About once a year since 2010, 12 people make a momentous pilgrimage. These 12 people are amateur bakers—non-professionals from across the United Kingdom of varying occupation, age, and amounts of mirth—and their destination is a charming, oven-filled tent somewhere in the English countryside. Once there, they make epically conceived breads, biscuits the colors of the rainbow, cakes in the shape of human heads, and tarts that hopefully elude sogginess. But mostly, they collectively proceed to burrow their way into our hearts.
The Great British Bake Off, which began as a BBC program before moving over to Channel 4 (and getting licensed by Netflix), isn’t like other reality shows. For one, it’s extremely British, in the most charming sense of the word: Contestants are named Nancy Birtwhistle and hail from Merseyside and Bedfordshire and Great Wilbraham; they use words like “proper” and “cracking” with great frequency, and generally approach life with a sort of whimsical sardonicism. But secondly, and most importantly, The Great British Bake Off’s friendly competition puts far more emphasis on the first word in that phrase than the second—contestants become lifelong comrades who root for each other and even help each other. The sight of a Bake Off competitor rushing over to another’s station to help them put the finishing touches on a three-tier sponge cake can be downright shocking to us Americans who were weaned on people stabbing each other in the back on Big Brother, or just be altogether rude on certain seasons of Top Chef. The 12 bakers who make up a season of The Great British Bake Off are a family—and by watching, you become a part of the family too.
So when discussing how to honor the show in celebration of the premiere of its 12th season on Friday, it quickly became clear that a ranking just wouldn’t feel right. Do you rank your family? OK, don’t answer that—but I certainly know that ranking Bake Off contestants and pitting them against each other is a sort of nastiness unbefitting of such an outwardly wholesome, friendly show. Instead, we’ve created The Great British Bake Off Hall of Fame, a place where we can celebrate the best, most memorable bakers at no expense to anyone else. The inaugural class will include 12 legends who are being inducted based on their skill as bakers, their inventiveness as confectionery creators, and their, well, absolutely cracking personalities. And because choosing only 12 bakers was one of the most difficult things this staff has ever had to do—seriously, you should’ve heard the pained groans people made in meetings—we will also be giving out more specific awards to a handful of honorable mentions.
Before we get to the main course, three final notes: 1. Hall of Famers and Honorable Mentions have been ordered by season, because again, RANKING GOES AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF THE SHOW; 2. we recognize that our honoraries skew more toward the later seasons that are streaming on Netflix in the United States. We understand how American that makes us seem, we apologize profusely, and we desperately implore Netflix to make the earlier seasons available to watch; 3. please know full well that it is our honest intention to eventually induct every contestant into the Hall of Fame. We just love them all that much. And now, The Great British Bake Off Hall of Fame. —Andrew Gruttadaro
The Honorable Mentions
Comeback Baker of the Year: John Whaite (Series 3)
John’s time on the show teaches us two important lessons. Never use salt as a substitute for sugar, particularly when making rum baba. And baking strudel is the most dangerous activity this side of free solo climbing. Behold a sequence more befitting of a Quentin Tarantino film than Bake Off:
When John left the tent with a bloody hand and a gashed middle finger toward the end of Pudding Week, I thought we had seen the last of him. But he returned from the IL to wow Paul and Mary with a gingerbread version of the Colosseum during Biscuit Week, and his heaven and hell cake showstopper in the final won him the whole damn thing.
Perhaps we should’ve never doubted the healing capabilities of a man who could now be mistaken for Rob Gronkowski. —Ben Glicksman
Hottest Streak (or Most Likely to Have a Pencil If You Need One): Richard Burr (Series 5)
With a pencil tucked behind his ear at all times, the better to remind viewers of his day job as a fourth-generation builder, Richard Burr blushed easily, baked confidently, and dominated the stretch run of his competition, winning Star Baker for three weeks straight leading into the finale thanks to efforts like a Stair of Eclairs. (In all, he was named Star Baker five times.)
