Baking's like another member of the family," said one contestant in The Great British Bake-Off (BBC Two, Tuesday 8pm).

A surly teen, judging by the strops and angst that ensued in this bid to find our top amateur baker. Thousands had been whittled down to a hard core of 10, displaying various degrees of whisk-happy hysteria.

"Baking's my obsession," said Ed. "It's what I think about all the time." Another called baking "my hobby, my love". You'd never have guessed from round one: cake "a tiny word that conjures up a universe of enjoyment" according to co-host Sue, off of Mel and Sue.

One bloke's effort collapsed despite him carefully opening the oven every few minutes to check its progress. He burst into tears after a savaging from the judges. But the faux pas seemed less severe when virtually everyone had chronic cake-sag in the second exercise.

Amid the ritual humiliation, we got practical tips on the perils of under-mixing and over-beating, plus some fairly interesting stuff on the ancient significance of cake, dubbed "sexy bread" by a suitably dandyish historian. We learned of its "sacred function" for pagans and Catholics, the generations of cake-guilt instilled by Puritan parliamentarians and how Queen Victoria's wedding cake was several feet taller than her.

This scholarly air was undercut by the hosts' trademark whimsy. Their dynamic hasn't changed a bit. Sue, the lank-haired Lennon to Mel's McCartney, still wears the trousers. And the glasses, making her the brainy one in Khmer Rouge logic.

Sue marvelled at how the "solitude" of baking paradoxically "unites people" while also letting them "commune with themselves". Amid the gallery of archetypes taking part (dour bus driver, flamboyant West Indian, weasel-faced analyst) a few seemed to have communed with themselves quite enough already. Getting out more might do them some good.

Mel, meanwhile, hung about looking alternatively fluffy and shifty, like a Fraggle's mum at a singles party.

"I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't bake," wailed a contestant with the pressure mounting. As jam bled from a gash in her dismal sponge offering, you did rather start to fear for her safety.

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