The Great Celebrity Bake Off 2021 line-up: meet the contestants supporting Stand Up To Cancer
En garde, whisks at the ready! Channel 4’s star-studded bakeathon in aid of Stand Up to Cancer returns on Tuesday 9 March at 8pm. As with the previous three series, the show aims to raise money for cancer research as part of Channel 4’s annual charity drive.
Twenty celebrities will be competing this year, from Star Wars star Daisy Ridley to documentary-maker Stacey Dooley. With four bakers entering the stripy tent each week, it is likely the series will run for five weeks, with the final episode airing on 6 April. Each week, the celebs will face three challenges: the Signature, the Technical and the Showstopper. All in hope of claiming the Star Baker apron.
On hand for hosting duties will be amiable egghead Matt Lucas, though his fellow presenter Noel Fielding is MIA as he was on paternity leave when the series was filming.
Fear not though, as the usual judging duo, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, are back. Blue-eyed beefcake Paul Hollywood will no doubt twinkle menacingly over the mixing bowl at the sweating celebs, while Prue Leith will ever-so-slightly twitch from behind a rotating selection of polychromic specs to show her verdict. So Bake Off as you know it, then.
But which celebrities will be competing? And what are their cooking chops?
Here’s who’ll be flour-throwing this year
Fresh from taking on, well, God in His Dark Materials you’d have thought some macaroon making would be a light relief for the X Men and Shameless star. But from the grizzled, grey-flecked publicity shot released alongside his casting announcement, it looks like he’s taking it very seriously indeed.
It’s difficult to know what to make of the appearance of the Star Wars actor. Rey’s character arc wrapped up nicely in The Rise of Skywalker, so a baking show seems a left-field choice after you’ve saved the galaxy. Yet it’s all in the name of charity and Bake Off, in particular, has a strong history of attracting an excellent pedigree of participants. But can Ridley wield a wooden spoon as well as she can a light sabre?
The Liverpudlian comedian has been on the stand up and panel show circuit for years but his career is set to go stratospheric as he’s soon to follow in Bradley Walsh’s footsteps as the latest companion on Doctor Who. First though, he’s got to face the wrath of Prue Leith. All together now: Ex-stir-that-cake! Ex-stir-that-cake!
Does David Baddiel like baking? Who knows. But the luxuriantly hirsute comic’s latest stand-up show, My Family: Not the Sitcom, opened at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, so that feels like kind of coincidence no-one can ignore. Last seen presenting an excellent series about Holocaust denial, it will be good to see him a jollier setting.
Now here’s someone who definitely knows his way around a bain-marie. The comedian and Bake Off host (he has presented the Great Christmas Bake Off and The Professionals) will no doubt find it a discombobulating experience to be the inside of an apron.
Dame Kelly Holmes
This will probably be the closest the iron-abbed double Olympian has ever been to a Battenberg. There was no mention of triple chocolate cookies in the athlete’s 2018 self-help guide, Runner’s Life, after all. That was before she discovered the joys of glistening ganache and sugar scuplture, though. So perhaps we’ll see a very different Holmes emerge after her week in the tent.
Ade Adepitan MBE
The Paralympian and presenter is known for his warm style and mean wheelchair basketball skills. He has made his name breaking boundaries for disabled people and achieving goals many had dismissed as impossible. As far as we’re aware though, he’s never attempted to make a realistic London cityscape out of choux pastry so there’s always another challenge on the horizon.
The potty-mouthed Canadian comic is a panel show regular. Celebrity Bake Off will be an interesting test, then, to see whether she can keep it family friendly. But with a background waiting tables at Hooters, and her new show Netflix show The Duchess, she’s sure to bring a touch of culinary class to proceedings. Or not.
The Little Mix singer will meet the mother of all mixing challenges on Celebrity Bake Off. She’s built quite a platform away from Simon Cowell’s talent-making machine as an LGBT and body positivity activist. The nice thing about Bake Off, though, is it doesn’t give a fig(slice) about your reputation. As past contestants know, it gets real out there in the jungle of flour measuring and egg cracking. So it will be good to see whether Thirlwall can rise, as it were, to the challenge.
Another pop band escapee, Coyle is now pursuing a solo career away from Girls Aloud. These days the Irish singer is more likely to be found discussing the difficulties of juggling parenting and her career, and releasing saccharine ballads. A sweet tooth, then, is not off the cards.
The X Factor winner is a force of nature. She has already revealed that she battled wasps, high temperatures and Paul Hollywood’s icy stare during her stint on the show. But also, more touchingly, that she has dedicated her appearance to her ex Angus MacDonald whose cancer is in remission.
Some people might think the hard-edged grime star is bonkers for appearing on this vehicle of Middle England. But the bassline junkie has grown up over the last decade or so since his triumphant appearance at the 2012 opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. So Bake Off feels like a logical career move. Don’t be surprised to see him fronting a series on Devon and Cornwall rambles sometime soon.
There goes the alarm… better rescue those biscuits before they catch. The 29-year-old singer and The Voice coach has whipped up a reputation for punchy, catchy tracks, full of feminist fire and empowerment. As with Rascal, it seems an odd career decision to go to sifting flour on camera. But either way, expect Prue Leith to get some lip if she dares to suggest the crumb could be moister.
The veteran TV and radio presenter is no stranger to pressure cooker conditions. She’s done stand-up, got a show on Radio 2 and has whirled around the Strictly ballroom. But she slammed her previous experience of celeb cooking shows, Marco Pierre White’s Hell Kitchen, as “brutal and revolting”. The times, and TV, has moved on now though, so here’s hoping she finds Bake Off a more genteel proposition.
The sixth series of the excellent black comedy anthology Inside No 9 is on the way, and in the meantime here’s its co-creator and star Reece Shearsmith doing something completely different. As one half of possibly the most imaginative TV-making duo working today (with Steve Pemberton), will Shearsmith embrace the macabre with his bakes? After all, who wouldn’t want to see Edward and Tubbs recreated in cake form?
Like Gregg Wallace, there never seems to be a moment when the 33-year-old presenter is off our TVs. Fortunately, she brings barrels more charm and insight than the ever-present dessert-scoffer. Whether she’s investigating conditions on the frontline of mental healthcare or whipping up a croquembouche, she’s a sparky screen presence.
Now that Grimmy has swapped his Radio 1 breakfast show for drive time, he’ll be getting a lot more sleep these days. He’s also a Stand Up to Cancer regular, having appeared on Celebrity Gogglebox alongside his niece Liv since 2019. It’s surprising he’s not popped his pinny on sooner.
The overlap in the Venn Diagram of contestant on an ambling baking programme and YouTube influencer must be narrow indeed. In fact, it’s only got one person in it this year: the 27-year-old musician and internet personality, KSI – who is the second YouTuber ever to take part after Joe Sugg. Best known as being part of the Sidemen YouTube gamer community, KSI’s quick humour and ready sense of fun are sure to brighten up the tent.
One half of the huge lockdown hit Grayson’s Art Club, the psychotherapist, and wife of the cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry, has proved a charming presence on our screens this past year. Her bookish credentials and Prue Leith-baiting collection of excellent glasses will set off the other contestants nicely. A welcome addition.
The stand-up with the sparkling gnashers, Beckett has traded his cheeky Essex lad personality to big things over the last few years. Like Katherine Ryan, he’s a panel show regular and his comedy often trades on the slings and surrealism of ordinary family life. Bake Off, therefore, seems a no-brainer.
The Great Celebrity Bake Off starts 8pm on 9 March on Channel 4
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