“Bake Off was surprisingly similar to being on a busy building site,” he told Pro Builder Magazine. Paul Hollywood liked to praise him for his “builder-like precision” whenever he was careful with his piping. Going into the finale, Richard was the betting favorite to win, though he lost out in an upset to Nancy. Since then, he has written a cookbook, Bake It Yourself (and hopefully has penciled in some time for more of these scuba diving and skiing vacations.) —Katie Baker
Fruitiest: Chetna Makan (Series 5)
Every season produces one or two memorable stars, but it’s the totality of the cast that makes GBBO such a comforting televisual presence. Chetna was a big part of the reason Series 5, the first in Netflix’s catalog, was such a fun, relaxing hang. What stands out most about Chetna as a baker was her use of fruit—specifically citrus—in sweet baking. The week she won Star Baker, she presented Paul and Mary with an orange savarin that had wilted in on itself, but she won them over anyway because it just tasted that great. —Michael Baumann
Best Son: Tamal Ray (Series 6)
When Tamal Ray, a hunky (hey, don’t take it from me!) anesthesiologist-in-training, won Star Baker in Week 7 based in part on a Victorian Week meat pie that was so good it merited a handshake from Paul Hollywood, he celebrated the best way he knew how: He rang up his mum, one of many wholesome moments that made the man a beloved character.
He used syringes to inject syrup or check cake readiness. He made a pulled pork vol-au-vent that he explained was “inspired by a sandwich.” He struggled with basic maths. (Endearing, if maybe worrisome.) And while he made it all the way to the finale of his season and gained international attention, Tamal still had to contend with the home front. “We are so pleased for Tamal,” his dad wrote on Facebook before the finale. (Tamal lost to Nadiya.) “Hope he completes his hospital training first and puts baking in the back-burner.” —Baker
Miss Congeniality: Jane Beedle (Series 7)
Ever-cheerful runner-up Jane Beedle grinned all the way to the finals in 2016, getting beat out by powerhouse Candace Brown. But the garden designer, 63 at the time, won over viewers with her sunny personality and beautiful mirror-glaze cakes. And her first round in the tent was far from her last hurrah. Since then, Jane has come back to win the Great Christmas Bake Off (a dominant performance, according to Paul Hollywood) and has started a Bake Off podcast with 2013 contestant Howard Middleton. Jane, please adopt me. I think we have a lot in common. —Kate Halliwell
Best Vibes: Selasi Gbormittah (Series 7)
Selasi! You have to use the exclamation mark for a dude who made your TV better every time he was on it. A seriously gifted contestant, but what stands out is just the aura: friendly, funny, easygoing, low-key sure of himself. Cool, but in a comfy way rather than an intimidating way. Who doesn’t want to be so chill they lie down on the floor while their bakes are in the oven? Who doesn’t want to go on a high-pressure reality show and casually do a little dance? He’d 10,000 percent be a Hall of Fame lock if he’d made it a little further in his season. Selasi’s friendship with Benjamina was so great it probably deserves a Hall of Fame all its own. —Brian Phillips
Most Exuberant Life Force: Val Stones (Series 7)
She listened to her cakes!
You know you made an impression when you only lasted halfway through your season but are still routinely listed as one of the most beloved bakers ever to enter the tent. Val, a semi-retired teacher, did aerobics while baking, judged her cakes by putting her ear to them (“they sing to me”), used dental floss to cut roulade (“it makes a sharper line”), and didn’t believe in using recipes, because when you’ve been baking for 50 years, you should know how to do it by heart.
Here’s what I’d do if you told me you didn’t love Val. I’d go, “Hahaha, nice try, but we both know that’s impossible.” Here’s what I’d do if you kept saying you didn’t love Val. I’d call Interpol, because you’re a war criminal. Non–war criminals love Val. That’s how it works. In a show with the highest ratio of iconic grandparents this side of Murder She Wrote, Val stands out as the nana par excellence. —Phillips
The Illusion Lord: Steven Carter-Bailey (Series 8)
From the moment Steven’s Bake Off campaign began, his eventual coronation seemed inevitable. He dominated with such ease and wowed the judges with such consistency in the early going that it was not a matter of whether Steven would win, but of how historic his victory march would be.
