Celebrity Best Home Cook 2021, Episode 6: His Little Matchstick Arm

Is Ed Balls brushing his teeth in the kitchen or is his shopping list in the bathroom?

It’s the quarter finals and what better way to test the Best Home Cook hopefuls than making a cake for Mary Berry and then surprising them with a tin chickpeas?

Let Them Eat Cake!

We are firmly in the Mary Berry Wheelhouse tonight as the 5 remaining cooks are instructed to create a 3 layered celebration cake that clearly depicts the event it is celebrating – and they are EXTREMELY picky about this last point and apparently the summer solstice does not count as a celebratory occasion – the pagan erasure is strong.
Everyone at least seemed slightly happier with this brief than they did the roast dinner, and I’m sure it’s mostly because they at least get a slice of cake at the end of it instead of a few slabs of cold meat by the time the filming is done.
Tom was particularly happy as he believes baking to be his happy place – we’ll need an update on that. He was creating a coffee cake in the hopes of celebrating his first post-corona coffee morning that he can have with his chums – it should not surprise you that he says “chums” instead of “friends”. I personally crave an invite to these parties due to the fact Tom’s party trick is apparently being able to hit a High C note and doing terrible Scottish accents, which is slightly better than Ed Balls sticking his face in a bowl of water and making pig noises

How does one discover this talent? And how much does Yvette Cooper hate him doing it?

In order to make his coffee cake themed enough Tom was planning to stack it and then shape it into a stack of espresso cups (bonus points to him for pronouncing espresso correctly not that there was ever a chance he wouldn’t). The final result of his decoration was a little more Dilbert does Zorro than it was espresso cups

He has slightly overcooked his cakes in too hot an oven leaving them more than a touch dry but given what else was happening the in kitchen they were just happy that he had stuck to the brief and made it obvious enough by just writing the theme out in icing

the one thing that perplexes me is the little symbol on top which I think might be intended to look like latte art but looks more like some sort of cult symbol from a video game

But while Tom was in his “happy place” Shobna was going through her own personal Hell as she has somehow managed to make it through 54 years without ever having to stack cakes, instead focusing her time on creating the densest cupcakes known to mankind on the unsuspecting cast of Coronation Street – it’s no wonder they eventually had to kill her off.
She was hoping to wow the judges with a Lemon Victoria Sponge Cake to celebrate the summer, when her birthday is she hurriedly adds when Chris made this face

Although the brief wasn’t quite what she should have been worrying about as somehow she managed to turn her batter into a consistency I genuinely didn’t know was humanly possible and was so wrong that Angela could genuinely spot it from the balcony across the room

Instead of, like any sane person, deciding to stop there and remake it she continued straight on and decided that the congealed butter lumps will melt in the oven, which they obviously did but left her cakes looking like some sort of porous rock

The only thing she could hope for at this point was that the judges would appreciate the taste and ignore the multitude of technical errors that were still piling up as she threw a couple of slices of lemon onto the cake and wrote “SUMMER” in a strangely sinister font

It’s very Midsommar.
and the whole thing ended up looking more like the world’s most generous stack of pancakes than it did a cake

and even more bemusing is that fact that her sponges seemed to have the texture of a ciabatta loaf

which in many ways takes some effort.
It’s a resounding damnation from the judges as every part of the cake’s existence is ripped to shreds like Mary Berry was Thanos-ing it out of existence.

Rachel had a similar approach to Shobna in that she was just making a Victoria Sponge and layering it with a selection of fruit including a rather unripe peach

and then calling it a Summer Celebration Cake suitable for any anniversary or birthday.
She was also obviously just using a 2 layer recipe and splitting it three ways because she barely had enough batter to cover the bottom of three standard tins

and she was promptly shamed into making an extra fourth one by Chris Bavin and producing what was shaping up to be an intimidating Dalek of a cake

She honestly could have justified this cake as a very specific 4th Year Anniversary Cake – the 4th anniversary being the fruit and flowers anniversary BUT SOMEONE DIDN’T DO THEIR RESEARCH.
For the last minutes of the round Rachel decided to put her rather precariously balancing cake into the fridge – cream and fresh fruit as it turns out are not that stable a foundation – and seemingly predicted her upcoming doom

because as she takes it out of the fridge to put on the counter the whole thing goes tits up and I wont lie I took a great deal of joy in creating this Gif

