In a green field in Tigoni, a cool tea-farming area 30km from Nairobi in Kenya, there’s a giant white tent, where 12 excited amateur bakers are waiting. They’ve been chosen from over 1,000 applicants to show us their skills, innovation and flair for flavour. They all have big dreams for their bakes, which Food Illustrator Alfred Ombati will bring to life in classic Bake Off style.
It’s all here: the tent, that home baking introduction sequence (now with an adorable Kenyan toddler), the setup and work benches at the ready, the aprons – even the classic Bake Off logo sports a shield from Kenya’s coat of arms. The most essential ingredient in the mix – kindness – is here, too. Yes, there are tears in the first episode when pressure in the tent gets intense and cakes crack and burn, but you immediately see competitors and the hosts rush in to give comforting hugs.
As always, it’s a great way to learn about baking. During each technical challenge, the judges discuss the ideal look, texture and taste of every project that the bakers are taking on. And the range of mess-ups on a seemingly simple bake like a swiss roll really brings home how much skill is actually involved and how many wrong decisions must be dodged.
Welcome to… The Great Kenyan Bake Off!
Your judges and hosts
Judge Myra Ndung’u: Classically trained French pastry chef Myra is the director and co-founder of Le Grenier à Pain Kenya. She’s all about the precision, the delicacy, the flavour. “A good bake for me is all about using quality ingredients, the right process and coming up with the best finished look,” says Myra. According to our hosts, Myra is "so sweet, she is the personification of cake".
Judge Kiran Jethwa: Award-winning chef Kiran is host of the Kenyan cooking shows Tales From The Bush Larder, Fearless Chef, and Food Unwrapped. He’s also the chef and owner of Nairobi’s Seven Restaurants, Ltd. “What I expect from the bakers when they get in the tent is to execute with precision and come out with absolute deliciousness,” says Kiran. According to our hosts, his real skill is “frowning at your cake until it deflates".
Host June Gachui: As an advocate of the High Court specialising in intellectual property, June is familiar with a different sort of judging. She’s also a performer, an MC, a TV presenter, a songwriter, a dancer, and an improv comedian with the popular Kenyan show Because You Said So. No wonder she’s been nicknamed a “June of all trades”.
Host Nick Ndeda: Actor, director, TV, playwright and radio host Nick played bad boy gangster-turned-rapper Angelo in pan African drama series Shuga season 2 (2012), and Kalonzo in another familiar drama, Jacob’s Cross. Nick won the Best TV Host prize at the Kalasha Awards 2020 for his role in The Great Kenyan Bake Off.
Episode 1: Cake Week – Technical: swiss roll with jam; Showstopper: get to know your cake
Episode 2: Bread Week – Technical: focaccia; Showstopper: decorative loaf
Episode 3: Tea Week – Technical: brownies; Showstopper: 12 tea cupcakes
Episode 4: Pie Week – Technical: lemon meringue pie; Showstopper: savoury family pie
Episode 5: Dessert Week – Technical: chocolate fondant; Showstopper: trifle
Episode 6: Pastry Week – Technical: bacon-mushroom-tomato quiche; Showstopper: sweet tart
Episode 7: Biscuit Week – Technical: checkerboard biscuits; Showstopper: gingerbread structure
Episode 8: Gluten-Free Week – Technical: ugali cake; Showstopper: cheesecake
Episode 9: Semi-final – Technical: macarons; Showstopper: choux pastry tower
Episode 10: Final – Technical: Schichttorte; Showstopper: 3-tiered wedding cake
Watch The Great Kenyan Bake Off S1 from Wednesday, 28 July on BBC Lifestyle (DStv channel 174) at 20:00