The Spool / Recap
The Great British Baking Show is back, and it’s all but claggy with Cake Week!
The popular Netflix series returns, welcoming a crew of at-home bakers to its iconic tent.
Read also: the best live TV streaming services with free trial>

The popular Netflix series returns, welcoming a crew of at-home bakers to its iconic tent.

The scrolling text amongst a starlight sky. The fanciful sci-fi costumes. Don’t let your eyes deceive you at the cold open. It’s clearly a Star Wars rip-off, but you’re not watching some new Disney+ series. Instead, it’s the pun-laden opening of Netflix’s series 10 of The Great British Baking Show! 

Why were Noel, Matt, Prue, and Paul dressed in cheap knock-off costumes of the sci-fi hit in the eye-rolling inducing opening? Is it a cringe hint that we’re in for an epic season? Despite those complicated feelings, one thing is unquestionable. There’s no better way to start an epic journey than with Cake Week! We’ve got the lowdown on the baking heroes (Sandro, I’m looking at you), villains (Paul and Prue – they reach their limit with boozy cakes?!), and quirky sidekicks (Noel and Matt, the hosts with some questionable hijinks).  

Great British Baking Show S10E1 Cake The bakers
Welcome to hell, bakers! (Netflix)

The twelve bakers file into the tent and start the first technical challenge of the season: 12 identical mini sandwich cakes. Judges Paul and Prue are looking for perfection in appearance and taste. The bakers have two hours to bake and construct their cakes. As the challenge progresses, we learn about the bakers, as they’re bringing their personalities to their bakes.

There are some fun bakers right off the bat, like Abdul, the Londoner who spends his time lindy hopping with his girlfriend (is lindy hopping coming back into trends?), to Carole, a neon purple/pink-haired cashier from Dorset (we love a baker with colorful flare!). However, the baker that really catches eyes (or at least this recapper’s eyes) is Sandro, the fit baker (he works out twice a day – once for weights, once for cardio) who also works as a nanny. He gives off Young Rock vibes with a tight-fitting mock turtleneck and gold chains. A ripped nanny who bakes by day and fights villains by night should be a movie starring The Rock by now.  

The only baker that stumbles a bit in this challenge is Will, the charity director from London. He attempts to create an Italian meringue for his sandwich cookies, but the meringue splits repeatedly. He manages to get buttercream on his cakes in time, but it seems a bit foreshadowing of Will’s future. We’ve all seen this kind of overambitious baker before. They go all out with a complex technique and forget to nail the basics first. He also failed to set a timer for his cakes. He catches it in time, but it’s yet another example that being in the tent requires sharp focus, and if you’re juggling many cakes and a tricky meringue, you may have bitten off more than you can chew. 

Great British Baking Show S10E1 Cake Noel and Matt
You heard Noel and Matt. Step away! (Netflix)

After the judges make their rounds, it looks like bakers Sandro, Abdul, and Janusz are coming out strong in the tent. Sandro’s chocolate and red wine ganache “flower pots” are clever with flavor and decor. Abdul’s created very fun garden cactus cakes. And Janusz, a Polish-born, current Brighton resident, created lovely and neat as a pin cakes that hit the marks on the perfect ratio of booze to cake. On the other hand, bakers Will, Rebs (an Irish baker whose cakes were a bit too strong in coffee flavor), and Maisam (the youngest baker at 18 whose cakes were too sloppy) are all in precarious positions in the tent. 

The next challenge for the bakers is the technical, set by Paul: the classic Red Velvet cake. It’s known to be a quintessentially American classic (perhaps a nod to the passionate American fans of the show). The bakers must create six identical sponges sandwiched in-between smooth, fluffy cream cheese icing, all decorated with a sprinkling of red velvet crumbs (as an American, I can say I’ve never done this when I’ve baked red velvet) and piped with cream cheese icing rosettes. They have two hours, so it will be a mad rush to bake their sponges with enough cooling time, as they’ve got to create some thick layers to ensure their cakes don’t lean and melt from the heat.  

There’s no better way to start an epic journey than with Cake Week!

Overall, the bakers fare well with the red velvet cake. It’s far from the brownie debacle from 2020 when nearly all the bakers failed to bake a basic brownie. The biggest variance amongst the bakes is the size – it may come down to the thick layers of sponge and icing. Paul and Prue return, and the rankings of the bakers are as follows: James (12), Rebs (11), Maxy (10), Will (9), Carole (8), Janusz (7), Abdul (6), Maisam (5), Kevin (4), Dawn (3), Sandro (2), and Syabira (1).  