But can you imagine how much more of ~A MOMENT~ this would have been if we hadn’t seen this happening every episode in the opening titles like we were living through a Bake Off Groundhog Day. Fire the editors tbh.
It’s then up to Rachel to assemble the dearly departed sponge into a melancholic mound

The judges are very kind about it and praise her flavours and the fact it tasted like a cake while Mary insists that it could have been saved by piping “Happy Anniversary” next to it as though the fact she had dropped it wasn’t the main issue and the fact serving up a dropped cake on an anniversary might be a touch foreboding.

But if your marriage did come to an end over the pile of peaches and caramel that Rachel produced, Ferne was on hand with the perfect Celebratory Breakup Cake, which seemed delightfully pointed given recent events in her personal life. And just to really stick to the whole Splitsville theme she managed to split her batter

although nowhere near as badly as Shobna did and she managed to rectify it by gently folding in her flour.
She was eagerly looking forward to getting around to her decorations so that she could showcase the artistic accomplishment that was an A in A Level Art, so if you’re a parent and have any reservations about your child deciding to study art, look at what can be achieved

Big fan of the “Self Love” heart – “Self Care” might have been a better choice of phrasing.
The rest of her cake was decorated in all the post-breakup binge staples: Champagne, chocolate strawberries, an ice cream cone and the little bit of salted caramel popcorn that was left after Mary seemingly ate most of it

She could have at least gone the extra mile and piped on the number for the nearest, greasiest take-away she could find. But in true Essex style it was topped off with a spritz of glitter spray as Ferne breathlessly says “Glittah!” and truly, momentarily became A’Whora’s Essex persona

She loves superglue.
The judges admire her interpretation of the brief even though Mary believes that her buttercream icing is too sweet, which let’s face it is kind of the point of buttercream icing, what other function does it have other than being brain fryingly saccharine?

But if we thought that Ferne was going all out on her decoration Ed Balls is over in the corner being ever the overachiever and constructing an entire pirate ship fit for only the luckiest 5 year old. The judges were initially sceptical of his plans to make the cake by replacing the butter with double cream – and I have to say as someone who relishes the opportunity to make any sort of gargantuan cake it’s not a recipe I have ever come across but after the success he saw I’m eager to try.
In order to achieve the final pirate-y look he was going to decorate it with every single piece of confectionary the production team could get hold of, which is all of course in brand-less jars

A lot of the time that Ed spends baking this cake is done in complete silence as he is in such a deeply concentrating trance that I genuinely thought he might at some stage ascend to some higher form of being. And it was all very much worth it because the final cake is rather spectacular

Big fan the clearly very drunk pirate and his little matchstick arm.
I think we do have to beware of praising him as some sort of feminist hero for being a dad that makes cakes, that was Bake Off’s whole schtick in 2010, I think we’ve moved quite a bit passed that. But Ed getting choked up about receiving such high praise was very sweet

And I agree that his kids must have had wildly amazing birthdays.

An Arbitrary Celebration Cake Ranking

  1. The HMS Balls
  2. Breakup, Bye Bye by The Cake Destroyers
  3. Tom’s Espresso Dilbert
  4. Rachel’s Summery Heap
  5. Shobna’s Layer Cake Debut

It’s an obvious and inevitable clean sweep for the judges’ favourite for Ed Balls, I do kind of think at least 1 of them could have thrown Ferne a bone and chosen her cake and made it slightly less obvious that Ed Balls was going to win the whole damn show.

Insert Chickpea Pun Here

In order to make the Rustle Up Challenge that little bit harder Chris Bavin had decided to take out any non-vegetarian items and force them to use a can of chickpeas – as though a bog-standard chickpea curry isn’t Vegetarianism 101. Of course everyone launches immediately into making some variation of a curry, or if you’re Rachel Johnson it’s a ~Moroccan Stew~ or Tom Read Wilson and you insist that you’re about to try and make a loaf of bread out of nothing but chickpeas, almond flour and your own good naturedness

despite him patting it down into near submission the bread does come out of the oven looking like a fairly respectable load of bread, if a little bit Weetabix-y

that sadly instantly falls apart the moment he cuts into it and is forced to then repurpose it as a “toasted crumb” to top off the curry that he made in 20 minutes because he got waylaid making the bread

and it says a lot that the fried bread topping is what the judges like most about his chickpea offering because his poor curry tasted of absolutely nothing but several raw spices.

