Hideous treatment of Bake Off cast shows why we must be kinder to reality stars

"It's only cake, babe x"

Laura Adlington

by Marianna Manson |
Updated on

We all know that reality TV + the anonymity of the internet can make for an unsavoury combination, but one place you’d think might be free of the vitriol and venom of faceless social media trolls is the online conversation around #GBBO.

The saccharine, family-friendly format, set against a backdrop of idyllic English countryside, where the vilest insult is to be told you have a “soggy bottom”, surely conjures to mind only good thoughts and wholesome feelings.

Not so, if last year’s series is anything to go by.

GBBO 2021 cast
Class of GBBO 2021 ©Channel 4

Cast your minds back to 2020 and it’s likely you’ll remember Gravesend gal Laura Adlington, who placed third behind Dave Friday and Peter Sawkins.

Laura’s place in the final caused controversy when judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood sent home fan favourite Hermine in the semi-finals after a showstopper that tasted “like a rubber ball” (according to Mr Hollywood).

CHECK OUT: Great British Bake Off - everything you need to know


Great British Bake Off: Everything you need to know - Slider

1. Anyone can apply for Bake Off1 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

1. Anyone can apply for Bake Off

Except professional bakers or chefs!Applications are open to any UK resident over the age of 16. However they cannot make their main source of income from commercial baking and entrants can't have worked as a professional chef or baker at any point. Plus, applicants cannot have acquired any professional catering qualifications in the last ten years

2. The GBBO application form is l-o-n-g2 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

2. The GBBO application form is l-o-n-g

It's seven pages long, asks a LOT of questions, and demands you reveal the truth about your previous successes and failures in the kitchen.You can find it here.

3. The Great British Bake Off application process doesnu2019t stop there!3 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

3. The Great British Bake Off application process doesn’t stop there!

If they like what they see on your application form, a researcher will call you and give you a 45 minute interview over the phone.Then, if you pass THAT test, they'll have you whip up two baked treats, bring them to London, have an interview with a producer, and go through a screen test.Think you're done? Nope!You then have to try out a Technical Challenge set by the GBBO judges - in front of the camera. They also ask that you bring another bake along (presumably the producers are taste testing these / big fans of cake).If you're still in the running, you'll then be interviewed by the show's psychologist to make sure they can handle the pressure of filming.

4. GBBO filming is intense4 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

4. GBBO filming is intense

The show is filmed over a 10-week period between April and June, with contestants spending up to 16 hours a day filming.They manage to package up a whole session of baking into one hour, which means that a lot of it ends up on the cutting room floor.

5... but at least itu2019s contained to weekends5 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

5... but at least it’s contained to weekends

That's right, contestants only do their GBBO stuff on weekends, which means that they can keep working their normal 9-to-5 jobs in the week.However they are picked up from their hotels at 9am each Saturday and Sunday morning, to ensure they get as much filming time in as possible.No rest for the wicked, eh?

6. GBBO contestants donu2019t do the washing up themselves6 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

6. GBBO contestants don’t do the washing up themselves

There's no dishwasher on Bake Off, because the noise would disrupt filming. Instead, home economists spend 160 hours washing up everything by hand. We hope they all get given a free hand lotion each…

7. GBBO contestants pay for ingredients themselves7 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

7. GBBO contestants pay for ingredients themselves

Yup, that's right; they only get their ingredients provided when they reach the finals - which makes things pretty expensive. Particularly as they use between 12-20 ingredients per bake.

8. A lot of people are involved in the production of GBBO8 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

8. A lot of people are involved in the production of GBBO

There are around 50 crew members on set - and, yes, they all get to tuck into the cakes and goodies after the judges give their verdict.

9. GBBO contestants are encouraged to become friends9 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

9. GBBO contestants are encouraged to become friends

Producers take all contestants out for dinner together on the first night, and they usually become good pals over time; they often stay at the same hotel, so dinners and drinks and socialising become pretty regular.Which means that, yes, they really DO mean it when they say they're happy for the overall winner - they're pretty much all besties by that point!

10. They make more cakes than youu2019d ever dreamed of10 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

10. They make more cakes than you’d ever dreamed of

They bake a Victoria Sponge in each oven every single morning of filming, to make sure everything is ship-shape and ready to go. We imagine everyone gets a bit sick of tucking into that particular type of cake come the end of filming!

11. The show is LITERALLY based on village fetes11 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

11. The show is LITERALLY based on village fetes

That's right; Anna Beattie, the show's creator, really believed that village fete baking competitions would suit TV. Anna, judging by the viewing figures, was 100% correct!

12. Mel and Sue recommended Mary Berry12 of 17
CREDIT: Getty Images

12. Mel and Sue recommended Mary Berry

The duo were approached to present the show together - and they were quick to suggest that Mary Berry should be a judge back when GBBO was on BBC One. The show moved to Channel 4 in 2017 without Mary Berry.

13. Itu2019s not a disaster if someone forgets an ingredient13 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

13. It’s not a disaster if someone forgets an ingredient

In fact, producers are well and truly prepared if this happens; they have a runner on standby at a local supermarket every morning in case a contestant realises overnight that they've forgotten an ingredient.

14. Oven time is crucial14 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

14. Oven time is crucial

So much so that contestants aren't allowed to put anything in - or take anything out of - the oven without flagging a producer down first. They want to make sure that they have a camera on standby to film those big baking moments.

15. The Bake Off challenges are NOT surprises15 of 17
CREDIT: Getty Images

15. The Bake Off challenges are NOT surprises

If you make it through to the Bake Off finals, you will be told what the challenges are going to be - and you'll have to submit your recipes for approval. Eep! No pressure, eh?

16. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood were off limits16 of 17
CREDIT: Channel 4

16. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood were off limits

Back when the show was on BBC One, they prefered to keep things professional with contestants, and wouldn't usually speak to them outside of the Bake Off tent.

17. u2026 but Mel and Sue weren't17 of 17

17. … but Mel and Sue weren't

The duo were happy to chat to contestants away from the cameras - and Sue even said that she likes to stay in touch with them via email once the show is all over. N'aww.

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Laura was forced to point out she “didn’t make the decisions” and urge people to “be kind” after she was bombarded with online abuse, and Channel 4 received 111 Ofcom complaints over the results.

“Please take a moment to consider your words before you judge someone you've never met and whose food you've never tasted,” she wrote on Twitter.

GBBO Laura Adlington
Laura with fellow finalists David and Peter ©Channel 4

Laura’s story is far from unique, and plenty would argue that the comments were mild compared to others received by the likes of Geordie Shore stars of Love Islanders.

But it serves to remind us that nowhere is safe from the arrow-sharp fingers of online trolls who spare not a thought for the feelings of the individuals they’re attacking, and who are so quick to air their opinions even when those opinions are hurtful, unfair or unfounded. Bake Off contestants are hardly your run-of-the-mill aspiring reality TV stars of influencers. Yes, bakers might earn a few thousands followers or bring out a cookbook, but they’re just normal people, hardly inviting the kind of character assassination they often receive.


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As many pointed out when Laura earned her place in the final, it is possible to cheer on your favourites in a competition without tearing down or slagging off others. If Great British Bake Off is the epitome of wholesome fun, let’s practice the fundamentals of healthy competition without resorting to underhand tactics.

As lovable 2019 contestant Michael Chakraverty put it so eloquently on Twitter last week, “Ok so now the latest batch of lovely bakers are out there let’s all just remember to be nice yeh?

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s only cake babe x #GBBO”.

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