Bake Off 2022, Mexican Week: Ancient Mesoamerican Plumbing

I just liked the outfit.

Sorry to Mexico, only.

Pan! In The Dulce

Moving INCREDIBLY swiftly on from the ~comedic~ sombrero adorned opening skit, Rebs and Abdul are back in the tent for Mexican Week of which the Signature Challenge is to make 12 Pan Dulce – a collective term for a variety of Mexican sweetbreads, with the most popular variety in the tent being Conchas. As Concha literally translates to Shell, a name derived from the seashell-like pattern made by the craquelin topping, James was topping his coffee and chocolate conchas with tiny little sugar oysters which looked really cute

and Paul naturally wasted no time in ripping them off like a 5 year old boy ripping the head off a Barbie to spite his sister

sadly for James it was a little bit of a case of style over substance with the chocolate and coffee flavours not really coming through, but his conchas did have a surprising amount of height given that they kept stressing the topping had to be “wafer thin” and James looked like he was about to tarmac a motorway

Rebs wasn’t quite so lucky with her Lemon Conchas which didn’t get much height after being weighed down by her topping, however I really don’t think they looked as bad as everyone was making out

given some of the other aesthetic horrors that have been rendered on this show these are entirely inoffensive but Paul was being a little bit insufferable this episode because he had just come back from Mexico and like the guy you knew in sixth form who had his whole life philosophy changed when he went to Thailand for a month and now only wears hemp clothing, he was going to mention it at any opportunity

but it wasn’t all lost for Rebs because her conchas had a strong lemon flavour and the bread was very well made, it as just a case of going a little too heavy on the craquelin.
Maxy was also going for citrus flavoured conchas, hers being orange-flavoured and called “Bella Naranja” who I believe I went to university with

that’s a very aesthetically pleasing display which is always going to earn you a few extra bonus points, not that she needed them given that the judges were thoroughly impressed with her conchas and praised her for having a good sense for what flavours go together. Although I wouldn’t say pairing orange, cinnamon and vanilla was revolutionary.

Fresh off his second Star Baker win, Janusz was going for another impressively decorated bake with his Lime and Coconut Conchas being decorated to look like cacti, which he tried to play cool and as though he wasn’t extremely excited about doing it

and they came out really, really beautifully, if perhaps veering into looking like Bowser territory

but a bit like James, his flavours not quite coming through and his decision to use plain flour for a cakier texture, that he prefered, didn’t go down very well with Paul Hollywood and his newly forged spiritual link to Mexico.

Syabira was also going with highly themed Conchas and was dedicating this entire episode to her one woman crusade for corn to be shown more respect, filling her conchas with a Corn and Coconut Custard and decorating them to look like freshly picked ears of corn

there’s not a lot she can’t do, so if anyone’s going to convert the world to being pro-sweetcorn, it’s probably her – her boyfriend having already been converted by being force-fed corn like a foie gras goose in the name of trying to find the best quality corn for the job.
They got a little bit of a mixed reception with the judges liking her flavours but falling slightly short on the technical side with the filling and the craquelin topping working against the bread a little bit.

Dawn was also using her conchas to celebrate some of Mexico’s most prevalent ingredients and flavours with her conchas being the obligatory Chilli and Chocolate flavoured conchas. I was genuinely shocked only one person went this route, 7 years ago the only thing Paul and Prue would have eaten this challenge would have been Chocolate and Chilli conchas and they’d have had to delay he Technical Challenge while Paul’s delicate digestive system recovered from it.
Like Syabira, Dawn was filling her conchas and in wanting to avoid the dreaded “we can’t find the filling” critique, had somewhat overfilled them, leading to some leakages in her chilli-decorated conchas

but while they were a little messy and overbaked, they did get the hit of chilli that she had promised, which makes a change to 90% of the other chocolate and chilli baked goods you see around the place.

The last of the conchas was from Sandro, who wasn’t going with any decorative shenanigans for his Caramel Mocha conchas, but had topped them with some hazelnut brittle because a few of them came out of the oven with the aggressive middle parting of Count Duckula

they were a little under-proofed, a critique almost half the tent got because 2 and a half hours to make sweetbreads that require a double proofing is madness, but Sandro’s flavours managed to really sing.

Carole, Abdul and Kevin were all bringing unique bakes to the tent, although quite what Carole had actually made is still a little bit up in the air because Spanish meets the Somerset accent and the two fight like a pair of stray cats but they tasted like orange and star anise and looked like Chelsea Buns if you had baked Chelsea Buns having only had someone describe Chelsea Buns to you through the medium of dance

I think “rustic” is the operative term. They did taste good though, providing you like anise, but they were heavy enough to potentially be used for Olympic discus events.