There was also a lot of pressure on Tom to be good at this round because he usually just eats vegetarian food – he never specified that it was *good* vegetarian food though.
While Tom was happy and floundering, Ferne was happy and truly thriving – her vegetarian mother had moved in with her at the beginning of lockdown so she had started cooking veggie food recently and chickpeas were a staple and she was really pushing herself, making a Middle Eastern Curry as well as a trio of hummus (what is the plural of Hummus? Hummi? Hummeses? Hummeese?) and then just to cap it off she was needlessly grilling aubergines

just to make sure she was using every single vegetable that Chris Bavin had forced inside that fridge at the expense of potentially overwhelming the chickpeas with her final spread

But the judges were won over by the enthusiasm she showed during the round and the fact her curry did have that depth and warmth that they were looking for.

The judges were also expecting similar results from Shobna for no other reason beyond the fact she lived in India for a bit *stares in problematicness* but Shobna was also pretty pleased with chickpeas being the ingredient and was making a chickpea masala – a favourite of her grandmother, except the larder had none of her desired spices so it was wasn’t at all her grandmother’s favourite chickpea masala.
In order to try and add an extra chickpea element for brownie points Shobna decided to try and make falafels and found herself in a sort of Fritter Off with Ed Balls – a game I fear that anyone except Balls is losing because while his fritters were perfectly formed and retained their shape in a shallow fry

Shobna’s falafels were dunked into the deep fat fryer and promptly melted like they were The Wicked Witch of the Middle East

Realising this is a vain effort but still wanting to show the deep fat fryer who is boss she promptly turns to making a sort of chickpea puri which works better and her food does look delicious

her curry is a hit but she just didn’t have the time to properly towel off her bread and left it unfortunately greasy.

Balls was serving a sort of Chilli Non-Carne alongside his chickpea fritters

and despite his reticence for the chickpeas he comes out on top with a perfectly cooked chilli but the star of the show are his little fritters.

And lastly we have Rachel who was attempting to make a stew purely out of roasted peppers and chickpeas without a stock in sight as though she learned nothing from Ed Balls serving up a bowl of peas in lightly simmered water and calling it a Pho

She had at least made a hummus and some sort of toasted chickpea couscous on the side but nothing could hide the fact her stew lacked any sort of kick to it which apparently surprised her greatly but I get the distinct feeling she thinks putting paprika in anything is really pushing the boat out.

An Arbitrary Chickpea Dish Ranking

  1. Ferne’s Chickpea Mezze
  2. Balls’s Fritters
  3. Not-Shobna’s-Grandmother’s-Favourite-Masala
  4. Rachel’s Lightly Spiced Chickpea Water and Sides
  5. Tom’s Chickpea Bread Disaster

Go On Now, Gyoza

The judges deliberate for a long time about whether or not Shobna or Rachel had done enough with the chickpeas to be forgiven their sins in the cake round – the obvious answer is NO which they eventually come to as Shobna, Rachel and Tom all find themselves in a challenge to make a trio of pan-Asian starters – 6 prawn gyozas, 6 sesame chicken skewers and 6 pieces of tempura broccoli. And because Angela is a masochist she has only given them 45 minutes to pull all of this off.

I must admit, this round went much better than expected given that it opened with none of them being able to recognise a bamboo steamer which was essential to cooking the gyozas.
Shobna was probably the most nervous as she had never cooked anything pan-Asian before (and we just saw what happened when she had never stacked a cake before) but luckily for her and the other two the pastry for the gyozas had been pre-made and pre-cut meaning the only real point of contention was trying to seal it correctly which I think all of them struggled with and couldn’t quite get the right pinch-crimp done

but Shobna just got too flustered and focused on finishing as soon as possible that she forgot to put the coriander into the prawn filling and because everyone’s were of such similar quality it really did come down to something as petty as that and Shobna was the one that found herself given the boot

and so 4 celebrity home cooks remain

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