Less than a month after unboxing Season 6 of The Great British Baking Show, Netflix has released a two-episode holiday special featuring eight contestants from previous seasons competing in a series of yuletide challenges. With plenty of elaborate desserts and witty banter among the hosts and bakers, these two episodes will surely appeal to longtime fans of the series, but they also serve as a great introduction for anyone who hasn’t caught British Baking Show Fever (BBSF) yet. Here’s everything you need to know about this holiday TV treat.
It’s extremely British
These episodes are chock full of desserts like mincemeat pies and “snowy bombe” tarts that are perhaps more popular in England than in the United States. But the mini-season itself is also continuing a great, distinctly-U.K. tradition of TV shows that have extra-crunchy Christmas episodes that stand apart from their regular seasons. Like the holiday bonus installments of The Office or Downtown Abbey, these special episodes are full of drama, whimsy, and heart-warming moments — the full roller coaster ride of emotions that many people experience around the holidays. In this case, the uplifting spirit comes from seeing the losers from previous seasons revisit their pastry demons and, in some cases, conquer them. The first episode also taps into the great U.K. “Christmas single” tradition, by featuring an outdoor singalong to perennial glam rock favorite “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day,” performed by legendary British rocker Roy Wood.
Fan favorites are back for another round
The British Baking Show’s success can largely be attributed to the casting of such extremely likable people in the kitchen and at the judges’ table. In these two specials, the producers have brought back eight fan favorites from the first five seasons that aired in the United States: mellow jokester Selasi Gbormittah, cake whisperer Val Stones, charming cake-dropper/photographer Rob Billington, biscuit-loving school administrator Sandy Docherty, macaron maestro Beca Lyne-Pirkis, college student-turned-pro baker Rav Bansal, educator/food blogger Bejamina Ebuehi, and bread-lion tamer Paul Jagger. All of them seem thrilled to be back in the tent. Although they each bring a handful of creative ideas to the competition, only one of the eight receives the coveted “Hollywood handshake. “
The desserts are outrageous
The two showstoppers — one dedicated to “snow globe cakes” and another focusing on “magical ice cakes” — are both very elaborate, even by Baking Show standards. But all of the pastries in these two episodes are fairly intricate. Bonus points go to Paul for blowing his own snow globes out of Isomalt, and to Rav for creating a chambray design on his passionfruit-buttercream ice castle cake. The Danish kransekake — a Christmas tree made of pistachio pastry rings — also proves to be a great, nearly-impossible subject for the technical challenge in the second episode.
An excess of holiday attire
Both of the Pauls wear admirably ugly holiday sweaters in these episodes, while Noel Fielding rocks a green blouse that make him look like an overgrown elf. Val sports a sparkly blue tunic, and Prue dons two knit tops adorned with holiday characters. The effect is something like showing up to your office holiday party and realizing that your boss and coworkers put on some low-key holiday flare between the end of the workday and the start of the yuletide gathering.
There are plenty of oddball jokes and amusing asides from both the bakers and the hosts throughout these two episodes. Here are some of the best lines:
Noel, explaining why he used the phrase “running through it” to describe cake filling: “I know... it’s ‘cause I’ve been hanging out with Hollywood. Do you know where he is now? I saw him in the woods sort of foraging for nuts and berries. Just had a vest on. No pants or trousers.”
Selasi, explaining the design of his “stump” cake: “I’ve been known to be very horizontal, so I thought, ‘Let’s make something vertical,’ to sort of confuse people a bit to say, ‘Actually, this guy means business.’”
Sandi, after greeting Beca in Welsh: “All my Welsh is ‘good morning,’ and the word for ‘hospital.’”
Noel, remarking on Paul Jagger’s penguin cake: “Animals always work for him — the lion, now the penguins. He’s the Attenborough of the cake world.”
Paul Jagger, explaining the inspiration behind those edible penguins: “When I was in the Falklands, we’d go and spot them in their nests. It’s full of nature down there.”
Selasi, surveying a pastry station full of cracked snow globes: “Sorry about the mess, whoever’s cleaning up after me.”
Rav, after winning the technical challenge: “I’m number one, yay! That never happens. I think I’ve got a bit of a Christmas magic spell that’s been cast on me.”
Noel, talking to Sandy after she received a Hollywood handshake: “Have you washed your hand? He shook my hand once. [sniffing] Yeah, that’s pure Hollywood. Smells like brut.”