A successful reality TV show requires a delicate balance of ingredients.
Those elements include the hosts, the judges, the contestants and the challenges, who hopefully all come together to provide the perfect blend of entertainment, humour and drama.
Last year, The Great Kiwi Bake Off nailed that recipe. Hosts Madeleine Sami and Hayley Sproull proved themselves the masters of cheeky innuendo, while judges Dean Brettschneider and Sue Fleischl were perfectly poised throughout. The contestants themselves were also a charming mix of characters, as they navigated tears and triumph in the baking tent. It truly was one of the great TV joys of 2018.
This year, the show has brought back almost all of those same ingredients — and more. Episodes are now 90 minutes long, with the Kiwi Bake Off more closely resembling the British original by featuring three challenges each week — the Signature, Technical and Showstopper Bakes.
And with the same gentle humour and good-natured competition as last time around, the arrival of The Great Kiwi Bake Off's second season is especially welcome after a year of trash reality TV to forget.
But after Sunday night's premiere I do wonder if perhaps the show is lacking one vital ingredient in 2019 — and that is contestants who can withstand the pressure to present a beautifully baked treat.
There wasn't much success to be found in the first episode. While most of the contestants coped well with the Signature Bake, creating one delicious tray of lamingtons after another, they didn't have much luck with the first Technical Bake set by Fleischl.
Charged with making the perfect Battenberg cake — an intricate pink-and-yellow chequerboard cake covered in marzipan icing — only a couple of contestants seemed to have any idea what one even was.
The formation of the cakes therefore varied widely, as did the apparent quality. One of the bakers even managed to produce a cake that was somehow able to be both doughy and dry.
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Things didn't go much better with the showstopper challenge. Admittedly, it was a tough ask, producing a two-tiered mirror glaze cake that also somehow reflected each baker's personality. But barring one cake with its pretty glaze made to look like the colours of a paua shell, there was very little to write home about.
It was a good source of entertainment though, what with Battenberg cake master Trevor producing a cake that more closely resembled a puddle than anything else. Then there was the dramatic fridge incident that saw Brazilian contestant Ana's showstopper cake meet a most tragic end.
Don't get me wrong. I love a good baking disaster as much as the next person (says the woman who nearly threw a fifth birthday cake in the bin in a fit of decorating rage the other week), but this premiere lacked the spectacularly good bakes to balance out all those misfires.
Luckily everything else that makes up the show's usual charm meant the first 90 minutes of Bake Off 2019 flew by.
The descriptions of the baked goods all looked and sounded beyond delicious. Sami and Sproull were still a fabulous double act and not above a bit of naughty banter. Sami was particularly taken with Trevor's unusual round lamingtons — or "his spongey balls". And when the contestants were told their mirror glaze cakes needed to reflect their personality, Sproull explained the concept by saying, "Mine would be an anxious cake."
The hosts' enthusiasm for the baking was also still genuine. I don't think I've seen anybody look as delighted as Sproull did while watching a pastel mirror glaze being dramatically poured over a cake.
The judges were also pitch perfect once again, with Fleischl in particular giving a masterclass in how to ever-so-politely tell somebody their cake is a complete mess.
I still just can't help but feel the first episode flopped slightly with its significant baking mishap rate, especially after the highs of last year. Let's just hope this usually perfect guilty TV pleasure rectifies that issue by next week, because — no pressure, guys — 2019 really, really needs this.
• The Great Kiwi Bake Off airs Sundays at 7pm on TVNZ 2.