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'The Great British Bake Off' glossary: from crème pat to soggy bottoms

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott

Say farewell to the summer of sport. The time for stretches, 200m sprints and shiny medals is over. The time for the Bake Off has begun. That’s right, pre-heat your oven and dust off that cake stand. From here on out (or until the end of October at least) life is about cake. Baking it, eating it and drooling over it.

However, if you’re in need of a GBBO refresher, here’s a rundown of all the phrases you need to know to immerse yourself fully in all things baked…  

Crème pat

A term thrown casually around the Bake Off tent as though it’s as common as sliced bread. Crème pat is shorthand for crème patissière, a kind of fancy, rich custard made out cream or cream, sugar and egg yolk. It’s used to fill pastries and line tarts. Pat problems include lumpiness and overmixing.

Crumb structure

The crumb is the bit of bread that isn’t the crust and it can vary depending on the type of bread you are baking. For example, sourdough has an open crumb structure. Cakes also have a crumb structure, which determines how dense a mouthful will be, as well as how charmed Mary Berry will be by a Victoria Sponge.  

Even bake

This is Paul Hollywood and Merry Berry code for a brilliant bake. It’s used when describing a satisfactory creation, often when the bakers have been tasked with producing a number of identical items. It means the bake is cooked (always a good start) and has coloured evenly. It might not sound like it, but this is high praise indeed.

Great British Bake Off



Don’t go confusing this with a simple stir. Oh no, if a recipe calls for ingredients to be folded, then folded they must be. This is a way of combining a delicate mixture with a heavier one, in a way that will keep air bubbles in the lighter mixture intact.


Proofing is a term used by serious bread bakers. It’s the final stage before baking, when the bread dough is left to rise, but this is not a time to put your feet up and relax with a cup of tea; underproofing or overproofing your dough can be utterly, utterly disastrous.


The final challenge of the week. This is where the bakers either flourish or fail. Paul and Mary have high expectations for this bake, which is supposed to be a detailed, extravagant and seriously impressive creation. Those expectations, unfortunately, are not always met. But past Showstoppers have included a Dalek crafted out of biscuits and the Moulin Rouge made with French pastries, so at least it’s always entertaining.

Signature bake

The first challenge the bakers face when they enter the tent each week, the signature bake is supposed to be a tried and tested favourite which showcases their strongest skills. No pressure then.


In the Bake Off tent, if Paul Hollywood is wandering around muttering 'slack' he’s probably referring to custard rather than Sue’s choice of trouser. Slack custard sounds unappetising, doesn’t it? And for good reason. A slack custard is too thin. It won’t form a cohesive layer in a trifle (or whatever else you’re trying to create) and it definitely won’t win you Star Baker. 

Great British Bake Off 2016


Soggy bottom 

Sure, it makes us viewers snigger, but a soggy bottom is no laughing matter. This cutting critique refers to the bottom of pies and tarts. And in the GBBO world it’s very bad news because it means your bake isn’t cooked properly and Paul Hollywood is likely to clock you with his icy stare. 

Star Baker 

The ultimate prize. There is no greater accomplishment in an amateur baker’s life than to be crowned Star Baker. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry select a weekly Star at the end of each programme. It’s worth noting that there is no actual Star Baker crown or star or trophy. There isn’t even a badge. It’s one of those prizes where you win a sense of accomplishment.

Technical challenge

Here’s where things get tricky. Arguably the toughest task, Paul or Mary give the bakers a very basic recipe often with crucial information missing before standing back and watching as they panic/cry/fail miserably. There is then a very tense session of blind taste testing before the bakers are ranked in order of their (in)competence.


This is not what Mary Berry loses when a baker offers her a disappointing ginger snap. Tempering is to do with carefully managing the temperature of ingredients. Bakers temper chocolate by heating and then cooling it to prevent it crystallising or becoming too thick. Eggs are tempered when a hot liquid is carefully stirred into them, which brings the eggs up to a high temperature without cooking them. Sounds simple, but it absolutely isn't.

'The Great British Bake Off' starts on Wednesday at 8pm on BBC2.

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