Are you up to the challenge of the Bake Off tent?

Thinking of applying for the Great British Bake Off? Read our list of attributes and skills you´ll want on your side...

17 Sep 2013


It's easy to guffaw into your HobNobs from the sofa when a contestant is lambasted for having a soggy bottom on the Great British Bake Off.

We've all sat there and mumbled through a mouthful of rolled oats 'I could do better than that' as the steely Paul Hollywood taps pastry and shakes his head and Mary Berry frowns like you've just taken the jam out of her doughnut.

As the contestants wince, squirm and promise to improve it's pretty funny. But could you really do any better if it was you stood there rather than them?  

The Bake Off tent may look like a twee, bunting-draped midsummer dream, but peel back the layers of floral prints and smutty innuendo and you'll find a sweaty, stressed-up saga of soggy bottoms and shattered dreams. As well as baking skills it takes some serious balls to prosper amid the bunting - here are a few qualities that could bring you success.

1) Don't be a one-trick pony

Your friends and family may say you make 'seriously, the best chocolate cake I have EVER tasted'. And they may be right. But if that's all you can do the Bake Off is no place for you. Bakers are tested across a range of categories as stretchy and vast as some of the filo sheets stretched out earlier this series. From bread and buns to pies and profiteroles via tarts, towering cakes and tiny, tricky meringues, you need to be more adaptable than a Swiss Army Knife.

2) Know a soggy bottom from a dry one

Bake Off - Flour And Eggs

Everyone's talking about soggy bottoms these days. It sounds smutty and a bit wrong, so we've taken it to our hearts, giggling like schoolgirls whenever it's mentioned cheekily by Mel and Sue (they managed it 11 times in one recent episode). However, behind all the innuendo it's a serious business. A soggy bottom is shorthand for pastry that is wet and raw. It occurs if it hasn't been cooked long enough, or if too much liquid escapes from fruit in your pie. Contestants pulling this from the oven put themselves on Paul and Mary's dreaded hit-list. If you don't know what a soggy bottom is - and more importantly how to avoid it - perhaps it's time you learned?

3) A cool head among hot ovens

Bake Off - Kitchen Stress

You may be able to knock out cakes that have Mary Berry herself throwing you a jealous look off camera, but if you can't work under the pressure it doesn't mean nish. The saying goes, if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen, and with all those ovens on full blast the Bake Off tent is pretty damn hot. We've all had a good laugh when a sweating, red-faced contestant drops a whole tray of tarts on the floor, or accidentally uses custard that isn't theirs. And rightly so, it's funny. However, would you be any different amid the timers, cameras, and Paul Hollywood's judgmental gaze?  

4) Be able to take it on the chin

Paul Hollywood may be all smiles, smart shirts and a soft Merseyside accent, but alongside Mary Berry he tells it like it is. If the good cop/bad cop pairing of BBC 2 like your cake, they tell you so, if they don't, prepare to wince. From uncooked pastry and runny custard, to catastrophic crème caramel and mix-ups between sugar and salt, they'll tell you when you're wrong. If constructive criticism makes you whine like an injured puppy you probably need to watch a few Rocky films and bust a few squats before stepping into the Bake Off ring.

5) Know your tech

Kitchen Aid Mixer

The Bake Off may be helping us reconnect with a bygone age where we baked rather than bought cakes from the supermarket. But despite this nostalgia-fest home baking these days is given a serious helping hand from technology. Instead of endlessly working our fingers through bowls of marge and dough en route to kitchen martyrdom, we have gadgets to beat, whisk and mix for us. The KitchenAid Artisan mixer is as big a star of the Bake Off as Paul and Mary, and before applying for the show you really should make sure you know how to take one for a spin. The contestants are already sweaty, red-faced and in a complete spin with the mixer fired up, imagine the state they'd be in if it went on strike?

Catch The Great British Bake Off on Tuesdays, 8pm on BBC2.

Do you think you're ready to step into the Bake Off ring? Let us know what you would bake in the comments below…