Abdul was hoping to come back swinging with his Besos that he had rolled around in red and green dyed desiccated coconut as a nod to the Mexican Flag, but as every highschool art student will tell you, when you mix red and green you kind of just end up with a colour that defies explanation or categorisation

I think he might have been better off doing a half-and-half approach, but he got them perfectly round. However, the texture was a little gluey and he got the dreaded critique in which Paul and Prue force you to eat your own bake in front of them like they suspect you tried to poison them on Game of Thrones

and judging by the amount of time Abdul spent chewing, they were as gluey as Paul and Prue made out.

Lastly we have Kevin and his rum syrup soaked “little drunkards” as the name Borrachitos translates to

these were really cute and their only real shortcoming was the fact they were marginally underproofed and with about 10 more minutes of proofing probably would have been handshakable, which Kevin had some choice words about

that’s also what he says any time he reads the Technical Challenge instructions.

An Unofficial Pan Dulce Ranking

  1. Bella Naranja Terwilliger Smith
  2. Kevin’s Premature Drunkenness
  3. Corn To Be Wild
  4. Carole’s Rustic *indistinguishable Spanish*
  5. Rebs’s Sour Daisies
  6. Dawn’s Leaking Chillies
  7. James Sells Seashells By The Seashore
  8. Janusz’s Nintendo Cacti
  9. Abdul’s Glue Balls


Sending Twitter into a downward spiral (faster than usual that is) was this week’s Technical Challenge which saw the bakers making Tacos, with the making of the shells being the only remotely baking aspect of the challenge only getting a mere 90 montage slapped on at the end with all the grace of James frying said taco shells

most of the challenge instead being taken up by the bakers having to guess their way through making refried beans, marinating and cooking steak, working out what Pico de Gallo was using only what little Spanish they learned while watching Benidorm and making guacamole – the latter of which you think would be easy and then they sharply cut to Carole trying to peel an avocado like a potato

with Kevin eventually launching a Save The Avocado Campaign and putting them to better use as a pair of bookending avocados

Carole was struggling for her life in this challenge, not that anybody was particularly experience in the art of taco-making with everyone desperately looking for similarities to other things, Syabira observing they must be similar to tortillas and upon exploring the corridors of her baking Mind Palace came to the sudden realisation she has never made those either

but her mexican baking blindspot didn’t hinder he too much as she still managed second place, beaten only by Maxy whose tacos were pretty damn perfect

although I think my favourite tacos of the challenge were Dawn’s which had just been served up huddled together like penguins trying to stay warm

a lot of the bakers struggled with the spicing as they hadn’t been given measurements so Carole, having finished deskinning an avocado like a barbarian, just threw anything and everything on the steak because it wasn’t her problem

and she did end up in last place with tacos that were just very thick and very spicy

it wasn’t a particularly stellar Technical Challenge (it still wasn’t worse than the infamous pitta bread firepit though) and I think there must have been better, more baking focused things they could have done instead and I’m sure Rebs would have appreciated not having to fight a losing war against the stove tops

it probably didn’t help that in the name of ~authenticity~ all of the instructions had been translated into Spanish by Paul and a tourist’s phrase book.

An Official Taco Ranking

  1. Maxy’s Perfect Tacos
  2. Syabira’s Taco Fluke
  3. Sandro’s Trigger Happy Onion Cutting
  4. Kevin’s Avocado Relief Fund
  5. Dawn’s Taco Huddle
  6. Abdul’s Disintegrating Tacos
  7. Janusz’s Taco Doth Runneth Over
  8. James’s Flopped Tacos
  9. Rebs’s Salty, Salty Tacos
  10. Carole’s AntiTaco Agenda

All Tres Leches Will Be Prosecuted

For their Mexican Showstopper the bakers were having to make a Mexican themed celebratory Tres Leches Cake that consisted of a minimum of 4 layers, which is no mean feat as tres leches cakes are made from milk soaked sponges and there’s a reason they’re traditionally served as a solitary single sponge. That being said, I was genuinely surprised we didn’t have more calamities and everyone ended up with cakes that stood entirely upright, but also nobody went absolutely buckwild and tried to carve the bust of Frida Kahlo out of milk-sodden sponges. COWARDS THE LOT OF YOU.

