It’s everyone’s favourite time of the year: bake off season. Despite the controversial shift to Channel Four, this year’s series has been better than ever. We spoke to the final four- Kate, Stacey, Steven and Sophie- about their time on the show so far.
Who encouraged you to fill out the application form to be on The Great British Bake Off?
Sophie: My boyfriend David filled out my form for me initially in secret. Then he realised there were actually baking questions on there, so admitted it to me and said I needed to do the rest!
Kate: I was bringing cakes and biscuits into work which were going down a treat and my work mate, Fran, said to me “if you don’t apply for Bake Off then I will do it for you!” That comment made me look at applying and I gave it a go. I applied on a whim, I think on my lunch break, never expecting to get a call back, let alone be asked to go on the actual show! I am so pleased I did apply – I have had such a great time being part of it all.
Steven: My friend, Alison was selling some cakes I’d made for a charity event at work. She was telling everyone that bought one that I was going to apply for the Bake Off (she neglected to tell me of this). After being outed like that I decided it was now or never! I took forever to apply and it was a week before the cut off, I was in Sweden for Christmas and I took the final leap and clicked send – I’ve never looked back!!
Stacey: Over the last few years various friends have encouraged me to apply for GBBO – I really fancied a challenge and wanted to do something for myself having given up my teaching career to become a mum 10 years ago.
What age or time in your life did you start baking and who has inspired you?
Sophie: I started around 2013 after I had left the regular Army. I was rowing full time and so was quite poor and would make birthday cakes for friends as presents. The patissier, William Curley is my hero. I have one of his books which has definitely been one of the most notable sources of inspiration for me.
Kate: No one in my family really bakes but I was lucky to have grown up with loads of cooking and foodie experiences. Eating out and going around food halls and markets is something I have always done. I think I had my first curry when I was 2! I have been cooking since I was about 14. I think that is probably where my tendency to get experimental comes from – I would set myself a challenge of creating something out of the things in the fridge that were going to get thrown away!
What is your signature bake that the family or friends love or expect for a special occasion?
Kate: I go through phases with my baking and I am a big believer in variety. So I don’t really like making the same thing over and over as I much prefer to be a bit experimental and creative and come up with some new thing for everyone to try. Although, the things I get asked for the most are my lemon cakes, malt loaf and pies! Anyone who knows me knows to expect the unexpected. I love giving people things that they have never tried before or old recipes that bring back lots of memories. They usually love it and it’s always a conversation piece. To me, food is just a way of bringing people together, at any time, not just the special occasions.
Steven: I’ve lost count of the amount of lemon drizzle cakes I have made over the years – it’s a favourite that never gets old. As far as special occasions go, I am the person that all my friends and family turn to for a custom cake. Whether it’s a five tiered wedding cake, or a 1st birthday cake shaped like a favourite toy, I’ve made it. With 9 nieces and nephews, I’m never short of a commission!
How did you find it in the Tent, walking in on that first morning, were you excited, nervous, apprehensive – or all of them!?
Kate: I am such a big fan of Bake Off, I have watched every series so walking into the tent for the first time was very surreal! It felt like I was having some kind of ‘experience day’ rather than being an actual participant in series 8! I don’t think that feeling properly left. It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to all the cameras though and within half an hour, I didn’t even notice I was being filmed!
Stacey: I wasn’t nervous at all until I saw Paul and his steely eyes glaring at us from the front of the tent! Then I thought ‘this is real, OMG’
Which Judge did you want to impress the most and did you find Sandi & Noel a lovely buffer to get you through?
Sophie: I think there is an assumption that everyone wants to impress Paul because he has usually been the more critical of the judges and not as forthcoming with praise, but I knew of Prue’s pedigree and so I was just as keen to impress her. Noel and Sandi were so lovely to us and it always came as a bit of light relief when they came to visit our stations.
Steven: Sandi and Noel were just what we all needed on that first day. I think they were as nervous as we were. They are both amazing people with hearts of pure gold. I couldn’t have made it through that first day without a hug from Sandi and a well-timed joke from Noel.
Stacey: Sandi and Noel are amazing and genuinely lovely people, we had great giggles, jokes and laughs with them. Sandi is ‘Auntie Sandi’ to me! To be honest, I wanted to impress both the judges equally as they are both super talented people. I really liked it that Prue doesn’t always agree with Paul and is very happy to tell him so!
And last but not least- sweet or savoury – what is your preference and why?
Sophie: Definitely sweet! I leave the savoury stuff to David… he’s much better at it.
Kate: Erm, both! I have got a proper sweet tooth but I also love cooking in general so I like to always mix it up between the two. I like healthy cooking every day and I’m not into overly sweet things. It’s all about the flavour for me – sweet or savoury.
Steven: I love making sweet treats, from cakes to biscuits I am happy baking all day long. However, if there’s a buffet in front of me I will always go for the savoury snacks and not stop even when I’m full! I’m a cheese addict and not ashamed to admit it!
Stacey: Sweet and savoury. If I can bake it I will make it!