A ratings winner with the BBC, ‘The Great British Bake off’ is now breaking viewing records over on Channel 4. But this culinary contest is far more than just a television programme. Somehow, a humble show about baking has managed to worm its way into the national psyche. So let’s dig a little deeper into this unlikely love affair, and explore the many ways in which ‘The Great British Bake Off’ has impacted our lives, and even changed the face of the UK food industry.
So ingrained is ‘The Bake Off’ in the national consciousness, that when news broke of an impending move to Channel 4 in 2016 it sparked mass hysteria. Behind the scenes, the Beeb were scrambling to save their flagship show; deals were being made, alliances forged and broken. But to no avail. The show was lost and the whole filthy saga played out in the national press like an Eastenders plotline. But if anyone thought a change of presenters and a slight tweak to the judging panel would quell the nation’s appetite for ‘soggy bottoms’ and ‘signature bakes’, they were sorely mistaken. ‘The Great British Bake Off’ rose like a show-stopping soufflé from the ashes of controversy, and went right on doing what it’s always done – delighting the masses.
The Bake Off Effect
The so-called ‘Bake Off’ effect has had a major impact on the nation’s attitude to cakes and pastries, with sales of baked goods at an all-time high, and new dedicated bakeries and dessert bars springing up from Bolton to Bristol. And the popularity of the show has seen a huge resurgence in home baking too, with the show’s plucky contestants inspiring a whole new generation of bakers. Studies show that during GBBO’s final run on the BBC in 2016, the number of households shopping in their supermarket’s home baking aisle jumped by a whopping 10 percent. And the show seems to have bridged the gender gap too, with more men than ever reaching for the mixing bowl. At the core of the show is the Brits’ love of food – more specifically a love of sweets and pastries – and this appeal seems to span the generations, with Bake Off’s latest incarnation on Channel 4 proving the biggest TV draw for 16 to 34-year-olds on any channel last year – a massive 54 per cent share of that particular market.
It’s not hard to see why ‘The Great British Bake Off’ has proved such a hit with the UK public. The show seems to tap into a quintessential Britishness, to hark back to a simpler, more innocent time. The set looks more like a village fete than a cookery show, with the billowy marquee in the heart of the British countryside, and the preoccupation with folding and frosting serving as a welcome antidote to the hurly-burly of modern life.
And with the UK baking industry now worth a staggering £3.6 billion, and copycat shows popping up all the time, Britain’s obsession with cakes and pastries, on screen and off, shows no signs of abating.