Having been forced to take a short Taco diversion, Syabira was back on her Sweetcorn Crusade with sweetcorn sponges, a concept that dealt Paul a significant amount of psychic damage and very nearly 1 hit KO’d him

while her Corn Conchas were a relative breeze, she had a few hiccups along the way in this particular battle, mostly with the way her sponges hadn’t soaked up the milk so they were a little dry but her cake, as is to be expected, looked really pretty

but much like the Blue-ringed Octopus is pretty, it still held that sweetcorn centre which it seemed Prue had entirely forgotten about as she took a great big mouthful

but it seemed that if you went into it knowing what you were going to get, you liked it a lot more than tasting it blind. So it’s a bit like an Ari Aster movie.

While a lot of the bakers went for the Mexican Chocolate and Coffee approach, Janusz was celebrating the fruits of Mexico with his cake being designed to look like a Dragon Fruit

he’s just ridiculously good isn’t he? He has to be up there as one of the best cake decorators we’ve seen on the show, everything is just so neat ALL OF THE TIME. The only thing going against him was the fact his cake was just a little bit firm, but they really liked the fruit salad of a flavour profile.

Kevin also had grand plans for his decoration, planning to create a Temple of Miscellaneous Indigenous Central American Origin out of Coffee and Chocolate tres leches cakes and with a very positive reception in the Signature Challenge and everyone having finally twigged that the Technical Challenge means NOTHING, he was gunning for Star Baker, which is probably why he spent most of the construction phase pulling this face

unfortunately for Kevin, he hadn’t planned for the shortfall of ancient Mesoamerican plumbing and his Temple of Miscellaneous Indigenous Central American Origin sprang a leak

Quetzalcoatl is furious!
The woes didn’t stop there for Kevin as his cakes hadn’t soaked properly and there were flour pockets throughout one or two of the sponges but he’s going to damned if he’s the human sacrifice that pays for it

You won’t feel a thing Paul.

Kevin wasn’t the only one that sprang a leak, as in the midst of icing her cakes, Rebs’s cake had decided to have a little weep

but given that she had to both find a way to stop her cake from losing anymore moisture and trying to stop it from leaning to one side, her final cake wasn’t bad

I did LOVE her explaining that it was a Tiramisu and Chilli Wedding Cake to symbolism the coming to together of an Italian classic and Mexican flavours like she was a university student desperately trying to hit a word count on an essay about The Godfather which she had not watched. (STILL GOT A 63 THOUGH DIDN’T I PATRICK?) and she had made a valiant effort to cover the seepages with some crushed nuts in the hopes that Paul and Prue might not notice. They absolutely noticed and Rebs looked like the killer in an Agatha Christie adaptation when Poirot eventually gets to revealing he knows who did it

But the final nail in Rebs’s Bake Off coffin was when Paul and Prue tasted her chilli buttercream and both had coughing fits which they were probably ruder about than was necessary, especially considering Rebs was visibly upset by this point, but at least she had half a bottle of tequila at her bench to go back, the other half being in the cake.

Rebs wasn’t the only one to get told off for big flavours, as Sandro overdid the booze in his very impressive celebration cake that looked like someone on Tumblr ran a Jackson Pollock dedicated blog in 2011

do I wish there was a bigger symboliser of Mexico on the cake than a great big moustache? Yeah, I do, but I really like the paint splatter decorations and he probably could have left it at that and wangled it as being about the Mexican art scene.

I was surprised that we only got one Day of the Dead themed cake, although I wouldn’t have wanted to toe the line of what’s considered cultural appreciation and appropriation either, but Abdul was willing to risk it with his birthday cake for a phrenologist

it did have a slight lean along the parietal and frontal sponges which makes it totally clockable, but like my therapist says to me – “it’s on the inside that counts”, and the judges really liked the flavour combination of the lime and passionfruit.

While the general approach for a lot of the bakers seemed to be making their cakes as colourful as they possibly could, Dawn was joining Rebs in a more muted, minimalist approach with her Coffee and Chocolate Cake adorned with miniature buns and chocolate button fortifications lest a Borrower try to scale its walls

and given they judged her last and they had had to eat their way through increasingly unhinged amounts of Bird’s Eye Chillies, Prue had deemed her relative simplicity “heavenly” just about before the cake had even touched her tongue. Meanwhile Paul and Dawn had a little moment that had all the energy of Ginger seeing Rocky “flying” in Chicken Run

he did like it, it wasn’t long, weirdly erotic fake out.