Well, that’s why they play the game, and that’s why they bake the cakes. Though Steven made his series finale, his later-season dip coincided with eventual-champion Sophie’s rise into steady excellence and eventual triumph.
Even absent the crystal chalice, though, Steven etched himself into Bake Off’s hallowed halls with his revelatory ingenuity. Who could forget his BLT illusion cake or his Chanel handbag confection? Astounding stuff! He also eventually claimed a title—in a holiday special, yes, but it’s something. If Bake Off ever assembles an all-star season of runners-up, Steven will be appointment viewing. —Mallory Rubin
The Reliable, Undeniable One: Sophie Faldo (Series 8)
The winner of Series 8 may not be the most loved or the most memorable—there’s a reason she’s in this group and not the one down below—but Sophie Faldo is one of the best, most consistent bakers to ever appear on GBBO. A former military officer (!) from Surrey, Sophie never found herself near the bottom at any point in her run, and after a steady start, by Pudding Week she was making stuff like her raspberry, yuzu, and white-chocolate trifle terrine—which is in my top five of “desserts from GBBO I most want to eat,” and which Paul Hollywood himself said was Michelin-restaurant quality. Her highs may not be as high as others, and her lows—well, she never had any, but there’s something to be said for reliability, especially in the kitchen. —Gruttadaro
Best Hang: Ruby Bhogal (Series 9)
It can’t be easy to share a name with one of the most beloved contestants in Bake Off history, but Ruby B. stands alone. The finalist and runner-up to Rahul had only been baking for a couple of years before trying out for the show, taking a beginner’s approach that helps explain her general chillness in the middle of a very un-chill (often literally, thanks to the summer heat) environment. The project manager from London comes off like someone you’d want to gossip with over a glass of wine, which you can frequently catch her enjoying on her globe-trotting Instagram. Bake Off is incredibly intense; it’s nice to see a contestant who doesn’t take it too seriously. —Alison Herman
Most Whimsical Grandfather Surrogate: Terry Hartill (Series 9)
I knew Terry was doomed from the start. In the premiere episode of his season, as the rest of the contestants busied themselves with their first bakes, Terry gestured to a task any seasoned viewer knew was too steep: drawing 24 identical lambs in liquid chocolate.
The lambs never fully materialized. But Terry’s sparkling presence and perseverance on the show over the next few episodes made up for his sometimes-lackluster creations. Terry has twinkling blue eyes and is possibly the only person outside a Pixar movie who can pull off a handlebar mustache. And while his biscuit-selfie showstopper was more “Lenin’s tomb” than “edible delight,” its painterly quality was unlike anything else in the room and hinted at an artistry that we wouldn’t get to fully appreciate in the tent.
Indeed, the snippets we got of Terry’s life outside the tent—beekeeping! horseback riding! beer brewing!—showed that even if he couldn’t always hack it in the tent, he led a rich home life and was crafty and creative. When he finally departed, he left viewers in tears, sharing that baking was the one thing that came close to filling the void left after his wife died. Terry clearly has a lot of talent, and it brings me joy to imagine him at his magical house in the woods, surrounded by animals, and baking whatever he wants at his leisure. —Kjerstin Johnson
Highest Approval Rating: Briony May Williams (Series 9)
2018 contestant Briony May Williams wasn’t the flashiest baker to ever enter the tent, but her approval rating may be one of the highest. It’s hard to imagine anyone scrolling through this list and thinking “Ugh, not her!” Briony was pretty much loved by all—the kind of contestant who was always laughing in the background or clutching someone’s hand every week during the technical challenge judgment. Briony won Star Baker on Pastry Week—a feat in and of itself—and ultimately won over the judges and hosts so thoroughly that Sandi cried when she announced Briony wouldn’t make it through to the final three. But that wasn’t the last we’d see of Briony. Like many Bake Off fan favorites, she’s thriving on TikTok. —Halliwell
Coolest Cucumber: David Atherton (Series 10)
Seven episodes into his season, David Atherton cheerily yet ruefully remarked how he was once again second in the technical challenge. Coming in second—never first—in the technical five times was such an oddly specific situation that you could either be amused or frustrated by, and David seemed to be the former.
