. There are tears on the first show
Without wanting to spoil too much for fans, on the very first challenge of the season, the pressure got too much for one of the bakers, who had to be comforted after he couldn’t finish his biscuits on time.
8. There’s going to be a vegan week AND a Danish week
The Vegan week and Danish week have been discussed for a while, but today we learned why they’d both been picked as themes.
Sandi, somewhat predictably, was the force behind Danish week, bringing her nation’s baking to the tent.
Keen to keep up with the times, Paul said the themed weeks were reflecting food fashion changes in society.
“I think veganism is fascinating,” he said.
“You can’t judge it and say ‘it’s okay for vegan’ it’s got to taste good, period. So, and that’s how we judged it and we were surprised.
“If you’re a vegan and you’re thinking about it and you’re just worried about how it’s going to change your life, watch it because it’s fascinating, it shocked me as well.”
9. The working days are long
Although we’re sure many celebrities would kill for a chance to work on ‘Bake Off’, it’s a tough job.
Paul said that a short day for them is 12 hours, with a long day being up to 14, especially at the start of the season when there’s still a lot of contestants.
Sometimes they’re too tired to even chat at the end of the day. Paul said: “We try and get together as much as we can but sometimes we’re shattered, it’s been a really late one we’re all just saying I’m going to get room service.”
10. Prue cooks her challenges the weekend before
To ensure that the all of the challenges the judges give the bakers are doable within the time limits, Prue often cooks her’s the weekend before to make sure, - sometimes she even bakes simply because she can’t help herself.
She explained: ″With a lot of these things it’s years since I baked them, but I just love them and it’s quite fun. I quite often bake things after the show because I love it, get a recipe off one of the bakers and go and bake it.”
The last bit proves to be true in the first episode of the season, when Prue is so impressed with new baker Briony’s unique method of making shortbread, she says she’s going to use it at home - much to Briony’s delight.
11. If Paul was a biscuit, he’d be a Ginger Nut
“Srispy and hard on the outside but actually some of the cookies I’ve had recently I’d be soft on the inside,” he laughed.
Prue was quick to agree: “That’s Paul he’s got a squishy middle.”
12. Noel’s hair and shirts are as outrageous as ever
Noel is carrying on on his tradition of wonderful wardrobe choices, with Paul hinting his hair changes multiple times throughout the season.
13. The blistering summer had an effect on the bakes
During filming the show - like the rest of us - was affected by the incredibly hot summer we’ve just had.
Paul said: “It was really got this year and it did affect a couple of them but not to the point where it destroyed them, but there was an effect.”
The heat had a clear impact in the first episode, with some bakers agonisingly waiting for their chocolate to set in a tent that was too warm.
14. Paul revealed his theory behind when he decides to give a Hollywood handshake
It’s what many bakers dream of, a handshake from Paul Hollywood, and although there isn’t one in the first episode, he did explain his rationale behind one - and the bar is high.
“I give a handshake when I think they deserve a handshake and it’s all down to the bake, the flavour, what they’ve created is it unique is it different. Is it perfect and is it professional,” he said.
“The aim is to get people to bake, and with the handshake, it’s just that I thought they deserved it and I just want to say well done.”
15. The challenges are being toned back this year to make them friendlier at home
Each year the challenges have gotten progressively harder, reaching the point where the general public was left bemused by bakes they’d never heard of.
The judges have taken that on board and decided to give the bakers more information, especially when doing the Technical Challenges, so they can prepare for the bakes better.
“I think last year with the Technical Challenges people were saying to me, ‘I couldn’t do that, I’ve never even heard of them’, which is fair enough, but we want the general public to actually bake, that is the point of it.”
However, this doesn’t mean the bakers will have an easier ride than previous years, and the judges agree that the Showstopper Challenge in the first episode is one of the hardest they’ve ever come up with.
16. Paul says Jaffa Cakes are biscuits
That’s all, the debate is finally over.
17. Finally, if you have a go at one of the Technicals and post it on Twitter, Paul will judge it
At the end of the day, the show is about getting the general public to bake and that is what motivates the judges.
Paul is so keen, in fact, he has said that if anyone bakes one of the Technical Challenges, tweet him and he’ll have a look.