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Unmissable: The Great British Bake Off is back - but will it be better than ever?

Hosts of The Great British Bake Off Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc in front of the twelve contestants who will be taking part in the fifth series of the show.
Photo: Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire

Hosts of The Great British Bake Off Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc in front of the twelve contestants who will be taking part in the fifth series of the show. Photo: Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire

WARNING: Use of this copyright image is subject to the terms of use of BBC Pictures' Digital Picture Service (BBC Pictures) as s

Pitch the marquee, wheel in the ovens, unpack the Magimix machines – it’s Bake Off time.

17-year-old Martha, who is taking part in the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off
Photo: Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire17-year-old Martha, who is taking part in the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off Photo: Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire

Yes, The Great British Bake Off is back on BBC1 and this year brings us not only the youngest ever baker (Martha, at 17) but the oldest as well (Diana, 69).

It’s become something of a phenomenon since its humble origins on BBC2 four summers ago and has made stars out of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, not to mention launching the careers of several of the winners and, most notably, last year’s runner-up, Ruby Tandoh.

And this year it promises to be bigger and better than ever before, and even has a supplementary show to accompany it.

Yes, in the spirit of Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, The Apprentice: You’re Fired and ITV2’s X-Factor spin-off, The Xtra-Factor, TGBBO now has a special little sister to offer even more tasty morsels for your delectation.

Hosted by Jo Brand, The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice will be a half-hour magazine show every Friday during the run of the main series where we will get an extra insight into the goings-on inside the big white tent. All things pastry, cake and biscuit will be analysed and discussed, and I expect there’ll be ribbing a-plenty for Mr Hollywood.

I wear my love for Bake Off proudly on my sleeve. The Mel and Sue double act is perfect for the show and their banter with the judges strikes a perfect balance with what can often prove to be surprisingly tense competitive cooking.

The little historical sequences tend to be unnecessary at times and could even be seen as padding out a slightly overlong show, but it’s a minor quibble − in fact, it offers an opportune moment to go and put the kettle on to get a cup of tea ready for the episode’s dramatic conclusion. That sounds odd when in reference to desserts, pies and tarts, but it’s true.

The tears and triumphs that take place in that marquee strike a chord with millions of people. The Bake Off brand is now big business for the Beeb. Recipe books, live shows, merchandise and international versions of the show all mean big bucks for the corporation and it shows no sign of slowing down or losing its appeal.

What is so telling about the perfect mix for success that Berry, Hollywood and co cook up each week is how relatively unsuccessful the mimics have proved.

Although well-produced and slickly presented by Claudia Winkleman, The Great British Sewing Bee is enjoyable yet forgettable fare lacking in the real emotion and drama of Bake Off.

And the less said about Fern Britton’s The Big Allotment Challenge the better. Let’s stick with the original and best recipe.

What do you think? Send me an email at elliot.furniss@archant.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @Elliot_Furniss

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