RECAP | THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BAKE OFF season three episode one

Mel: That explains why I saw Matt Moran polishing his sportscar with verjuice.

It took a little longer than expected, but The Great Australian Bake Off is finally back for a third season! Twelve new bakers, our usual hosts and judges, and local wildlife. As always we're starting with Cake Week because Cake is the best (I may say this about every theme). As always, you can find recipes on the show's website.

The Bakers

Here is season three's batch of bakers, we'll learn more about them as we go through the series. Let's get to baking!

  • Claudia Anton (48), Psychiatrist from Melbourne
  • Chris Asquith (32), System Administrator from Newcastle
  • Barb Dunn (37), Finance Manager from Brisbane
  • Max Fetiveau (28), Plasterer from Brisbane
  • Robert Harwood (34), I.T. Administrator from Perth
  • Raeesa Khatree (37), Ex-Lawyer turned health store worker from Brisbane
  • Marcus Matear (27), Dentist from Melbourne
  • Jessica Osbone (28), Sales Co-ordinator from Brisbane
  • Alex Papadopoulos (47), Building Material Importer from Melbourne
  • Emma Sievwright (23), Science Graduate from Brisbane
  • Michelle Trevorrow (64), Retiree from Melbourne
  • Dave Yan (35), Accountant from Sydney

Signature Bake: Marble Cake

The first signature challenge is to make a family sized marble cake, which Mel describes as "like Italian marble, but much more affordable." Also more delicious. The combination (but not mixing) of light and dark batters creates the marbled effect. I have fond memories of a Neopolitan marble cake that I ate when I would have been three or four. I asked for marble cake for weeks afterwards. ANYWAY - the bakers can use any combination of flavours or colours, but it must be decorated. They have two hours.

Dave is our first contestant to be visited by the judges. In the short montage at the beginning of the episode he says that baking brings out his wild side, which I love. His green cake will have two layers of chiffon sponge marbled with matcha green tea batter, filled with red bean buttercream, and decorated with Korean-style piping. Mel pinches some cake batter and claims it as tax. The moment when Maggie and Matt try Dave's cake (pictured above) is one of the reasons I watch this show. Their feedback was that the combination of flavours was perfect, and it was light, fluffy and not too sweet. Then they congratulated him on the cake and it's the first beautiful moment of the season.

Robert makes the first chocolate and orange cake for the episode, which he calls a Tiger cake. The cake is filled with a chocolate ganache and topped with a mirror glaze complete with orange stripes and glitter, and it's gorgeous. Unfortunately the chocolate ganache was a bit too much chocolate (for the judges), but the cake had a good texture and both flavours came through.

Emma is also making a chocolate and orange (and vanilla) marble cake, which is inspired by her tortoiseshell cat Mischa. She 'splotches' her batters into the tin, which is the first time I've seen this marbling method. She decorates her cake with chocolate ganace and orange toffee shards. The judges loved the marbling and the orange flavour, but the cake was overcooked.

Claudia made a pink marble cake with lemon and raspberry sponges, filled with raspberry buttercream and a dark chocolate drip. The filling has disguised the marbling, but they like that the cake isn’t oversweet.

Jessica made a lime, coconut and chocolate cake, decorated with a white chocolate mirror glaze and edible flowers. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of flavour, and the brown batter has dominated the marbling.

Raeesa is a South African ex-lawyer who now works in a health food store, and after her performance this week is definitely a frontrunner. She baked a peacock marble cake with lime and coconut batters which she dyed blue and green. She makes her own fondant feathers, and the decoration is gorgeous. The judges love the cake: the lime lifts the coconut, and it's not dry - except Matt isn't a fan of a bright blue and green cake (my mum would probably agree). Claire responds that "Matt would prefer to eat the female peacock cake which is all brown in the middle."

Max is originally from France, and he moved to Australia for love, which I learned before I got too invested in the idea of marrying a French baker. His cake is four layers of chocolate sponge marbled with matcha, decorated with mascarpone frosting and sliced strawberries. The thin layers make it difficult to see the marbling, and the matcha has overpowered the chocolate.

