As the finalists pressed on with their showstoppers, it became obvious that the pleasure was not so much in the “Will they get it done?” tension, since we’d already reached Peak Tension in the technical, so much as in the sheer drama of watching their creations unfold. All were gob-smackingly complicated; at one point both Nancy and Richard mentioned almost casually “I’ve still got to make a croquembouche”, which is a dessert in its own right formed from filled choux buns glued together with caramelised sugar and which would normally be considered sufficient challenge all on its own.
As the final minutes approached all of them were running in circles, even Nancy, who had made red lace sails for her windmill out of sugar (Red lace!! Out of sugar!!!) only to have one of them break off when she was freeing them from the paper. Undaunted, she melted sugar to glue it back on, blistering her fingers in the process, a sacrifice which proved well worth it as Mary Berry’s face when she discovered the sails actually turned was a joy to behold. Even Paul Hollywood was impressed, so much so that he refrained from cracking her brandysnap roof with his finger of doom and instead merely broke off a small piece from the corner.
Of the finished creations, Nancy’s was by far the most spectacular. Richard’s, despite being tasty, looked a little like a child’s birthday cake, and one of its nut brittle sails was drooping. This may, as Paul Hollywood pointed out, have been because a bit of moisture had got to it, or it may have been in anticipation of imminent defeat. And Luis’ (thank you Ali for pointing out that it is spelt Looeeth rather than Loowhee, although in fairness to myself it does seem to be pronounced Loowhee) Poynton mill wheel looked fabulous but had one layer which tasted a little dry, almost as fatal at this stage as a soggy bottom.
And so to the presentation, which, as is tradtional , took place in the presence of all the contestants and their families and friends. It was clear by this time that there could be only one winner, and Nancy duly lifted the engraved cake dish to general acclaim. Even Richard seemed delighted by the result, having produced a showstopper he could be proud of. And winner or no, he clearly has the celebrity baking world at his feet, as he has charm, personality and skills enough to be able to choose what he wants to do next.
But to be honest, happy as I am that it was Nancy, and well-deserved as her victory was, in the end it didn’t really matter who won. The point of Bake Off, in the final as elsewhere, is the taking part, which works for the audience as much as for anyone else. A princess cake is well beyond most people, but anyone can bake a scone, a biscuit or a bread roll, and have fun doing so.
A final montage before the credits showed us what the competitors are doing now, and Twitter was duly overwhelmed with joy to learn that Norman is writing his autobiography. Even Ian has made his peace with Bake Off, and apparently wants to run his own cafe, possibly to be called Dunbinning. The jokey gingham world of Bake Off may not be entirely real; it has its own stresses and strains and some of the story we are told is doubtless embellished if not actually made up. But that’s OK. Life has stresses and strains; what’s important are the stories we the ourselves about it. The Bake Off story is funny, challenging, diverse, entertaining and warm-hearted, and that seems like a pretty good story to me.