I will never be on GBBO: not just because I’m not British, or because I don’t bake, but because I could not handle the stress of the tent. Besides flavor combinations and floral piping, part of the show’s intrigue is watching how the contestants fare mentally under pressure. When a bake goes wrong, some bakers can keep it together and others crack like an overbaked meringue.
David was meticulous and used great flavors, but he always kept his cool (he later shared that he always finished early too). He didn’t internalize criticism, seemed to take everything in stride, and had a good attitude in the face of challenges. His lack of both competitiveness and insecurity were his true secret ingredients—which he used to win the whole thing. —Johnson
Most Cherubic: Henry Bird (Series 10)
Baking isn’t a particularly cool activity. It’s an exacting discipline that’s often stereotyped as the province of housewives and grandmas. So the judges love it when a young person—particularly a young man—shows up in the tent and attacks the event with enthusiasm. Henry isn’t the youngest competitor in the show’s history, but the college student and literal choirboy is probably the youngest-looking. Usually done up in a shirt and tie in the sweltering tent, Henry hung in there through the quarterfinal of a particularly youthful and competitive season before stumbling during pastry week. At least he looked great doing it. —Baumann
Best TikTok: Michael Chakraverty (Series 10)
Chakraverty will go down in Bake Off history as half of the show’s most iconic maybe-couple. But during the pandemic, he’s also cultivated a delightful presence on TikTok—the kind of small celebrity your algorithm resurfaces to remind you how much you liked them in the first place. There, Chakraverty answers our burning questions (yes, bakers totally help each other during technicals), participates in memes, and generally reminds us that these are real people, not just TV personalities, which is the whole point of Bake Off in the first place. 10/10, would follow again. —Herman
The Hall of Fame
Brendan Lynch (Series 3)
Late in the Series 3 finale, Brendan reflects on what winning would mean to him. “I think to achieve the title would be an extraordinary endorsement of what I’ve achieved,” he says, before trailing off. He struggles to find words for the next 20 seconds, his eyes welling up. Finally, he gives in and lets the magnitude of the moment wash over him.
It’s one of the most poignant sequences in GBBO history. It’s a clear distillation of just how much this show means to its contestants. And it’s a perfect encapsulation of why even though Brendan didn’t win, he’s one of the most important and beloved contestants Bake Off has ever seen.
Brendan was far and away the most consistent baker on his season. He was twice named Star Baker and finished among the top two in virtually every other episode. His precision and attention to detail were legendary. He made a Christmas stollen for the ages and a remarkable gingerbread birdhouse; with all due respect to Paul Jagger’s bread lion, Brendan’s choux pastry swans belong on the pantheon of animal-shaped bakes.
But bakes alone aren’t what made Brendan so memorable. It was the way he gradually opened up—to the judges, to the fans, and then to himself.
After initially coming across as aloof, Brendan grew more comfortable as the season progressed. He bonded with fellow contestants; he laughed off Paul Hollywood’s jokes about his decorations being too ’70s. In the final, when asked to bake a cake representing a personal highlight, he created one signifying the reunion he was planning that would bring together both sides of his family for the first time in 30 years. It’s even more powerful when you know a bit about Brendan’s backstory: The seventh of eight children, he began baking at age 11 after his mother died when he was young. But as he told The Daily Mail in 2012, “I grew up in a strict, Catholic, rural family where boys didn’t do baking—girls did. It was stamped out of me and I didn’t bake again until I was 28.”
It’s heartbreaking stuff. And it reveals why a show about kneeling and staring into the oven could bring a seemingly unflappable 63-year-old to tears—and why that same show resonates so deeply with so many people.