Chris is making the final chocolate and orange cake for this challenge, which he's going to decorate with orange buttercream and orange peel toffee. The judges love the marbling, the soft cake and the orange peel toffee, and Chris gets a "superb job" from Matt.

Barb made a marble bundt cake with vanilla and coffee sponge decorated with coffee ganache and chocolate covered coffee beans. The judges love the coffee flavours and remark that Barb was successful in making a light fluffy sponge, which is difficult when you have two batters.

Alex is a single dad who learned to bake from his Greek mother, which he uses as inspiration for his lemon and pistachio marble cake. It's decorated with lemon icing, and topped with pistachios and pomegranates. Unfortunately the pistachio batter sank to the bottom so it has the appearance of a layer cake, but the judges don't really mind because it tastes great.

Marcus is a dentist who loves to bake and would probably tell us that cake is okay as long as we still brush twice a day. His marble cake is chocolate and vanilla sponge filled with cherry jam, praline, cherries and whipped cream, and decorated with a dark chocolate mirror glaze. The judges like the cake and remark that it's not as sweet as they expected, thanks to the cherries. Marcus says that he doesn't like things too sweet, and Matt describes him as a "thoughtful dentist."

Michelle, our Maggie Beer lookalike is making a lemon and raspberry bundt cake, decorated with a lemon glaze, candied lemon peel and fresh raspberries. The judges remark on her strong marbling, and Maggie loves the raspberry and lemon flavour combination.

Technical Bake: Madeleines

The contestants must bake 24 chocolate-dipped hazelnut madeleines, following Maggie Beer's recipe. Maggie's advice to the bakers is that burnt butter has degrees of burn, and that the batter should be rested as long as possible. Claire tells the bakers that madeleines are a French sponge in a distinctive shell-like shape. A quick google to check the spelling tells me that some people categorise madeleines as cookies, but that's unlikely to be a debate in Bake Off fandom. Max tells us that he cannot fail because it's a French cake. This is surely the moment of his downfall. Claudia made madeleines when she had a baby because she could bake with one hand and hold her daughter in the other.

Marcus comments that he needs to clean his bench, which is everyone's least favourite part of baking. He talks about how he puts dance music on when he cleans up and then he does a dance!

While they're waiting for their batter to rest, day turns into night. It's the opposite of a Bachelor cocktail party. Dave is using a digital scale to make sure he's got the same amount of batter in each cake. I'm not entirely sure how he's figured that out, but I believe that it's worked. Meanwhile, Max has decided that he's going to make the madeleines the way he's learned - by heating the oven to maximum temperature and turning it off when he puts the cakes in. The judging of this challenge isn't particularly interesting, but Maggie remarks on the madeleines not reaching their potential, which I love.

From last to first we have: Marcus, Max, Alex, Jessica, Claudia, Dave, Crris, Barb, Emma, Robert, Michelle, Raeesa

Before the showstopper, Mel, Claire, Maggie and Matt have a discussion in the potting shed about how the bakers are going. As a group they're doing really well, this has been an episode with great bakes. Raeesa is looking good for Star Baker, and Dave, Michelle and Robert are also mentioned as possibilites. At the other end, Marcus, Jessica and Max need to do well in the Showstopper challenge to avoid elimination.

Showstopper: The Ultimate Children's Birthday Cake

The first showstopper challenge is so good! There's nothing quite as exciting as a fun children's birthday cake, and I spent hours looking through the Australian Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book as a child. The bakers have a fairly open brief - their cake can be any flavour and any theme of their choosing. Maggie wants creativity and emotion to go wild, and Matt says "It really has to impress kids so it has to look spectacular." I wondered whether children would be judging this, but they didn't, and some of the judges comments are informed by the fact that they're not children, and I'm going to be a bit critical of Matt.

Michelle is making a Prehistoric Volcanic Island and it's everything I've ever wanted from a Showstopper challenge. The cake is chocolate sponge filled with ganache and the working volcano is made from rice bubbles. Michelle also made dinosaur fossil biscuits so the hypothetical children could brush for fossils. The theatrics were great, and the cake tasted fantastic too!

Marcus was in a bit of trouble before this challenge, but he pulled off his chocolate and blood orange volcano cake made from chocolate sponge, sesame buttercream and blood orange curd. I knew that this was successful when they displayed it with the good bake music before its tasting. The eruption was spectacular, and the judges loved the flavour combinations.

