Was That the Grossest ‘Great British Baking Show’ Challenge Ever?

Photo Composite by The Daily Beast, Courtesy of @BritishBakeOff/Twitter
Photo Composite by The Daily Beast, Courtesy of @BritishBakeOff/Twitter

You may have heard the Swedish phrase “smorgasbord” before. It’s a big bounty of food with cheeses, meats, warm appetizers, and cold salads—almost like a barbecue. A whole smorgasbord of food sounds quite good right now! But have you ever heard of a “smörgåstårta?” If not, allow The Great British Baking Show to introduce it to you.

Or maybe not. This week’s showstopper challenge was a real doozy—but not for the bakers. It was a pain for us to watch at home. This year’s bread week included baking pizzas, crafting the perfect pain au raisin, and, lastly, the infamous smörgåstårta. The first two looked delicious. The last dish, however, had viewers questioning the whole show.

So, what is a smörgåstårta? Just like a smorgasbord, the smörgåstårta is a Swedish dish full of a bunch of flavors. But instead of laying them out like a buffet, with a smörgåstårta, bakers have to combine several savory ingredients into one big cake-styled bread. Smörgåstårtas are usually made out of rye bread, with fillings of cheese, ham, fish, and other delights you’d find at a bagel shop.

But cream cheese and smoked salmon look an awful lot better when you’re putting them on a fresh everything bagel, rather than a cake.

Great British Baking Show audiences recoiled at the idea of the smörgåstårta online, completely distressed by the challenge. Some folks even compared the dish to Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) ground beef cake from Friends.

When you imagine the ingredients on a cheese plate, they sound good. Now, picture deviled eggs, pickles, and fish pie shoved into a cake. Not that appetizing anymore, right? A few other examples include Carole’s “Something Fishy” smörgåstårta, which included mackerel and salmon mousse feathered with pickled cucumber, and Sandro’s sloppy joe creation.

Even Janusz, who already nabbed the star baker spot in the first week of the season, had a creation that appeared to be inedible. He used fried cod and mayo stacked upon mushy peas, slathering the whole thing in a curry icing to make “fish and chips” smörgåstårta. I don’t know about that one, Janusz.

“I’m disgusted!” judge Prue Leith herself admits, as she begins to judge his Frankenstein creation.

But that exclamation comes before she’s tried the actual dish. In actuality, Janusz’s dish is delightful. The smörgåstårta is so delicious, in fact, that (spoiler alert!) the contestant walks away with Star Baker again. Perhaps I was onto something when I called him the new Jürgen after the first week.

The idea of a smörgåstårta isn’t so gross—who am I to judge Swedish food if I haven’t actually tasted it? Plus, it’s rude and culturally near-sighted to put a “gross” label on food from other countries. But I can’t get over the British fish pie, even fish and chips, paired with the Swedish smörgåstårta. Perhaps British and Swedish foods weren’t meant to be fused.

Also, when we’re used to perfectly iced cookies and fluffy cakes on The Great British Baking Show, pickles and fish are a little bit of a shock. But if anything, this challenge just highlighted the versatility of the series—it’s not all sweets and desserts! Maybe next season, they’ll bake the great timpano dish from Big Night to pair with the smörgåstårta.

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