This baking challenge was relatively drama-free, so the rankings don’t necessarily make or break the middle-ranked bakers. However, Will remains in trouble, ranking low once again. And well done for Syabira, the Malaysian-born London resident, whose personal experience with Red Velvet (the last cake she baked for her friends before moving to the UK) may have helped her win the challenge. 

Great British Baking Show S10E1 Cake Carole
I know what you’re thinking here. Grow up. Appreciate Carole’s skill. (Netflix)

It’s day two in the tent, and it’s time for the showstopper. The bakers now face creating a 3-D model of their home in 4 hours. Or technically, rather a home that has personal meaning for them. There’s a fun mix of stereotypical British cottages and homes, like Dawn’s pebbledash house and Carole’s bungalow, and more industrial flats, like Will’s multi-level building (Noel even recognizes as a building in his neighborhood), and Janusz’s mother’s flat in Poland.  

There are some close brushes with drama, as Abdul lost 40 minutes of baking time when he realized too late that he hadn’t turned on his oven. Rebs recognizes some of her sponges are underbaked, but she’s able to cut out bits from a different sponge and insert them into her layers (a clever hack – bakers keep this in your pocket for future use!). Will again sets out with an ambitious layer structure featuring ginger, chocolate, and orange cakes and seems to be struggling under the pressure of it all.  

I predict Sandro, Syabira, and Janusz for the final three.

It’s final judgment time! The bakers that come out on top in the showstopper are Dawn (they loved the pebbledash structure), Rebs (she may have had issues with her sponges, but her clever coconut “rum rain” atop her pina-colada flavor home is a hit), and Janusz (lovely colors and flavors inside his industrial flat structure). Sandro loses points for having too much booze in his cake – even Prue thinks it’s too boozy. To that I say, is there really such a thing?! He’ll probably be safe as he was a strong contender in previous challenges. Maisam also seems a bit low in standing, as her Libyan home-inspired cake had good flavors, but the decor was a bit too simple for a showstopper. James gets a dreaded “claggy” cake comment from Paul. And Will again is low in the rankings, thanks to his overbaked sponges.  

Paul and Prue deliberate and return to the tent to announce Star Baker. Janusz wins the title this week – he may have ranked in the middle for the technical, but his showstopper won over the judges on flavor and decoration. He seems surprised, and I have to say I was as well, as I thought perhaps Sandro or Syabira would have won, as both had solid bakes and were top-ranked in the technical. But as everyone had a somewhat solid red velvet cake, I think the Star Baker title must have come down to the showstopper, and Janusz won over Paul and Prue. Sadly but not surprisingly, Will is the departing baker this week. He is disappointed but wishes all the bakers well. He even gets a farewell handshake from Paul. 

Great British Baking Show S10E1 Cake Paul Prue Noel and Matt
Paul, Prue, Noel, and Matt judge. (Netflix)

Predictions and Other Thoughts

Well done, Janusz, on earning Star Baker! I predict next week’s Star Baker will be Sandro. He’s a solid baker, and I think he’s got the long game to pull out a win.  

Thinking on the bakers I think can go the distance, I predict Sandro, Syabira, and Janusz for the final three. They remind me of past bakers. Sandro’s got structure, much like last season’s winner, Giuseppe. Syabira has colorful bakes reminiscent of Kim-Joy from 2018. Finally, Janusz has a fun, bubbly personality with consistent bakes, similar to Crystelle from last season.  

I also think the next person to go might be James. His signature lacked definition, he placed last in the technical, and his showstopper was claggy. Maisam and Rebs also seem in danger of leaving the tent. I think they’re safe now though. 

Matt and Noel seem more comfortable in the tent. Still, I was a bit worried when Matt asked about Swedish-born and current Londoner Maxy’s lack of Swedish accent. She comments she’s been living in the UK for many years now, hence her English accent. Then he cracks a bad joke that he’s “semi-bilingual” as he can only speak English. It falls flat with Maxy, who is way too busy baking to care about some hack joke. Just leave Maxy alone and let her bake in peace without awkward comments reflecting her “outsiderness!”