The wait is over: The Great British Bake Off finally returns to screens tonight

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The wait is almost over as the hotly anticipated return of The Great British Bake Off makes its Channel 4 debut tonight.

After months of fears and concerns over the show’s move from the BBC, the proof of the pudding will finally be revealed as judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood test 12 fresh faces in a bid to find Britain’s best amateur baker – a coveted title claimed last year by Candice Brown.

Changes to the show – including the line-up of hosts and the introduction of ad-breaks – have sent debate among fans to boiling point over the last months – and the commercial broadcaster faces a big challenge as it takes on the programme that averaged an audience of 13.6 million viewers per episode last year.

This year's batch of bakers.
This year’s batch of bakers (Channel 4)

Its outgoing chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, told listeners at last week’s Edinburgh international Television Festival that she would be “absolutely delighted” if the new run drew in even half that number.

During a press launch for the series just days before, TV chef Leith – who takes the baton from previous host Mary Berry – allayed fears about the ad-breaks, reminding fans that they do not have to watch the episodes “in real time”.

Hollywood also promised viewers that the new set-up, which is made by same firm Love Productions and keeps the same theme music and competition format, will have the “same feel” as the long-running series they are used to.

The controversial replacement of comical duo Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc with Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, meanwhile, has been another point of concern among fans.

The Great British Bake Off
Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig are new to the Bake Off (Mark Bourdillon / Love Productions / Channel 4 Television)

Fielding, the creator behind surreal comedy series The Mighty Boosh, joked: “When it was announced I was doing it, some people thought, ‘What the hell is he going to do, wear a top hat and throw all the cakes on the floor?’

“But I have the biggest respect for the show and I just wanted to slot in.

“I sometimes feel more comfortable playing a merman with a vagina, but the show’s not about us.”

A self-proclaimed fan of the QI host, he added: “It’s like Doctor Who with a dizzy assistant.

“We’re quite an unlikely double act…but when we did our chemistry test we made love immediately – comedicly.

Toksvig jokingly added: “There is a baby by the end (of the series).”

The Great British Bake Off airs on Channel 4 at 8pm on Tuesday.