The primary part of Bake Off’s appeal has always been that it’s less about competition than camaraderie. It’s a celebration of following your passions, and a recognition of just how much those passions really mean. Brendan never needed a title to endorse all that he’d achieved in his decades of baking. In that moment, gazing off into the distance, he knew. —Glicksman
Ruby Tandoh (Series 4)
Tandoh fits neatly into one of the Bake Off contestant’s primary archetypes: the Student, a teenager or early 20-something who’s had the time to become a baking prodigy in the absence of a full-time job. But Tandoh, a Series 4 finalist and three-time Star Baker, is more than just a trope. Quiet, contemplative (she majored in philosophy while competing on the show), and self-deprecating, Tandoh’s palpable anxiety makes her feel like an underdog even when she’s acing challenge after challenge; her inner saboteur, as RuPaul would put it, is always threatening to take the wheel.
But it’s what Tandoh has accomplished outside the tent that puts her in the pantheon of all-time great bakers. Nadiya Hussain may be more successful as a TV star, but Tandoh has cultivated her own following as a food writer, one with three books (and a fourth out this fall!), a New Yorker byline, and an insistently humane approach to food informed by practices like intuitive eating. She’s the thinking person’s pick of preferred Bake Off alum, with a willingness to push beyond Instagrammable indulgences—her latest book doesn’t even have photos!—to take a more holistic look at how we eat. By avoiding the easy path, Tandoh has defined herself outside the Bake Off industrial complex, a feat more daunting than any technical could be. —Herman
Nancy Birtwhistle (Series 5)
2014 Bake Off winner Nancy Birtwhistle is best known for coming from behind to beat two other Bake Off icons, Luis Troyano and Richard Burr, in one of the most consistent and reliable final three lineups in the history of the show. Her win caused a bit of turmoil online, as fan-favorite Richard had won Star Baker five times to her one, but Richard had an off-day on the final and you won’t catch our girl Nancy slipping. Dubbed “Gadget Gran” due to her array of homemade baking devices, Nancy was 60 years old when she won Bake Off, and she remains the oldest winner to date. (It’s never too late, kids!) Coiffed, composed, and ever-cheerful, Nancy is best known for her underdog win, but my favorite moment was when she referred to Paul Hollywood as “the male judge.” Did she forget his name? Did she simply decide he needed an ego check? Or was it revenge for his skepticism about her microwave proofing technique? Any way you spin it, Nancy is one for the history books. —Halliwell
Luis Troyano (Series 5)
A graphic designer from Manchester without any formal culinary training, the late Luis Troyano was a man of many hobbies. He fished, kept bees, strummed ukuleles, was into model airplanes, and occasionally whipped things (like a “tequila slammer cheesecake”) up in the kitchen. “I don’t even know how it started,” his wife Louise told the Telegraph. “It was just, ‘Oh, I made this … ’ The next minute he’s telling me: ‘I’ve entered the Bake Off.’”
And how! Only two weeks into the great Series 5, Luis established himself as a formidable creative mind when he built a 3D biscuit chocolate/chili/orange/cardamom dragon realm that was not only artfully decorated but was also quite structurally sound. The following week, his showstopper Roscón de Reyes—a stuffed bread loaf upon which he placed olives and gold leaf—earned him Star Baker honors, and over the weeks Luis paid homage to his roots with entries like childhood empanadas, pulled off ever more architectural marvels, and included thoughtful touches like hiding brandy-soaked sugar cubes inside fruitcakes.
One of the series’ final three contestants, Luis went on to write a recipe book, Bake It Great. In late 2020, Luis’s family announced that he had died at age 48 following a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, and a few weeks later an episode of Bake Off was dedicated to his memory. His wife, Louise, told the Telegraph that “he always put 100 percent into everything. I look back and think: ‘Oh my God, you fitted so much in.’” —Baker
Nadiya Hussain (Series 6)
To watch Nadiya Hussain on GBBO is to watch a superstar emerge in real time. When the Luton native first walks into the tent, she’s a ball of nerves—a busy mother of three young kids whose husband encouraged her to try out as a rare project for just herself. She knits her brow and bites her nails, cringing her way through the technical challenges that became her bête noire.
