Great British Bake Off finalist Steven Carter-Bailey fended off former winner Candice Brown to claim star baker in the show’s New Year special.
Carter-Bailey, who competed in 2017, returned to the Bake Off tent, triumphing in all three challenges and earning the first Hollywood hug for a complex showstopper.
Brown, who won the seventh series of the show in 2016, was the first winner to return to the tent.
She crafted a series of successful bakes but could not compete with Carter-Bailey, whose designs were deemed “unbelievable” by judge Paul Hollywood.
Following his win, Carter-Bailey said: “That felt really, really good. It was a challenge to walk back into that tent. To do it and win is an immense feeling. What a start to 2019. It couldn’t be better.”
Holding his Bake Off trophy, he added: “I’m going to walk away and start 2019 with three new friends, and a new plate.”
Brown admitted defeat, saying: “I’ve learnt that Steven is unstoppable when it comes to fondant, and I have learnt that I still love The Great British Bake Off.”
She added: “I came here as a winner, and of course it would have been nice to do that double but it was really good fun. It was great to be back.”
Tamal Ray, a doctor and 2015 finalist, also returned alongside Kate Henry, who competed in 2014.
First, the four contestants were challenged to bake a vibrantly decorated iced stollen wreath.
Carter-Bailey’s “perfectly baked” stag night stollen hazelnut marzipan wreath impressed Hollywood, resulting in a Hollywood handshake.
“Ticks all my boxes,” he said.
Next, Prue Leith challenged the contestants to bake four snow eggs of French meringue floating on a sea of creme Anglaise.
The judges praised Brown’s creations.
“Thin, lovely caramel and very beautiful custard,” said Leith as she cracked Brown’s caramel lattice with a spoon.
But the judges awarded Brown second place, handing pole position to Carter-Bailey.
He said after: “I hope I don’t have a repeat of 2017 when I lose it at the final.”
For the showstopper the contestants were tasked with making a 3D New Year’s resolution cake in four and a half hours. Co-host Noel Fielding said his resolution was to “chill out a little bit more”.
Brown, known for her crimson lips, said her resolution was to wear more lipstick. She baked a pair of lips and a tube of red lipstick.
Carter-Bailey’s resolution was to communicate with his family more. Accordingly, he recreated his grandmother’s rotary telephone and the table she sat at each week to call the family.
As the bakers worked, Brown helped co-host Sandi Toksvig apply a layer of lipstick and the pair pouted at the camera together.
Toksvig said: “I feel sexy. Now let’s do that thing Victoria Beckham does at the camera.”
Returning to judge the contestants’ creations, Brown was the first to face Hollywood and Leith. Hollywood’s opinion was mixed.
He said: “I like the flavours in there but it’s not neat. There’s nothing neat about it.”
Leith said Brown’s second cake, a tube of lipstick, was “too minty” and “slightly toothpastey”.
Carter-Bailey’s cake, however, received an overwhelmingly positive response. Leith said it looked “exquisite” while Hollywood deemed it “almost an illusion cake”.
Cutting a slice, Leith said: “Those flavours are fantastic. They follow one after another. They hit your tastebuds.”
Hollywood added: “You’ve got that bitterness coming from the chocolate, you’ve got that hazelnut in there, you’ve got the silkiness in there.
“You’ve produced something that tastes as good as it looks. A very, very rare thing indeed. I think you’ve done an exceptional job.”
His bake earned him a hug from Hollywood – the first of its kind.