All the Great British Bake Off series ranked, from worst to best

Every Great British Bake Off series Channel 4 BBC ranked, worst to best
Which is your favourite Bake Off series? Credit: Channel 4

The credits have rolled on The Great British Bake Off's Covid-delayed, bio-bubbled 11th series. But where does the latest run figure in our definitive ranking of all the sweet-toothed contests so far?

Here’s our calorific countdown, from a soggy-bottomed 11th to our showstopping number one. On your marks... Get set... Rank!

11. Series one (2010)

The low-key debut run hadn’t yet perfected the Bake-Off recipe. There were 10 bakers instead of the current 12, six episodes rather than 10 and the tent toured the country for regionally-themed challenges. 

The action was narrated by Stephen Noonan, rather than on-screen presenters Mel and Sue.  The bakers, meanwhile, lacked standout characters. Softly-spoken Yorkshireman Edd Kimber became Bake Off’s original winner and the series set the blueprint for all that was to come, but it wasn’t the most exciting contest. Ratings peaked at a solid but unspectacular 3m. 

10. Series two (2011)

Jo Wheatley in series two Credit: BBC

By the second series, Bake Off was beginning to grow – and went viral for the first time, thanks to the brief but celebrated appearance of a certain well-endowed squirrel during the final. 

Floppy-haired, fresh-faced photographer Rob Billington became the first marquee heart-throb and dropped his chocolate mousse cake in surprise. Five million viewers watched Essex housewife Joanne Wheatley win the all-female final, edging out the people’s champion: the mighty, medieval-esque Mary-Anne Boermans.

9. Series 10 (2019)

Steph and David during the final

The weakest run yet of the Channel 4 era. The field lacked variety age-wise and the more colourful characters - notably Helena “Noel's Goth bride” Garcia and Henry “Shut up” Bird – departed too soon, leading to a slightly flat, samey home stretch.  Impossibly obscure technicals and bafflingly random themes (Festivals Week or Roaring Twenties Week, anyone?) meant this almost felt like a show in the throes of a midlife crisis. 

Judges Prue 'n' Paul were criticised for being too harsh and a pressurised atmosphere saw the bakers in tears too often.  Still, at least we had a surprise winner in David Atherton – the only champion in Bake Off history never to win Star Baker award, fact fans – after hot favourite Steph Blackwell suffered a soufflé-induced meltdown.

8. Series 11 (2020)

Matt Lucas and Laura during the final  Credit: Love Productions

A series like no other. In a summer of furloughs, face masks and more tiers than a wedding cake, Bake Off was forced to pack up the marquee and move it to a new location, Down Hall Hotel in Essex, to form a bio-secure bubble where cast and crew could live on-site. It was a miracle the series happened at all, let alone such a solid one. 

New co-host Matt Lucas made a splash with his series-opening Boris Johnson skit and proved an inspired addition. There were dropped cake dramas and melted ice cream disasters. Some of the bigger characters – the likes of Rowan, Sura, Lottie and Hermine – were knocked out too early, meaning a slightly flat final three. However, a tense climax saw “Perfect Peter” Sawkins become Bake Off's youngest ever champion, aged just 20, and the first Scots winner. Well played, baby-faced assassin™.

7. Series four (2013)

Kimberley, Ruby and Frances during the dramatic final Credit: BBC

The year of the favouritism controversy, when some viewers accused judge Paul Hollywood – whose marriage had publicly broken down – of taking a shine to 20-year-old student and former model Ruby Tandoh

A mishap-heavy contest included hapless baker Howard Middleton falling victim to both “custardgate” and presenter Sue Perkins accidentally squashing his muffins.

Sadly, much jeopardy was lost from the all-female final between Tandoh, Kimberley Wilson and Frances Quinn when news leaked in advance of broadcast that Quinn had won. Still, with ratings 9.4m, a BBC Two record, this was the series that prompted the show’s promotion to BBC One.

6. Series three (2012)

Winner John Waite employing unusual culinary measures Credit: BBC

The one that turned the contest from a cult concern to a bona fide phenomenon, with ratings hitting 7m, beating every other programme in its time slot.

