“I’m a bitter person,” Maggie Beer says casually as she pops her finger into a sauce for a taste on the latest series of The Great Australian Bake Off.
Conversation stops temporarily as her fellow judge Matt Moran, and hosts Claire Hooper and Mel Buttle, absorb what she just said.
But then it all comes clear as Maggie almost grimaces at the taste of the sauce and makes it clear that her tastes aren’t that bitter.
Much laughter and relief all round – except for the youngest baker, Antonio, of course.
Bake Off, which starts on Foxtel on Tuesday, October 11 at 8.30pm, has a wonderful format.
Inspired by a baking competition at a local fete, it was nurtured to massive success by the BBC and has recently been bought by Channel 4 in the UK for £75 million ($A122 million) for the next three years.
It works because it has a heart. You often see disasters and inspiring baking from the same person in one episode and because it is filmed in the countryside in what looks like a souped-up farm shed, rather than in the industrial kitchens of its competitors.
Its tone is sympathetic and supportive, with very little shouting about how “it’s the opportunity” of a lifetime and “don’t mess this up” as you hear in MasterChef, for example.
Of course, as with every television series, casting is key and there are some interesting characters on offer in this, the second series of The Great Australian Bake Off.
Early standouts include NSW horse trainer Cheryl. “I’m not really a cake baker,” she says as she turns in sponges “that could bounce”. Maggie agrees that the “taste isn’t a cake”.
Noel’s been a winner at local Tasmanian shows and says he “listens to his cakes”.
There’s Jeremy – the welding inspector from South Australia – and Diana (who wears some sort of pompom in her hair), a full-time model and has learned cooking from her mother and grandmother in Sweden.
In this series, Maggie and Matt have ramped up their input and are more constructive and informative with their comments – moving away from the “hmmms” and “that’s nice” of the last series. That strengthens the action.
The challenges remain the same – the signature challenge (lamingtons with their own twist), the Technical Challenge (Matt Moran’s Pear and Amaretto Upside Down Cake) and the Show Stopper.
And we get some cracker results.
Monica – a mother of two from NSW – showcases her Italian heritage with her tiramisu lamingtons.
Olivia’s into colour and decoration and it shows her in lamington “Pretty in Pink”, which feature red skins and raspberry jelly.
Maggie reckons they taste like chewing gum but Matt’s a fan.
Of course, it’s the showstopper we all wait for and, in the first episode, it’s doesn’t disappoint.
They have to make an Ombre Cake and for those of us who don’t know what that means, it’s a multi-layered cake with graded shades of the same colour and it must be iced.
Noel’s cake whispering works and he turns in a gorgeous cake in autumn shades.
Jeremy’s gone for a pina colada number which looks like a pineapple and Antonio delivers a far more successful vision in purple.
I have no idea how Maggie and Matt don’t fall into a sugar-induced coma as a result of judging these efforts.
As a viewer, I’m bloated, full up with sugar, cakes and lamingtons and I haven’t eaten a thing.
And, yes, I will be back for seconds next week.