Cakes bring layers of pain for would-be MasterChefs
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'Let them eat cake,' the judges decree as MasterChef pays homage to Marie Antoinette, tears flow and someone loses their head (well, not quite).
Tonight, we head straight into the MasterChef house where Ben has, it seems, just found out about the show's flagging audience. "This morning, I'm feeling ... probably the best way to describe it would be just numb, dead, dull," he says. His shot at culinary superstardom over, Ben is packing his bags - he's decided to jump ship while the coast is clear.
Steady on, Ben! There's still an hour of air-time to fill. Could this be the quickest elimination in MasterChef history? Unlikely.
Ben sets the record straight - it's not the ratings that have got him down; he's got a severe case of post-wedding blues. He's feeling responsible after leading the blue team to defeat in last night's Hindu wedding challenge. It's elimination time today and someone is going home.
"I don't think after the wedding there was really any loser," Ben says. Maybe not, but where would a reality TV show be without one?
Emma and Andy have dropped by to cheer Ben up, but the mood in this room is anything but upbeat. Emma is trying to guess what today's challenge will be. "I've stopped hoping for desserts, because it's never a dessert when I want it to be," she says. And we, of course, based on the predictable formula that is reality TV, know that's exactly what it'll be.
"It's really hard going into an elimination with one of my best mates in the competition, Ben. I'm kind of nervous for the both of us," says Emma. If only she'd stop whinging.
The members of last night's losing blue team are whisked away to the MasterChef kitchen and are ordered to march before our three drill sergeants - Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston.
George, though, seems to have watched Full Metal Jacket a few too many times in preparation and, grinning, is coming across all 'Gomer Pyle'.
"You ready to discover the arena you'll be fighting for survival in today?" asks Matt, who's taken his cue from Gladiator. It's "the cake shop" - a favourite of our judges, who have waged battle against many a cake.
In a precursor to the sugar high that's to come, our amateurs burst into fits of laughter as the cakes are ushered in. That is, until someone lets out a truly frightening cackle, exposing their true identity as the Wicked Witch of the West. Who was that? Matt lets out his own evil laugh.
Beau's truly terrified - "It was literally my worst nightmare." Oh, he means the cakes. "That's the thing I've been dreading is coming up against cakes and all of a sudden there's heaps of them in front of me," he says. Absolutely terrifying.
The amateurs learn their survival rests on how well they can name the cakes.
Wade's not deterred. "I'm actually really happy. I was a fat kid and I know my cakes," he says.
Gary announces that there are two knockout rounds today. First, there are 31 cakes to name and the judges are looking for the first two to get a cake wrong. "So, piece of cake," says Gary.
Yep, it's a cakewalk.
Kylie's up first. She doesn't want to go home today and has come up with an ingenious plan to sabotage the challenge. "I could lick the icing off all of them, probably," she says, but decides against it. She picks one of her favourites and correctly names it as carrot cake.
"Enough eating. Back into line," quips George. For some reason, three unrelated words spring to mind: pot, kettle and black.
Next up is Beau. He's not going to mess around, he says, and goes straight for the fruit cake. Deb's safe thanks to a Victoria sponge. Ben, our dead man walking, is resurrected after tasting a New York cheesecake.
Wade and Tregan are safe too - for the moment.
Emma, who wants to open a dessert bar, has a chance to prove why she'll be Australia's next great pastry chef. "I love eating cake and I love making cake, but I'm not great with knowing different cake names," she tells us. Lucky she's got a steely resolve then - at least, when she's not crying.
She takes a bite from one of the cakes and offers her answer: chocolate mud cake. It's not. It might turn to mud, though, if Emma cries enough.
Ben's trying to catch her eye and calm her down. "Hopefully she's picking up the signals I'm trying to give her because she needs to have her head on for the next round," he says. I've always thought that was the best place for it.
Next up is Amina. She's "eaten kilos" of the cake she's chosen and has no trouble identifying it as an orange poppyseed cake.
A few more contestants name their cakes correctly.
Ben, though, must still be feeling numb. He's gone straight for the cake that sent Emma into the next knockout round. Emma knows it's some type of chocolate cake, she tells us, and hopes Ben knows "because I've got nothing". Steady on Emma, don't sell yourself short.
Dead man walking is "literally trying to find somewhere to hide because everything I thought I knew is now gone". He thinks it's a devil's cake.
It's not, Gary tells us. It's a Sachertorte.
