Despite the widespread popularity of the Great British Bake Off, that success has proven difficult to replicate in the United States. Previous adaptations of the show have aired on ABC and CBS, but never quite managed to capture the interest of American audiences. But that could all change next year with the resurrected Great American Baking Show, a new series set to premiere in 2023 on the Roku Channel that will bring together beloved judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith on American television for the first time.
Ahead of the release of the full series, a special holiday edition of the show debuts on the Roku Channel on December 2 with a seriously stacked line-up of celebrity contestants that includes legendary NFL player Marshawn Lynch, The Good Place star D’Arcy Carden, and actor/comedian Joel Kim Booster. The special, hosted by the eternally effervescent Ellie Kemper and Severance funnyman Zach Cherry, features the celebrities baking their way through a series of challenges that involve making fruit coulis, choux pastry, and intricately decorated cakes.
Eater sat down to talk with Kemper and Cherry about whether or not they’d rather be competitors on the Great American Baking Show instead of hosts, their favorite moments on set, and Paul Hollywood’s obsession with killing flying insects hoping to get a taste of the bakes inside the iconic Bake Off tent.
Eater: Did either of you want to be contestants on the celebrity episode instead of hosts?
Zach Cherry: I’m an amateur baker, but not to the standards of the show. I’m laughing because I actually have a piece of pie sitting here next to me. But I was happy being a host and thrilled to not have to showcase my skills in public.
Ellie Kemper: Ah, no. In fact, I am very in awe of all the bakers we worked with because I do think of them as scientists. I think of them as doing something I’m not mentally equipped to do. It requires a precision and a focus that I don’t have. When it comes to baking, I can put the flour in the measuring cup and stuff, but there’s no flair. There’s no artistry to it.
Is it as awkward as it looks to interrupt people and have conversations with them while they’re furiously trying to bake in a time crunch?
EK: I’m so happy you brought that up, because I think Zach will agree that it is so awkward. I kept asking the producers because it goes against every fiber in my being. They’re frustrated, and they’re trying to bake, and my actual job is to interrupt them and talk about, like, their favorite vacation that they ever took.
ZC: It was usually fine early in each challenge before everyone realized they needed to scramble, but as the clock started to tick away, we would still have to go and be like, ‘Hey, I know you only have four minutes left to complete this extremely elaborate bake, but do you mind if I show you this little dance?’ I was 100 percent sure that I was annoying them at all times.
What was it like to walk into the tent and hang out with Paul and Prue?
EK: It was a thrill. Paul’s got the British accent and Prue is a Dame, and they just have this regal air about them, but they’re also extremely friendly. It was a real pleasure being in their presence.
ZC: They were so welcoming. They’ve been doing it for a while, it’s their tent, and here we are, the Americans coming over. But they made us feel so comfortable and helped us out, it was great.
As hosts, how much of the bakes do you actually get to eat?
ZC: I’d say I tried about 60 percent of them.
EK: That’s a good percentage. Obviously we didn’t taste them before the judges had, but there were always some left over that they would cut up and offer to people.
What was the funniest moment from filming this episode?
EK: There were so many bumblebees. I’ve never seen it before, but there was some kind of zapper. I don’t know what else to call it, but it zapped the bumblebees. I’m calling them bumblebees, they called them wasps, but I still think they were bees. It was funny to see Paul, who I think really relished zapping them. I don’t think the cameras caught any of that, but I enjoyed it. That was really funny.
So you’re saying that Paul Hollywood likes to murder bees?
EK: Bees. Yep. That’s the headline.
ZC: Keeping things in the animal category, where we were shooting, basically every day at 3 p.m., about 50 rabbits would emerge around the tent. That was always bizarre, but luckily, no one zapped them.
That sounds like something you made up.
ZC: No, it’s true!
EK: It was almost eerie, wasn’t it? I just want to mention that I know that bees are endangered so you probably shouldn’t go around zapping bees if you don’t have to. It was just in this tent. They were getting on the pies and stuff. I don’t want anyone to come after me.
The Great American Baking Show: Celebrity Holidays is now airing on the Roku Channel