Patisseries make for a towering Great British Baking Show semi-final

Great British Baking Show Semi-Final

Cakes, sideless tarts, and a marathon showstopper push the bakers as the finale looms.

It’s time for The Great British Baking Show semi-final! It’s also patisserie week, and the bakers will face layered cakes, a tarty technical, and their longest showstopper challenge yet. It’s one the toughest competitions in The Great British Baking Show history: all four bakers have received a handshake and at least one-star baker title. Which bakers will make it through to the finale next week? And which baker will be sent home? The drama will be grand.

The semi-final signature challenge is to create eight patisserie layered sliced cakes. Like always, Paul and Prue are looking for at least three layers in the cakes. They’re also looking for uniformity amongst the slices. They want to see professional-level techniques in addition to fantastic flavors. Think elegant, little cakes one might get on a night at the opera.

Most of the bakers seem shocked and a bit overwhelmed to have made it to The Great British Baking Show semi-final, never mind the challenges of patisserie week. Crystelle’s worried, as patisserie isn’t her forte. Giuseppe keeps mentioning how he had to go out and buy new clothes because he didn’t expect to make it this far in the competition (side question – does the show not have a laundry?). Chigs, perhaps the most amateur of all the bakers, is shocked he’s still in the running. The only calm one of the bunch is Jürgen, who knows his way around patisserie.

Great British Baking Show Semi-Final

They crack on with the challenge. Crystelle is going above and beyond with nine-layer cakes made with yuzu, coconut, and black sesame. Giuseppe, in an ode to his home country, is creating tiramisu patisserie. Chigs goes for classic flavors with his raspberry and chocolate slices. Bringing in the drama is Jürgen who’s making a “Murder at the Opera” beetroot buttercream with cassis opera-style cakes. Indeed, Jürgen even compares his bakes to operas, —they both have layers. Jürgen also mentions his favorite opera is Wozzcek (a dark, gritty opera based on George Büchner’s play that features some murder and psychologically unstable characters)—he has layers himself.

It’s signature judgment time. Chigs’ slices have nice, sharp lines. Paul likes the joconde sponge and chocolate/raspberry flavorings, leading to a Paul Hollywood handshake! Next is Jürgen—Prue thinks his murderous cakes are sensational, but Paul deals a sharp blow with a comment that he likes them but doesn’t love them. Paul and Prue move on to Crystelle, who gets a handshake for her yuzu and sesame nine-layered treats. Prue adds that her bakes are “A little bit of genius.” The last baker to receive judgment is Giuseppe. His tiramisu patisserie looks elegant. With one bite, Paul holds out his hand for Giuseppe. He loves the soaked joconde and the stewed sultanas. Overall, Giuseppe’s patisserie is a hit.

Which bakers will make it through to the finale next week? And which baker will be sent home? The drama will be grand.

That’s right folks—three handshakes in the signature challenge! Crystelle is shocked, Giuseppe is surprised, and Chigs seems suspicious, with Paul giving out handshakes willy-nilly. Jürgen knows the judges were divided on his signature, so he’ll have to have successful technical and showstoppers if he wants to remain on the show.

The next challenge is the technical, set by Prue: the bakers have 2 hours 45 minutes to complete a Sablé Breton tart. It’s a classic patisserie tart with a sablé Breton base (think shortbread biscuit) with a pistachio crème mousseline, topping with glazed strawberries, raspberries, gold-flaked meringue kisses, and chocolate decorations. The trickiest part for the bakers comes with the realization that the tart shouldn’t have sides, but they have to bake it in a pop-out cake tin. Cooling and topping their bases might also be tricky.

Great British Baking Show Semi-Final

Chigs, Crystelle, and Giuseppe mix their dough using their standing mixers. Jürgen mixes by hand because he can be gentler than the machine. Chigs seems overwhelmed, having no idea what anything is in the tart other than the fruit and pistachios. Noel prays to the chocolate gods to help Giuseppe pull off his thin layered chocolate decorations.

The bakers are mixed as to sides or no sides on the tart. Chigs, on a whim, goes sideless. Jürgen, who is familiar with the Sablé Breton tart, also goes sideless. Giuseppe goes with some big sides, leaving a lot of dough up the entire side of the pan. Crystelle opts for a base similar to traditional tarts, adding a bit of a side to her Sablé Breton tart.