"This is the worst" ... sob ... sob ... sob ... "the worst scenario at any stage of the competition," says a tearful Emma.
Ben, though, is really sticking with his walking dead routine. "Emma came on to win and she has to be here to do that. I will miss this, I really will, but I'm not cooking against Emma," he says. "If it saves her, I'll pull out of the competition."
Not so fast! Beau's offering himself for sacrifice. Who said chivalry was dead? Or have they ALL heard about MasterChef's ratings?
Where's a cool head when you need one? Thankfully, social worker Tregan is on hand. She'll know how to handle herself in a crisis. "What the hell is going on?" she asks. "We've got jumpers left, right and centre here ... like, this is complete craziness."
Everyone's losing it, so it's up to Gary to restore order. No one can step in and take Emma's place, he says. And as for this touchy-feely nonsense, cut that out.
The losers of the losing team, Emma and Ben, now have an hour and 40 minutes to bake a layered cake.
"Don't overthink it. Think about what appeals to you when you push your fork through a beautiful cake," Gary advises. "That's all you gotta do."
No baking required then?
George is clearly excited. "Go the whole hog. Go a chocolate and raspberry cake. Simple."
The second knockout round has only just begun, but Ben is already in danger of being undone - he's "a bit scared of cakes". Mexican is his "safety net", so he's decided on a raspberry mojito cake.
Emma, meanwhile, has taken Matt's emphasis on "texture and flavour" a bit too far, and comes close to grating her fingers into the mixture for a bit of both. It's probably her ultimate challenge, she says, as she prepares her batter.
"I'm in a really good place," she later tells George.
Up on the balcony, Kylie is offering her own brand of expert commentary. "It smells good. I can smell cake."
With an hour to go, Emma takes her shrunken camel humps out of the oven, causing alarm among the otherwise disinterested peanut gallery.
Emma tells us she's "seriously flustered" and has so much work to do, which is fortunate - Gary's lurking in the background, ready to pounce at the most inopportune time.
But it's Ben he's decided to visit instead. Gary bends down to take a look at Ben's cake in the oven and drops a bombshell. "It smells eggy. Can you smell it?" Gary asks. "Yeah, I can actually," Ben replies.
"It does smell quite eggy and I'm standing there with my head in my hands, thinking 'oh god, I've done that wrong," Ben tells us. We're not pointing fingers, but whoever it was should be ashamed of themselves.
Things aren't going well for Emma either. She knocks over a mixer, and later gets into a spat with Gary over the jelly she's hoping to pipe into some raspberries. Gary doesn't think it'll work the way she's preparing it. "I don't doubt that you're right, but I think this is sort of something I'm comfortable with," Emma responds, not sounding at all convinced.
"Just be careful with that," Gary says, his feelings wounded, before pulling a 'whatever, girlfriend' look.
It seems Gary's had a whinge to George, who comes over to beat up on Emma. Her jelly isn't going to work. "As soon as you beat it up, it will break down," George says. It's the tactic MasterChef has adopted with Emma all season.
After winning Gary over with his test cake, Ben gets to work on decorating the one he'll present to the judges. "Cute as a button Ben," Beau shouts from the balcony. He means the cake.
Five minutes to go, and Emma is piping some brown slop onto her cake, while Ben is trying to recall a recent MasterClass lesson with dessert queen Lorraine Pascale.
"A lot of the time when Lorraine was speaking, I was just staring at her," Ben says. So now he's icing his cake in the same way you'd lay mortar with a trowel.
First up to the judges is Emma's chocolate and raspberry delight. George tastes and declares it "delicious". It's "a really good effort", he says.
Matt doesn't think it's as delightful. He likes it, but thinks the cake could have been a little lighter, a little fluffier, he says. Gary thinks it's a "bit messy".
Thankfully for Emma, Ben's presentation isn't great either. But it's a clever cake, according to Matt, who describes it as a "Victoria sponge made by Fidel Castro - if Fidel Castro could bake". Which is to say, it was sufficiently red with all the raspberries.
The verdict is in and it's goodbye Emma. Ben wins by the "smallest of margins" and in the biggest shock of the night, he's shedding as many tears as Emma.
"If I can't win it, then I want Ben to win it," Emma says. Lucky the peanut gallery was sent away earlier.
Everyone gets in touch with their feelings. Soon enough, Emma is heading home to South Australia, where we're told she's working in a patisserie. Hope she knows her cakes now.