The finale of the BBC’s cooking show Great British Bake-Off has become the most-watched TV program of the year, with an average audience of 13.4 million people and a peak audience of 14.5 million, according to overnight figures. Nadiya Hussain, a 30-year-old veiled woman from Leeds, won the top prize, earning praise from judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry for her lemon drizzle wedding cake.
The show, a perennial ratings winner for the BBC, has found itself an unlikely participant in the conversation on multi-culturalism in the UK. Hussain, a mother of three who was born in Luton and whose family originally hails from Bangladesh, has become a poster child for diversity with her victory in the particularly “British” show. She was, by some measure, the favorite to win, having earned the star baker award three times and a public admission by Prime Minister David Cameron that she was his favorite candidate.
That enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be shared by the Daily Mail, however. The right-wing Middle England publication, which had previously placed news of the Bake-Off winner on its front page several years running, conspicuously failed to mention Hussain’s win until page 7. Could it be that the sight of a Muslim woman winning a competition filled with British classics like crumpets and trifles doesn’t sit that easily with the paper’s readership more accustomed to reading scare stories about Muslim extremism and mass immigration?
Whatever the reason, Hussain’s victory has been celebrated both for the indisputable quality of her sponges and the feel-good message it sends out in an increasingly toxic political atmosphere.