Most of the bakers seem shocked and a bit overwhelmed to have made it to The Great British Baking Show semi-final, never mind the challenges of patisserie week.

It’s time for blind judging, with Prue commenting that all four tarts look very different. Chigs is ranked last, as his mousseline didn’t set, and thus dripped all over the tart. Crystelle is ranked third, as her biscuit base was too dense. Giuseppe comes in second place, as his base was a bit thin (perhaps due to the sides), but still had a good flavor. Jürgen is ranked first, as his base may have been thin, it was closer to a traditional Sablé Breton tart. Jürgen may not have had any handshakes, but his ranking in the technical could help carry him through to the end.

It’s time for The Great British Baking Show‘s semi-final showstopper of the season: the bakers have five hours to create a 12 entremet Banquet display.  It’s the longest showstopper the show has ever featured. Paul even comments on the difficulty of the challenge. Perhaps none are more challenged than Chigs, who “didn’t even know what a flipping entremet was.” Same, Chigs! It is revealed that an entremet is a delicate layered dessert. Think mousse and jelly-covered treats atop a biscuit base.

Great British Baking Show Semi-Final

Giuseppe’s creating a Leaning Tower of Pisa inspired dessert with chocolate, cherry, and pine nut bavarois. Jürgen’s going international, creating a Torii gate-inspired dessert, with entremet boats flavored with raspberry and matcha cream. Crystelle’s tropical entremets are inspired by her sister’s pending nuptials, postponed due to the pandemic. Chigs also goes personal, crafting an apple tree showstopper, based on one from his childhood, complete with caramelized apple entremets.

It’s showstopper judgment time. Jürgen is up first with his fleet of entremet boats. Paul loves the gate, but the color on the boats doesn’t draw you in. Giuseppe’s is second up for judging. His display of the leaning tower is impressive, and his bavarois is delicious, but there’s not enough pine nut flavor coming through. Next up is Chigs: his tree looks impressive, but his apples look a bit purple. Paul thinks it’s exceptional in flavors. Crystelle is last to the table. The judges think her colors are stunning. Paul says it’s flawless, even giving her a round of applause.


The judges have their work cut out for them, as in Paul’s words they’re “Picking the worst of the best.” They ultimately award star baker to Crystelle. She’s gobsmacked, amazed to be awarded the title in the Great British Baking Show semi-final. Sadly, the departing baker is Jürgen. It appears to have come down to the showstoppers, and his boats were lackluster compared to the rest. Jürgen’s sad to go, but says it’s been an incredible experience, and that he’ll be with the remaining bakers “in spirit.” Phantom of the Bake-off tent? They’re all sad to see him leave, but look to next week’s finale, where one will be crowned the winner. Giuseppe’s scared sockless, Crystelle is shell-shocked, and Chigs is “cacking it.”

Predictions and Other Thoughts:

  • I can’t say I’m shocked that Jürgen left this week, as his boat display did seem underwhelming compared to the rest of the group. I also wonder how much television personality goes into deciding the winner. I think they’re looking for the next Nadiya, former The Great British Baking Show winner and current host to other successful Netflix shows. While I loved Jürgen and his quirks, I don’t think he would have had a post-bake-off career as a cooking show host. I think if you factor in potential opportunities post-show with baking talent, I predict Chigs is going to be crowned the winner.
  • Cringe level of cold open: Noel can pull off Bowie, Matt was ok as Freddie Mercury, and I guess Paul Hollywood is an actor now, as he kicks in as Elvis. Hollywood didn’t try Elvis’s twangy accent, opting to keep his own accent. What do dead singers have to do with GBBS? Apparently, they’re the spirits that knock cakes over in the tent. I’m rating it an 8, as it was saved from complete cringe by Prue coming in to tell them all to stop messing about.
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CategoriesRecap TV
Ashley Lara

Ashley is a writer, producer, and avid karaoke fan living in New York City. She co-produces/co-hosts She Makes Me Laugh, a monthly female and non-binary comedy show. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @smashley_lara.

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