Fast-forward a few years and Hussain is one of the most beloved TV hosts in the entire U.K., giving even Mary Berry a run for her money. It’s hard to believe the bright, confident host of Nadiya Bakes or Nadiya’s Time to Eat ever felt anything less than at ease in front of the camera, brightly guiding viewers through the worst of the pandemic with infectious cheer. But beyond the baking chops that qualified her to prepare a birthday cake for Her Majesty herself, it’s this origin story that makes Hussain such a compelling figure. Bake Off proudly defines itself as a contest for amateurs, but it’s also capable of discovering true professionals in waiting. Hussain represents the best of what Bake Off has to offer, and she’s been rewarded accordingly. —Herman
Candice Brown (Series 7)
Known for her colorful lipstick, and the infamous post-show smooch with the Male Judge, Candice doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the show’s all-time great in-tent performers. After a rocky start that saw her up for elimination twice in the first three weeks—sandwiching, so to speak, a stunning gingerbread pub that augured great things to come—she found her stride in midseason and dominated the back half of the campaign as few bakers have.
The most memorable moments from the show come from iconic showstoppers, which, well, is why they’re called that. That’s where individual episodes are won. But the key to surviving to the final is the technical round, which separates the wheat from the chaff when the signature falls flat or a chunk falls off a four-tiered opera cake in the climactic final moments of the weekend. Apart from Week 2, when her aforementioned gingerbread pub was so good the rest of the show didn’t matter, Candice always kept her head above water in the technical round. That got her through to the final, where she claimed the silver plate, and ultimately that infamous smooch. —Baumann
Liam Charles (Series 8)
One of the most popular contestants in Bake Off history, and almost certainly the most popular non-winner. The prevailing emotion within the tent always seems to be anxiety, but Liam approached the competition like someone who hadn’t lived long enough to fear failure. So while his competitors sweated and furrowed their brows, he laughed his way through crises and gave Paul more playful back talk than any other contestant in the show’s history. Once, the London-raised Liam admitted to Paul that he was a Manchester United supporter, and in response, Hollywood threatened to boot him off the show. How charming is Liam? You still like him even after he admits he’s a Man U fan.
It’s fairly common for GBBO favorites to land a cookbook deal or a newspaper column, but Liam has become nothing less than a national star. He’s come back to judge not one but two Bake Off spinoffs, landed his own TV miniseries, and fed Phil—or at least had a martini with Phil—on the eponymous Netflix show. And audiences have greeted him with wild applause each time, because on a show that’s mostly about being a great hang, Liam was the best hang of all. —Baumann
Rahul Mandal (Series 9)
Possibly the sweetest contestant in the history of the show (which, my God, think about that for a second). Also an absolute fucking murderer. Laid waste to the field in Series 9 despite a palpable lack of confidence. I’m so sorry, you deserved better than the most delicious mango and cranberry Chelsea buns of all time. During Spice Week, he literally apologized to Paul Hollywood for being too good. Please consider two different levels of super-talent. Level 1 is when you’re so good you can afford to stay nice. Level 2 is when you’re so good you don’t even have to believe in yourself to win. Rahul spent 10 episodes trying to work up the courage to smile gently at the camera. He also spent 10 episodes leaving a trail of obliterated pretenders in his wake.