Max made a monster cake with seven layers of chocolate sponge and cookies and cream filling. It's decorated with chocolate covered cookie eyes and blue marscapone frosting. The judges praise the sponge and say it's not too delicate, but they want the decoration to be a bit more elegant because the monster is cross-eyed. Chrildren would still love it.

Jessica set out to make a white chocolate mudcake teapot decorated with fondant flowers. The judges worry that it will be too sweet and suggest adding citrus to the cake batter. Because Maggie Beer is possibly the nicest human, she brings Jessica some lemons to put in the batter, but her cakes are already in the oven. Jessica starts again, and in the reduced time, her teapot becomes a teacup. The judges like the flavour, but comment that the cake sticks to the roof of their mouths.

Robert makes a Dolly Varden cake, complete with an edible doll made from modelling chocolate. The skirt is five layers of red velvet cake with a sour cream white chocolate ganache. In the process of making the doll, Robert says "For a long time this is going to look like something out of Alien, but it'll get there," and indeed it does. The finished cake looks fantastic, until Maggie and Matt start dismembering and beheading the doll. The cake itself is delicious with good flavour and texture.

Emma is making a bear cake with vanilla sponge dotted by fairy floss and bubblegum batter, possibly inspired by Nadiya in series six of The Great British Bake Off. The cake will have mini meringues in the centre pocket. The judges like the cake but they think it's too sweet and needs a counterpoint to the fairy floss flavouring. Once again, children would probably love it regardless.

Chris made a Neopolitan princess cake for his daughter with alternating strawberry, chocolate and vanilla layers. It's decorated with pink and purple icing and a crown. Matt is surprised that Chris is making a princess cake. Is this just because Chris has a mohawk? Chris also has a daughter and he's making something she would love, that doesn't seem strange to me at all. Anyway, the judges love the flavour and the colours and call it a beautiful cake.

Barb makes the first of the magical unicorn cakes with a gold fondant horn. The cake is four different colours of vanilla sponge, filled with buttercream. The judges suggest that it could do with a different flavour to give it a lift - perhaps lemon, but once again, this is a children's birthday cake challenge that adults are judging.

Dave also made a unicorn cake, but his horn is made from modelling chocolate. His two-tiered cake is comprised of six rainbow sponges: strawberry, mango, lemon, apple, blueberry and blackberry, filled with matching flavoured buttercream, which I'm sure is much better than the rainbow cake I bought at Coles for $16 last year. Claire asks if children have sophisticated enough palates to distinguish between six different flavours, but it wouldn't matter because they'd love the colours. The judges praise Dave's cake, describing it as buttery and full of flavour.

Raeesa madea jungle cake inspired by her African heritage and she is definitely in my top three contestants for the season so far. I'm not sure who the other two are, but that's beside the point. The bottom tier of the cake is chocolate, and the top tier is vanilla with a leopard print design. It's decorated with fondant animals and a waterfall, and there's a 'cascade of hidden candy' in the centre of the cake. The judges love the flavour and texture, but Matt would like some raspberry in there before admitting that "I think a child would just be overjoyed." There really should have been children judging this. Perhaps Claire's children (including Mel).

Claudia made a pony cake that sadly didn't lead to a discussion comparing the judges to My Little Pony characters. The vanilla sponge was filled with strawberry curd, custard buttercream and almond meringue, and was topped with a rice paper mane and marshmallow fondant ears. The judges described the cake as "like a cloud" and could taste the strawberry coming through, before Matt admitted that it wasn't his kind of cake. The challenge is Ultimate Children's Birthday Cake.

Alex made a mermaid cake with vanilla sponge, filled with homemade raspberry jam and topped with French buttercream. It was decorated with a fondant tail and macaron clam shells as well as marshmallows that Alex bought at the supermarket that I wouldn't have noticed if the judges hadn't mentioned it. The judges love Alex's homemade jam, but think the cake is a bit dense.

Robert wins Star Baker this week, but it must have been a difficult decision, given that Raeesa and Michelle's showstoppers were spectacular. Jessica goes home, which she knows because she hasn't had a great week in the kitchen.