Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

The Great British Bake Off

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Country of origin
United Kingdom

Theme music composer
Tom Howe

Directed by
Andy Devonshire (2010–12, 2014–) Scott Tankard (2012–13)

Presented by
Mel Giedroyc Sue Perkins

Mary Berry Paul Hollywood

The Great British Bake Off, often referred to as Bake Off or GBBO, is a British television baking competition which selects from amongst its contestants the best amateur baker. The series was presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and judged by cookery writer Mary Berry and professional baker Paul Hollywood. It has been broadcast under the name The Great British Baking Show in the United States, as Pillsbury owns the Bake-Off trademark in the US.


It was first shown on BBC Two in August 2010, and after becoming the most popular programme on that channel was moved to BBC One for its fifth series. The show has become a significant part of British culture and is credited with reinvigorating interest in baking throughout the United Kingdom. Many of its participants, including winners, have gone on to start a career based on bakery. In chronological order, the winners are Edd Kimber, Joanne Wheatley, John Whaite, Frances Quinn, Nancy Birtwhistle, Nadiya Hussain and Candice Brown.

The BAFTA award-winning programme has spawned a number of specials and spin-off shows – a celebrity charity series in aid of Sport Relief or Comic Relief, Junior Bake Off for young children (broadcast on the CBBC channel), companion series An Extra Slice, and Bake Off: Crème de la Crème for teams of professional pastry chefs (both on BBC Two). Its format was also used on the BBC Two series The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Throw Down. The format has been sold to many countries around the world where local versions of the show are produced.

Following extended negotiations, Love Productions announced that the current seventh series of the show would be the last broadcast by the BBC. On 12 September 2016, Love agreed to a three-year deal to broadcast the show on Channel 4. Giedroyc and Perkins subsequently announced that they would not be returning when the show moves to its new network. On 22 September, Berry announced that she would also be leaving the show, when it moves to Channel 4, while Hollywood later announced he would be staying with the show.

On 16 March 2017, it was announced that Prue Leith will judge alongside Hollywood, and that Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding will be taking over presenting duties.


The programme operates on a weekly elimination process to find the best all-around baker from the contestants, who are all amateurs. The applicants to the show are assessed by a researcher, followed by an audition in London with two of their bakes. They then undergo a screen test and an interview with a producer. A second audition involves the applicants baking two recipes for judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in front of the cameras. Ten contestants were chosen for the first series, twelve for the following two series, thirteen for the fourth, and back to twelve for the fifth and sixth.

In each episode, the amateur bakers are given three challenges: a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a show-stopper. The three challenges take place over two days, and the filming takes up to 16 hours a day. The contestants are assessed by the judges who then choose a "Star Baker" for the week (introduced in series 2), and a contestant is also eliminated. In the final round, three bakers are left and a winner is chosen from the three.

Signature Challenge
This challenge is for the amateur bakers to show off their tried-and-tested recipes for bakes they might make for their friends and family.
Technical Challenge
This challenge requires enough technical knowledge and experience to produce a certain finished product when given only limited – or even minimal – instructions. The bakers are all given the same recipe and are not told beforehand what the challenge will be. The finished products are judged blind and ranked from worst to best.
Showstopper Challenge
This challenge is for the bakers to show off their skills and talent. The judges favour a bake that is both of a professional appearance but is also outstanding in taste.

In the first series, the location of the cast and crew moves from town to town each week, but starting from the second series, the competition is held in one location in a specially constructed marquee. Interspersed in the programme are the background of the contestants as well as video vignettes on the history of baking. What each baker intends to bake during a particular challenge is illustrated using animated graphics. These graphics have been created by illustrator Tom Hovey since the show's inception in 2010.

Series 1 (2010)

Series 1 of The Great British Bake Off saw ten home bakers take part in a bake-off to test their baking skills as they battled to be crowned the Great British Bake Off's best amateur baker. Each week the nationwide tour saw the bakers put through three challenges in a particular discipline. The rounds took place in various locations across the UK, with the final round being held at Fulham Palace, London.

The three finalists were Ruth Clemens, Miranda Gore Browne, and Edd Kimber. On 21 September 2010, Edd Kimber was crowned the best amateur baker.

Series 2 (2011)

The number of amateur baker contestants increased to twelve for the second series. Unlike Series 1, this year The Great British Bake Off stayed in one location – Valentines Mansion, a 17th-century mansion house in Redbridge, London.

All the Series 2 finalists were female: Holly Bell, Mary-Anne Boermans, and the winning contestant Joanne Wheatley.

Series 3 (2012)

A third series of The Great British Bake Off began on 14 August 2012. The series was filmed at Harptree Court in East Harptree, Somerset.

In contrast to Season 2, there was an all-male final. The finalists were Brendan Lynch, James Morton and John Whaite, who won the final in a surprise result.

Series 4 (2013)

The fourth series of The Great British Bake Off started on 20 August 2013 on BBC Two. The series was again filmed at Harptree Court in East Harptree, Somerset. The all-female final was won by Frances Quinn, with Ruby Tandoh and Kimberley Wilson as runners up.