What did Conan the Barbarian say is the best thing in life? “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women”? Rahul was not out to crush anyone. Lamentations? He preferred making friends and drinking a nice glass of milk. Conan and Rahul were both dominant in their respective spaces, but Rahul’s approach came with friends, and also ginger cake. If anything, Rahul is probably underrated as a winner because he (nicely!) put up with Paul patronizing him week after week. “The little genius.” Napoleon Bonaparte was famously a diminutive individual, too—that didn’t stop him from rolling two empires at Austerlitz. —Phillips
Steph Blackwell (Series 10)
Oh, Steph. For much of Series 10—the best season of GBBO, don’t @ me—Steph Blackwell was a clear juggernaut in a room full of skilled bakers. She was one of the judges’ favorite bakers in a staggering eight out of nine weeks before the finale; she reeled off a stunning three-week stretch as Star Baker, a kind of sustained dominance that rarely happens on this show. And while she towered over the other bakers and put distance between herself and them in the power rankings, she did so with an affable humility, almost like she was surprised—a truly wonderful, affirming representation for those of us who struggle with imposter syndrome too. Her ongoing reminders to herself to both believe in herself and enjoy the success she was experiencing are things I’ll never forget.
Of course, things didn’t end well for Steph; her fizzling in the Series 10 finale is one of the most surprising turns in the show’s history. First she slightly overbaked her Black Forest chocolate cake; then she completely botched the technical challenge, submitting a series of Stilton soufflés that were little more than dough; and with tears welling in her eyes and the pressure building, she overbaked most of her showstopper challenge and quite simply couldn’t keep up with the technical wizardry of eventual winner David Atherton. “I was really drained from the process,” Steph told ITV News after the season. “It is a bit of a marathon, and the stamina to just keep coming back each week—it was really hard.” In the end, though, Steph isn’t remembered only for her trouble in the finale; she’s remembered for making some of the most impressive food this show has ever seen. Without a doubt, she’s a Hall of Famer. —Gruttadaro
Lottie Bedlow (Series 11)
Both of my Bake Off Hall of Fame choices are known for serving courageous sass in the face of Paul Hollywood. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Love her or hate her, the 2020 fan favorite made an impression with snarky quips and a relatable lack of patience for the show’s irrepressible cheer. “Who just said they’re having fun?” she once accused the tent during a technical challenge. And though her dry humor made for entertaining television, Lottie also formed memorable bonds with the other contestants on the show—so much so that she started wearing the clothes off their backs after Week 3, since our favorite pessimist didn’t pack enough to last through the beginning of the bubble. In the end, no one is immune to the charm of the tent. Lottie was booted from the show in memorable fashion (literally) while wearing someone else’s olive green T-shirt, soaked with wet towels in an attempt to survive the heat, and serving the judges a truly disastrous ice cream cake. But success in the tent is temporary—TikTok highlight reels are forever. —Halliwell
Peter Sawkins (Series 11)
Peter is the Season 11 winner and the most recent Bake Off champion. But his Hall placement isn’t the product of recency bias. Peter instantly emerged as a baking prodigy, rising like a perfectly proved dough into the tier of most memorable contestants thanks to his skill, passion, and precociousness. Peter’s victory made him the show’s first Scottish winner and also its youngest champ, a 20-year-old wunderkind who inspired Prue to say, heart full of affection in that signature Bake Off fashion, “You know, I’m terribly proud of Peter; I feel as if he is my grandson or something.” (Iconic.)
Peter’s relationship with his brother was a through line of his arc, with backyard badminton clips dotting the episodes, and Peter’s propensity for gluten-free baking, which he learned in order to prepare treats for his brother, was ever-present during his run. Family and friendship are often central to our bakers’ stories, and in Bake Off’s coronavirus-bubble season, Peter’s brotherly inspired gluten-free bakes were one more meaningful reminder of how baking can function as a beautiful bridge to our loved ones.
In many ways, Bake Off felt like a part of Peter’s family, too. He spoke throughout the season of watching the show as a kid, particularly Series 3, which he cited as a favorite and an inspiration for his own baking journey. Like the young virtuosos who grow up watching Survivor and then head to the island as not only fans but scholars ready to deploy their years of viewership and study, Peter was awed by the tent but also ready for it. He felt like a different generation of Bake Off contestant: one for whom Bake Off has been inextricable from baking itself, as it has surely become for so many of us at home. —Rubin