As with most people I know, I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with The Great British Baking Show, or The Great British Bake Off. To be honest, I’ve watched three seasons and I don’t know which is accurate. My local PBS calls it the former, so I’m going with it. Whatever, we’re Americans, we’re contrary by nature. Anyway, I binge watched four seasons (seasons 3-6) of this show, turning in for their delightfully polite ways and occasional garish pronunciations.
The best part of the show is unarguably the technical challenge, in which Paul and Mary decide to throw fast balls at the contestants for the lulz. They range from straight-forward to diabolical, but where do they rate on the nom scale? I present to you the definitive* ranking of the technical challenges:
36. Gluten-free pita bread — I can’t handle the British pronunciation of this bread. It’s PEE-tah, not pit-TAH. Stahp. It’s just the worst. Plus, no gluten. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
35. Egg custard tart — Custard tarts are actually quite tasty, but saying “egg custard tart” as many times as they did on the show, it conjures images of scrambled eggs. And not in the good quiche way. Plus, booooooring.
34. Chocolate teacakes — This is a Mallowmar. I like Mallowmars, and look forward to them every winter, but this is a goddamn Mallowmar. Don’t put on airs, Mallowmars.
33. Queen of puddings — No. Just, no. You take a perfectly respectable custard and then you ruin it by slathering jam and breadcrumbs on it. This is why you have a reputation in the culinary world, England.
32. Treacle tart — Personally, I love treacle, but this is a distinctly British dessert. Try breaking this out at a party, and see how many “Uh, that’s interesting” remarks you get.
31. Frosted walnut layer cake — Ugh, walnuts. This cake looks beautiful, but walnuts have just the worst flavor of the entire nut world. Maybe it would rank higher with pecans. Maybe.
30. Chocolate souffle — I’m biased because I don’t like chocolate, but this is not an exciting dessert. Yes, Juila Child, I know they’re difficult and the only thing you can’t fix but this is that dessert your boyfriend’s mom makes and everyone insists it’s amazing and you’re just wishing you could have some ice cream instead.
29. Tennis cake — I can’t believe this was even a thing. All kistch, no class. Sorry, Victorian times, your bakes sucked.
28. Flaounes — It has an ingredient that smells like Pine Sol and just looks weird. I think I’ll pass.
27. Baguettes — A good baguette is a good thing, and baguettes are important but as far as a challenge goes? Even more “meh” than ciabatta.
26. Cherry cake — This is such a cheery, charming cake, but it’s not that adventurous. This was literally an excercise in seeing if the contestants could read Mary’s mind.
25. Arlettes — This looks like a lot of work for a flattened croissant. No, thank you.
24. Tarte au citron — Lemon tarte. In theory, I should love this dessert, but it never looks or sounds appealing. Sorry, Mary.
23. Mini pear pies — I picture some weeb making these and calling them “kawaii pies” and that does this dessert NO favors. It’s not even a goddamn pie, I don’t care what Paul says.
22. Schichttorte — This is basically crepes that you cook under the broiler because you decided crepes needed to be more complicated. Interesting, but also kind of weird.
21. Ciabatta — I like a good ciabatta as much as the next person, and this looked like it required a lot of patience to make. But, meh, ciabatta.
20. Kouign-Amann — Sometimes puff pastry does, in fact, need more butter and sugar. But you’re not fooling anyone with a fancy name, Sweetened Puff Pastry.
19. Religieuses — The double decker couch of the pastry world. Except the couch is delicious, and arguably an OK idea.
18. Apricot couronne — Oh gawd it’s a circular version of panattone, aka my favorite holiday bread of all time. God bless you, Paul Hollywood.
17. Plaited loaf — Technically, this is just bread. But that presentation! It’s the fanciest loaf of plain bread I’ve ever beheld. It’s the princess of the bread world.
16. English muffins — Seemingly boring, but good English muffins (no, not those things you buy in the refrigerator section at the store) are just delightful with jam and butter.
15. Angel food cake with lemon curd — This is a bit of a controversial ranking, I admit it, but I love angel food and I respect any recipe that calls for a dozen goddamn eggs, and you don’t even use half of the egg. That’s ballsy. And yet, light as a feather.
14. Rum baba — “Cake saturated in hard liquor.” ‘Nuff said.
13. Politic — This is one of any number of variations on Eastern Europe’s fascination with bread or pastry rolled with nuts and I approve so hardcore. #teambaklava4life
12. Creme caramel — Look you crazy Brits, I know a flan when I see one, and this shit is flan. And flan is delicious. Flan might be my favorite dessert. This is win.
11. Hazelnut dacquoise — Nothing beats a good layer cake, and the name just feels so fancy to say aloud. “Is that a chocolate cake?” “No, you silly peasant, it’s a hazelnut dacquoise.”
10. Tuiles with chocolate mousse — As much as I dislike chocolate, I do love chocolate mousse. Coupled with wafer-thin, crispy vanilla cookies? Total win.
9. Charlotte royale — I love swiss roll, and I love patterened desserts. This looks like the dessert you hoped your eccentric aunt brought to every family function.
8. Mille-feuille — Puff pastry + custard is almost impossible to ruin, or dislike. Period.
7. Tiramisu cake — I’m an unabashed fan of tiramisu, and thinnly layered cakes, so this feels like my dream dessert. Plus, a generous helping of brandy helps all cakes.
6. Mokatines — OK, now we’re talking GOOD kitsch. Just when you thought petit fours were the cutest thing in the baking world, these things strutted out in their frosting star glory.
5. Spanische Windtorte — I love meringue, so I may be biased here, but I have never wanted to try something on this show so bad in my life. It looks like a meringue dream come true.
4. Florentines — HNGH. Florentines don’t get nearly the respect they should in the US. Chocolatey, biscuity goodness. The world needs more of them.
3. Floating islands — This is, legit, one of my favorite “fancy” desserts of all time. They’re timeless and look like a gift from the gods. Nom.
2. Fraiser cake — It’s no princess cake but LOOK at this thing! It looks like something out a doll house, and I want to eat it. Or just present it at a dinner party with a “Oh, this old thing?” look on my face.
1. Prinsesstårta — Jesus I don’t even know where to start with this. It’s like a Disney princess in baked form. It’s complicated AF and sounds like a dream. This is the technical challenge and dessert of ALL time.