There was quiet drama throughout a gripping series. John Whaite put salt instead of sugar in his rum baba. Cathryn Dresser threw her dough across the tent. James Morton’s gingerbread barn collapsed - until he had the brainwave of turning it into a haunted, derelict building. Eccentric baker Brendan Lynch greased up his arms for strudel making. There was blood everywhere from cut fingers. 

After the only all-male final in Bake Off history, Wigan law student Whaite ran out surprise winner ahead of Morton and Lynch.

5. Series eight (2017)

Series eight winner Sophie Faldo poses with Paul and Prue Credit: PA

The debut series on Channel 4 surprised many with the seamlessness of the transition. Prue Leith proved a solid replacement for Mary Berry, while new double act Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig's silly skits and warm comedic chemistry meant that our pining for Mel and Sue was short-lived. 

The contest was a goodie too. We had early pace-setter Steven Carter-Bailey, Scousers from opposite ends of the age spectrum in Flo Atkins and Kat Lyon, plus loveable characters like scientist Yan Tsou and teenager Liam "Cake Boy" Charles

However, eventual winner Sophie Faldo was a little on the dull side and, after initial fuss about the move had died down, a lack of controversy meant that this wasn't quite a top three classic.

4. Series nine (2018)

Rahul won the trophy in series nine

Now settled into its new home of Channel 4, the 2018 contest was another corker. A loveable batch of bakers included Bristolian mum Brony Williams and French fancy Manon Lagrève. Talking point moments - Terry and Prue’s sickies, the first ever challenge held outside the tent, a certain exploding glass storage jar - climaxed in a tense final, with nerdy flavour genius and gentle soul Rahul Mandal narrowly clinching the glass cake-stand trophy ahead of Ruby Bhogal and Kim-Joy Hewlett.

3. Series seven (2016)

Series seven winner Candice Credit: BBC

The farewell series on the BBC following the show’s controversial move to Channel 4 - meaning that it was (sniff) also the last for Mary Berry, Mel and Sue. 

With her ever-changing shades of lipstick and gingerbread pub, Candice Brown was a worthy winner. Other fan favourites included kooky pensioner Val Stones and total dude Selasi Gbormittah, who formed a sweet friendship with fellow baker Benjamina Ebuehi.

All it lacked was a tense final, because few viewers really believed that Andrew Smyth or Jane Beedle would beat pouty PE teacher Candice. 

2. Series five (2014)

Iain Watters' famous showstopper Credit: BBC

The debut series on BBC One didn’t disappoint, partly thanks to the Binned Alaska scandal, which propelled Bake Off onto newspaper front pages for the first time. 

Popular contestants included 17-year-old Martha Collison, fashion designer Chetna Makan and Luis Troyano with his boozy bakes. Meanwhile, Mary Berry fixed Enwezor Nzegwu with a death stare after he admitted using shop-bought fondant and retired naval officer Norman Calder spelt out “b-a-k-e” in semaphore

Builder Richard Burr scooped a record five Star Baker titles en route to the final, where he was surprisingly beaten by Nancy Birtwhistle. Nearly the best series ever.

1. Series six (2015)

Nadiya being crowned series six champion Credit: Love Productions/PA 

Just clinches it, partly by virtue of having the most memorable champion. Hijab-clad Luton housewife Nadiya Hussain snuck up on the rails and stormed to victory, while winning millions of fans with her expressive facial expressions, creative bakes and touching friendship with fellow finalist Tamal Ray

When Nadiya gave her inspiring victory speech – “I’m never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say, ‘I don’t think I can do it.’ I can. And I will” – watched by a record 15m damp-eyed viewers, even Mary Berry was moved to tears.

Yet this best ever Bake Off wasn’t all about Nadiya. There was also Paul Jagger’s bread lion, Alvin Magallanes’ cornucopia, sarky Sandy Docherty, Scottish student Flora Shedden, fireman Mat Riley, Dorret Conway crying over her collapsed Black Forest Gateau and early favourite Ian Cumming getting pipped at the post. Well-cast, well-made, with the happiest of endings.