And while Dawn went minimal, Maxy was busy attaching a whole cape of balloons to her cake in the name of ~fiesta~

the judges were a little worried about her cake because it was *checks notes* flavoured with chocolate, strawberries and cream – you know those famously overwhelmingly flavours…? Naturally they did not find the go-to flavours of Wimbledon and romantic picnics to be overwhelming, and thought the whole thing was rather lovely.

James was coming in big with grand plans of a cake that looked like it was on the verge of becoming a Nihilist Bagel

as I think everyone feared when they saw the illustration of the Everything Everywhere All At Once of cakes, the judges were worried about how much James had set himself up to do and by the end of the challenge he was indeed having to cover up the holes that threatened to sink him with buttercream

they’ll never notice a thing…

granted, it looks more like the illustration than I thought was actually possible but there is still the faint sense that the whole thing is held together by duct tape and prayer.
His Fraisier Cake tier got the better reception with his Dulce de Leche bottom tier being a little unevenly soaked and the definite weaker of the two.

Lastly we have Carole who was much more comfortable now that she wasn’t having to try and solve the riddles of an avocado, although the challenge wasn’t without issues

I’m a big fan of most of the other bakers looking directly to camera when they’re about to deliver the most on the nose innuendo imaginable and then Carole just drops a gem like this with her back completely turned to us.
Carole having successfully deflowered her chocolate, turned out a really lovely cake in the end

like many of of the others before her, she did fall foul of the chilli content but it was a techniquely well made cake.

An Unofficial Tres Leches Cake Ranking

  1. Dawn’s Simple Fortifications
  2. Not All heroes Wear Balloon Capes, But They Should
  3. Janusz’s Fruit Salad of a Cake
  4. I’m Feeling Corny, Baby!
  5. Carole’ Deflowered Cake
  6. Happy Birthday Mr. Phrenologist!
  7. Sandro, I Moustache You To Stop
  8. James’s Sensory Play Cake
  9. Kevin’s Body Is A Leaking Temple
  10. You Come To Me On My Tiramisu’s Wedding Day?

Having had 3 very successful rounds with barely a complaint across them, Star Baker could really only go to Maxy – with Dawn in a strong second place

which means there’s been 4 episodes and only she and Janusz have won Star Baker.

As for who was eliminated, this was a little gut wrenching as they decided that because nobody had gone home last week, this week would be a double elimination with the eliminated bakers being Rebs and James

it wasn’t nice, Rebs was extremely upset – I imagine coming back after missing an episode put a lot of pressure on her and it just didn’t go how she wanted – she’s still been one of my favourite bakers though and she made some really good bakes, so I’ll miss writing about her but I’m glad that she at least didn’t have to go home on her own and I hope that made it a little easier on her, especially because James was able to laugh it off

and I’ll miss him too, he was a lot of fun and I was hoping we’d get to see what tattoo he’d base a pie showstopper off of.

And so, we’re down to 8 bakers

If you’ve enjoyed this recap of Bake Off’s Mexican Week and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi account HERE.

7 thoughts on “Bake Off 2022, Mexican Week: Ancient Mesoamerican Plumbing

  1. Rachel

    Sometimes I wonder if the producers want to tank the show. Mexico was a horrible theme idea and was offensively executed. Did they learn nothing from Japanese week? I’ve also noticed a real uptick in the bakers either not understanding Noel and Matt’s “comedy”, straight up ignoring them or rolling their eyes. Surely that happened in the past because they are awful but I don’t think we’ve seen it quite as much until now.

  2. Katie

    I sometimes winder if they need to shake up the technical… swap to the format used by throw down. If it’s a simple thing challenge them to make as many as they can that match the parameters. That tortilla challenge was an abomination, and who knows why we needed to layer a cake that was designed to be single tier.

    1. Jay

      I can’t stand sweetcorn so was revolted by Syabiras. I have to admit I thought was Rebs time as she has been skirting the bottom since the beginning.
      I love your recaps I meant to ask have you seen the hair competition on e4. It reminds me of glow up but it’s hilarious 😂

  3. Roberta

    Paul was more than usually annoying this round, especially being unable to differentiate between a TACO and a TORTILLA in his condescending description. And Syabira was on the money when she said “No tortilla press”? Next week, here’s a wine bottle to roll out your dough. I did think all those tacos looked pretty delicious.

    1. Rachel

      Yes! Not having a tortilla press (I guess Paul would call it a taco press) was very strange. Next time, no ovens, mixers or whisks!

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