Series 5 (2014)

The fifth series of The Great British Bake Off began airing on 6 August 2014 on BBC One. This series was filmed at Welford Park in Berkshire. There were twelve bakers taking part. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood returned as judges, whilst Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc continued to present the series. Richard Burr was awarded the largest number of star baker designations of any series so far, but was beaten by Nancy Birtwhistle in the final.

A spin-off show The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice, hosted by comedian Jo Brand on BBC Two, was also launched as a companion series this year. Each episode was broadcast two days after the main show but later moved to the same night. The show includes interviews with eliminated contestants.

Series 6 (2015)

The sixth series began on 5 August 2015 on BBC One, again from Welford Park in Berkshire. Spin-off show The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice returned for a second series, with Jo Brand as host. This series was won by Nadiya Hussain, with Ian Cumming and Tamal Ray as runners up.

Series 7 (2016)

The seventh series began on 24 August 2016 on BBC One, once again from Welford Park in Berkshire, a later than usual start following the BBC's coverage of the Olympic Games. This series was won by Candice Brown, with Jane Beedle and Andrew Smyth as runners up.

Incomplete bakes and other incidents

As of the sixth series, there have been three incomplete bakes.

  • In Series 3, John Whaite was unable to complete his bake after he suffered a severe cut to his finger on the food processor. He tried to continue working on his strudel wearing a rubber glove, but the bleeding required medical attention and he therefore had to abandon the last bake. As a result, no one was eliminated that week.
  • In Series 4, contestant Deborah accidentally used Howard's custard instead of her own. As a result, Howard was forced to use Deborah's custard, and this was taken into account by the judges.
  • In Series 5, during the Baked Alaska challenge, Iain Watters' ice cream melted for reasons that were not entirely clear, although the editing of the show suggested that it had been caused by another contestant's actions. He threw his ice cream into the bin in frustration and left the tent. He returned shortly after, and as he had no cake for judging (he produced his bin instead, and the incident was labelled "bingate"), he was eliminated from the competition. The event that led to his departure provoked some anger from the viewers.
  • Critical reception

    The early reviews for the first series were mixed. Lucy Mangan of The Guardian wondered if "competitive baking [is] a contradiction in terms" and found the proceedings humourless. Iain Hollingshead of The Daily Telegraph was scathing, describing the presenters as "annoying", the judge Paul Hollywood as looking "sinister without being interesting", and that the audience would be so bored that they "could certainly forgive the cameraman if he were to commit hara-kiri in a giant pool of egg and flour."

    However, reviews from the later series were more positive. Andrew Collins of The Guardian called it "the nicest show on television" and judged it the best TV programme of 2012. Rachel Ward of The Daily Telegraph thought the programme "had just the right consistency of mouth-watering morsels, good humour, and fascinating history", while Tom Sutcliffe of The Independent considered the contest "perfectly baked".

    Cultural impact

    The show has become a significant part of British culture and is credited with spurring an interest in home baking, with supermarkets and department stores in the UK reporting sharp rises in sales of baking ingredients and accessories. It was also credited with reviving the Women's Institute whose membership reached its highest level since the 1970s. The show also boosted the sales of bakery books and the number of baking clubs, and independent bakeries also showed an increase. According to one analyst, more than three fifths of adults have baked at home at least once in 2013 compared with only a third in 2011.

    TV ratings

    The first series of The Great British Bake Off premiered in August 2010 with moderate ratings of just over 2 million viewers for its first episode. This was enough to place it in BBC Two's top ten for that week, and over the series the audience grew to over three million, with the semi-final and final both achieving first place in BBC Two's weekly ratings. During the second series, the ratings gradually increased, and it became a surprise hit with nearly 4 million watching each episode. Week two was the last time that the show was out-rated by another BBC Two programme in the same week (it came second to the drama Page Eight); from then until the show's move to BBC One, every competition episode would be the channel's number one rated programme of the week. By its final episode it had averaged 4.56 million viewers, peaking at 5.1 million in its last 15 minutes.

    The ratings continued to strengthen in the third series, and the show began to beat its competition in its timeslot. The final of the series where John Whaite was crowned the winner saw its highest rating yet, with an average of 6.5 million viewers that peaked at 7.2 million, which made it the second highest-rated BBC Two-originated show after Top Gear since at least 2006. The fourth series achieved some of the highest ratings seen on BBC Two. The viewer count for its premiere episode was more than two million higher than that of the previous series, while the final episode was seen by 9.1 million viewers at its peak, more than twice the number of viewers on BBC One and ITV. The final episode is the most-watched show on BBC Two since the present ratings system was introduced in 2002, beating the previous record set by Top Gear. As a result of its high ratings, the show was moved to BBC One.

    After its move to BBC One, the opening episode was watched by over 7 million viewers according to overnight figures, beating the figure of 5.6 million for the opening episode of the previous year. A "sabotage" controversy surrounding episode four helped the show gain its biggest ever audience of 10.3 million viewers, with 2 million people who watched it on BBC iPlayer. The final of the show gained an overnight viewing figure of 12.29 million, then the highest viewing figure of the year for a non-sporting event on UK TV. In the following year, the top ten ratings for 2015 was also dominated by The Great British Bake Off, with seven of the year's ten most-watched television programmes being episodes of the show, topped by the final episode with 15.05 million viewers. In the last series on the BBC in 2016, nine of the top ten most-watched programmes of the year were episodes of the show, with 16.03 million viewers watching the finale.

