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The six emotional stages of The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens, bringing with it treacherous sponge cake, dry nuts and a myriad of emotions. Tara Ward breaks down the six psychological stages of the show. 

Imagine an idyllic paradise of wildflowers and lush green grass, where tiny lambs frolic next to a gurgling stream and daffodils wave lazily in the breeze. Is there a better place to chuck up a marquee, knock in some flash ovens and watch some frazzled amateur bakers mangle a recipe for sticky buns?

Answer: of course not. Welcome to The Great British Bake Off.

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TGBBO made recent headlines when UK’s Channel 4 pinched the show off the BBC for a bargain $42 million NZD. Not everyone was best pleased. Judge Mary Berry gave Channel 4 the big sticky finger, hosts Mel and Sue told the TGBBO to get forked, while Paul Hollywood remained in the marquee with only a picket fence and some Union Jack bunting for sustenance.

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That’s a whole lot of emotion for a show about a bunch of strangers baking biscuits in a tent. But TGBBO is all about the emotional journey, and if there’s one thing I’m committed to, it’s a road trip with cake.

Let us wipe down our surfaces and don our protective aprons as we attempt to understand the emotional highs and lows of TGBBO. You’ve heard of the five stages of grief? Now wrap your laughing gear around the Six Stages of The Great British Bake Off*.

*Not officially sanctioned by medical professionals, but just as scientific and with more butter.

Stage 1: Anticipation

The air is abuzz with excitement. Twelve amateur bakers march into the marquee like a raggedy bunch of soldiers sent to the front, a spatula and strong right arm their only weapons. “I’m most excited about being in the tent,” says one contestant, who should go home now if his expectations are met this easily.

“Today, it starts!” squeals contestant Claire. Claire’s touching back story is that she has a dog named Trevor. Stand down, we have a winner.

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Stage 2: Panic

It’s all fun and games until the Swiss Roll collapses. Diana’s been baking since she was in the womb and look at her now, frozen in terror at the thought of mixing butter and sugar and rolling it up into a delicious pillow of jammy sponge.

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Who knew there were so many rules about baking a cake? “It’s all about the whirl,” Mel informs us. “Choose your filling carefully,” warns Paul. “It needs to be perfectly lined up, so that you get that symmetry.” It’s no wonder the bakers are terrified, I’ve renovated bathrooms with fewer technicalities.

Outside, the tension is palpable.

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Stage 3: Denial

Things begin to go wrong. Nancy’s nuts are dry. She refuses to stress, because Nancy’s no stranger to dry nuts and those little bastards haven’t beaten her yet.

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Meanwhile, Claire’s oven has turned into a burning cesspit of chocolate and cherry hell, 36 miniature volcanos imploding like her own hopes and dreams.

It’s fine. Chuck some 100s & 1000s on top and no-one will ever know.

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There are bigger issues in the tent, like Jordan’s baby loaf murder scene. It seems he ran out of lemon drizzle icing and had to use his own blood. Looks delicious.

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Stage 4: Mary Berry-induced fear and loathing

Mary Berry is baking royalty, equal parts esteemed legend and terrifying schoolmarm. She’s gracious and kind, but one wrong move and she’ll pierce your brain with her laser eyes and stare you down until you melt into a sloppy puddle of fats and sugar.

Luis is a sucker for Mary Berry punishment. He’s making a Spanish Swiss Roll, because a sponge filled with the juices of one country isn’t enough for him. Send your continental flavours and flamboyant ideas back to Europe, Luis, before Mary goes all Brexit on your ass.

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Take note, Luis: never ask Mary Berry to ice a cake with a pipette, for she is too good for this earth. Instead, use that foolish piece of plastic science to douse yourself in some Spanish Swiss self-loathing, because there is no coming back from this.

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Stage 5: Overwhelming elation and/or catastrophic distress

Three bakes later and Nancy is named Star Baker, which means she gets to eat all the cake. Great work, Nancy, you really showed those dry nuts who was boss.

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Even Jordan seems lightheaded from the relief of making it through, although that could also be from the major blood loss/cake icing incident.

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But spare a thought for Claire, evicted from the marquee of dreams in a floury cloud of shame and failure. “I don’t know why I’m crying over cake,” she wailed. Me either.

“I love you!” says Paul, hugging Claire tightly to better twist the butter knife in her back. This is an outrage. 100s & 1000s are an underappreciated non-food product and I for one applaud Claire’s efforts.

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Stage 6: Acceptance

Our emotional TGBBO journey is complete. Happily, this stage involves eating a lot of cake, especially four-tiered Victoria Sponges with Lemon Curd and Raspberry Cream.  Eat your feelings and go to your happy place: may it be filled with vats of buttercream, acres of wildflowers and 42 million little baby lambs.

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The Great British Bake Off airs on Prime at 7.30pm Tuesdays

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