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The Great British Bake Off Serves Up (Ahem) Victorian-Era Meals

Tennis cakes! Game pies! Why, you'll feel like Charles Dickens at a dining hall!

The bakers have to make food from the Victorian era in this episode, but they get to cheat a little by using modern appliances and not dying before the age of thirty-five. One thing we hear straightaway is that Victorian baking involves a lot of gelatin, which reminds me of everyone hating aspic in Julie & Julia. Mat and Nadiya are nervous about the whole affair, but Ian is beside himself. Apparently, he's always wanted to bake some of these old things, because of course he has.

First up is a "game pie," which middle-class Victorians served to prove they could afford meat. The technical is a tennis cake, which is a dessert from the 1890s that Mary Berry wants us all to know about. It's a fruit cake topped with royal icing, so called because Queen Victoria used it on her wedding cake. (Vicky was the ultimate trendsetter.) The icing has to look like a tennis court, by the way. This is what happens to a society without television.

Finally, the showstopper calls for a Charlotte Russe -- a dessert made with ladyfingers, jelly, and Bavarian cream. It sounds tasty, and it used to be a big deal in New York City. But who's a big deal in the tent? Let's find out!

  1. Mat

    Oh, Mat. So ends our love affair. But at least I've got Tamal. (I go through 'em like tissues, y'all.) Anyway, Mat was Star Baker last time, but these challenges overwhelm him. At least his game pie was prepared in an antique tin.

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    The problems begin with the sugar paste in his tennis cake, which is supposed to create the lawn of the tennis court. It's the wrong texture and way too green. This crime-scene image says it all.

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    From there, Mat puts his royal icing in the oven, when it's actually supposed to set in the fridge. Plus, the middle is raw. No wonder he gets last in the technical. The final blow is his Charlotte Russe, with ladyfingers that don't entirely cover the creamy/jelly center. It looks a hot mess and seals Mat's departure. But I'll never forget our time together, beautiful and pure.

  2. Prison Paul

    Paul's pie includes four types of game: venison, pheasant, pigeon, and boar. So I guess it's the Victorian version of a Meatlovers. He disappoints the judges, though, by saying that his pie will not be ornately decorated in the historically accurate style. C'mon, dude! You can't impress your neighbors unless you prove you can afford to hire a fancy cook to put swans and shit on a pie crust! Worse, though, is the dryness of Paul's meat.

    Paul rebounds with a second-place showing in the technical, and in the showstopper he shows a remarkable flair for carving fruit.

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    Fruit ain't the challenge, though. The Russe itself is watery, with jelly that isn't properly set.

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    It IS pretty as it drips off the plate, at least.

  3. Flora

    Well, well, well! When she was just a wee girl, Flora won the title of Highland Chef by successfully cooking pheasant at her school. That gave her the nickname Bird Girl, and a distinct advantage in the signature, where she naturally pops a pheasant into her pie. Unfortunately, she pops in too much, which leaves her pie -- though decent -- a bit overstuffed. Her Charlotte Russe is also a near-miss, marred by a pomegranate-raspberry jelly that Paul totally hates, calling it too sharp for the otherwise subtle flavors. This seems to be Flora's lot this season: always close, but never quite there.

  4. Nadiya

    Nadiya says she has no idea what a tennis court looks like, despite having played the game before. ("I didn't look at the lines!," she says, suggesting she is not destined to challenge Serena at Wimbeldon.) Still, she delivers a beautiful tennis cake...

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    ... that gets her first in the technical. Her Russe also gets effusive praise, particularly for its light and refreshing cream.

  5. Ian

    OH MY GOD. Ian makes a "roadkill pie" because he likes to scoop roadkill OFF THE ROAD and cook it. Everything I've imagined about his quaint home has now been tainted. What kind of sickness is unfurling in his cottage? And don't come at me with your stories about how the meat is perfectly good. Nasty is nasty. I WILL concede, though, that this horrible idea -- including a side of pork-bone gelatin -- is disguised to seem really cute.

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    Nevertheless: shudder. Ian then gets fifth in the technical, which has got to be karma. He really nails the showstopper, however, with a beautifully decorated Charlotte Russe. He even has a special cutter to ensure sure that his ladyfingers are all the same size!

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    I'd call that art, and I'm sure Charlotte would agree.

  6. Tamal

    Tamal gets creative with a game pie that uses Middle Eastern flavors, including a spice blend that Mary is delighted to encounter for the first time. To me, though, the most impressive elements are the pastry roses. Look how delicate they seem!

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    And it looks good as hell on the inside, too. Unless you're a vegan, I guess...

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    Paul agrees, giving Tamal his elusive handshake. Ooooooh! Naturally, Tamal handles this with self-effacing grace.

    In the showstopper, Tamal goes the extra mile, decorating his ladyfingers with chocolate piping and adding a bonus layer of raspberry-ginger jelly at the bottom. This is innovative, since one typically uses ladyfingers at the bottom to help the cream hold its shape. This all works out, and Tamal rightfully takes Star Baker./li>

MVP: Queen Victoria.

LVP: My stomach, due to the idea of eating a roadkill pie.

Feed Me This Now: Nadiya's Charlotte Russe.

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Mouthwatering!

Mel and Sue, Cracking Wise: Making a tennis joke during the technical, Mel says, "Bakers, it's 30-all. Thirty minutes are..all...that you have." Oh, Mel. You're a caution!

Mind Games With Paul Hollywood: When Flora says she'll be putting pomegranates in her Charlotte Russe, Paul's response is, "What possessed you to use pomegranate?" GULP!

Mary Berry's Guide to Style: Is it a sensible jacket or a throwback to 90s hip-hop?

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For Mary Berry, it's both!

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