    Product placement sanction

    In September 2012, production company Love Productions was sanctioned by the BBC for product placement of Smeg fridges. The issue came to light after a viewer wrote to the Radio Times complaining of "blatant product promotion". After an investigation, the BBC said Love Production's loan agreement with Smeg did not meet editorial guidelines and was being revised for the third series, and that appropriate retrospective hire payments would be made. The BBC asked Smeg to remove a notice from its website promoting its association with the show, which it has since done.


    During the fourth series, there were accusations of favouritism towards female contestants after the last man Glenn Cosby was eliminated from the show; however, similar claims were not made the previous year over the all-male final, or even the year before, when there was also an all-female quarter-final. The fourth series also suffered allegations of Paul Hollywood's favouritism towards Ruby Tandoh, and personal attacks on Tandoh by various people including the chef Raymond Blanc. Both Paul Hollywood and Ruby Tandoh denied the accusation.

    Baked Alaska controversy ("Bingate")

    In the fourth episode of the fifth series, there was controversy around the elimination of contestant Iain Watters. During the final showstopper round contestants were tasked with producing a Baked Alaska. Iain's ice cream was shown as having not set and in a show of frustration he threw his bake in the bin. The editing of the show suggested that another contestant, Diana Beard, had caused the failure by removing the ice cream from a freezer, and the perceived "sabotage" resulted in a furore on social media networks. However, unseen footage broadcast in the accompanying programme An Extra Slice shows Luis holding the large floor freezer that contained Iain's ice cream open as he piped the sides of his own baked Alaska, while Mel warns him to pipe quickly and close the freezer. Later in the episode, when Iain removes his ice cream to begin the next step of his dish, it is still quite soft, indicating it went into the freezer he shared with Diana without being completely frozen. Various members of the cast posted comments in support of Diana and a BBC spokesman later issued a statement that "Diana removing Iain's ice cream from the freezer for less than a minute was in no way responsible for Iain's departure."

    More than 800 complaints were lodged with the BBC over the incident and some also complained to the communication watchdog Ofcom.

    Use of innuendo

    A number of viewers complained to the BBC feedback show Points of View in the fifth series about the "constant smutty remarks" from the presenters Mel and Sue. This series was seen as having more innuendos than previous ones; some reviewers noted the "extra pinch of saucy spice" and "the increasingly filthy-minded hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins", while the Daily Mail argued that the "smutty" innuendos made the show no longer fit for family entertainment. The series 3 winner John Whaite however argued that innuendo is part of what made the show a success, whilst judge Paul Hollywood described the innuendos as banter in the spirit of the Carry On films and is a part of British culture, a view shared by others.

    The success of The Great British Bake Off led to the BBC commissioning many other series closely following the format from Love Productions for example The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Throw Down. However 2014 series Hair using the same format was produced in house by the BBC, Love production responded by making preparations to sue the BBC for infringing their copyright. Although the matter was kept quiet, with the BBC settling out of court and compensating Love Productions, the matter soured relations between the BBC and Love Productions. In September 2016, it was announced that the BBC had lost the broadcast rights of the show to Channel 4. Channel 4 offered £25 million for the show outbidding the £15 million offered by the BBC. In January 2017 the BBC waived its rights to keep the program off the air until 2018, and wished the programme "well for the future".

    Awards and nominations

    The Great British Bake Off was nominated for a Rose d'Or in the Lifestyle section of the 2012 competition and won. The programme has been nominated a number of times in various categories for the BAFTA awards and won in 2012, 2013, and 2016. It also won two 2015 National Television Award for Skills Challenge Show.

    International broadcast and versions

    The UK version of The Great British Bake Off is broadcast in many countries and it has been sold to 196 territories as of 2015. The format has also been sold to 20 territories by 2015, making it the third most successful BBC format after Dancing with the Stars (Strictly Come Dancing) and The Weakest Link. Many of these shows have been successful. The Junior Bake Off format has also been sold to Thailand.

    Beginning in 2014, the US broadcaster PBS has aired several series of the show under the name The Great British Baking Show. The change of name was necessary due to the fact that "Bake-Off" is a registered trademark of Pillsbury in the United States. The fifth series was broadcast as Season 1 in Winter 2014–2015; the fourth series was then broadcast as Season 2 in Fall 2015, and the sixth series was broadcast as Season 3 in Summer 2016.

    International versions

    Current and upcoming versions include:

    Legend:      Airing or in production        No longer airing  

    The Great Sport Relief Bake Off

    Episode viewing figures from BARB.

    Series 1 (2012)

         Finalist      Winner

    Series 2 (2014)

         Star Baker

    Series 3 (2016)

         Star Baker

    Series 1 (2013)

         Star Baker

    Series 2 (2015)

         Star Baker


    The Great British Bake Off Wikipedia