I find it hard to believe that this time last year I was a regular teenager leading a normal life, surrounded by revision and cake, wondering where I’d be in a years’ time. In all my wondering, I never expected this! On the cold dark evening of January the 7th, I sat in the corner of my kitchen with a large mug of tea, typing away into the Bake Off application form. I mumbled through the 6 page form, wittering on about the different types of bread I’d made and my biggest baking disasters, and getting very carried away with the baking clichés like ‘I may be in school but my head is always in the kitchen!‘, (a sentence that I lived to regret now as it appears in every biography I see written about me!). However, somewhere between the excited ramblings of a 17 year old baking fanatic, the producers must have seen something they liked, as 1 week later, I got a call from my dad saying a researcher had left an answer-phone message and wanted to speak to me!
The call could not have come at a better time too, because failing half my mock exams and a driving theory test all in one day does not leave you in the best mood, trust me. It was certainly a better pick-me-up than the hot chocolate I was planning!
I was, quite frankly, terrified, about the phone interview (although they later told me that I came across as very calm and relaxed; what a miracle!) but I had nothing to fear. I chatted to a very friendly guy called Murray on the phone for 40 minutes, (which speaking as a member of the IM/texting generation is one of the longest calls of my life), about baking, my hobbies, my family. Basically I told a complete stranger everything about me.
Looking back, this conversation was pivotal in my life changing year. Had Murray put the phone down, marked a cross through my application and moved on to the remaining 13,000 bakers, my life would look very different right now. However, I am so thankful that he didn’t, I got a call inviting me to auditions later on that week. I got time off school and found myself cradling a loaf of fig and manchego bread and a peppermint and chocolate macaroon cake in the car on the 2 hour drive to Bristol.
I thought I’d managed to safely transport both bakes, however when I reached the room on the third floor that my audition was held in, I looked down to see the top 2 layers of my cake had slid off and collided with the outside of my container! Stumbling into a room full of other hopefuls, all clutching perfectly formed bakes and looking very calm, with a bashed up chocolate cake and ganache all over my hands was not the first impression I had wanted to give… I quickly leapt into cake saving mode: kneeling on the carpet in the middle of the room with the help of a plastic knife and a paper napkin, I managed to salvage it, and even got a round of applause when I had finished! It certainly broke the ice between the auditionees.
From that nightmarish start, I’m glad to say the only way was up and the next day I got a call inviting me to a second audition in London 4 days later. Here I met the lovely Kate, as well as 10 other people who were all fantastic bakers. We had been emailed the recipe for scones and a loaf of bread a few days before and had to bring them with us, and we were given our first technical challenge in a college kitchen which was very nerve-racking! We knew at this stage that we were in the final 48 bakers, and it was the first point where I actually thought ‘this could really happen!’. I hadn’t dared let myself believe that I could be in with a chance, but I was so thrilled to have made it so far that I left the audition feeling like I’d done by best and whatever happened I’d loved every minute. The producers told us that they would phone us all within 1 month to inform us if we had made the cut or not.
My first 3 stages had happened so quickly, all in the space of 2 weeks, so a month seemed like an agonising wait, and the deadline just kept being extended. Our involvement had become confidential at this point, so only family and a handful of very close friends could know why I was clinging to my phone, waiting for a call, for an entire 6 weeks! By the end of February, it had been so long that I put it to the back of my mind and carried on with normal school life.
I went on a work experience trip to Spain, and my working hours somehow worked out to be a lot less than everyone else on the trip so I spent many an afternoon enjoying churros and hot chocolate alone in Spanish cafes. At midday in the middle of my week, I was doing just that when my phone rang and the contact ‘GBBO’ popped up. My heart leapt, and I answered the call from Anna, one of the producers, saying I was in the final 12. I have never been filled with so much joy in my entire life. I squealed down the phone, completely oblivious to the curious looks from the surrounding Spaniards wondering what on earth had happened to the quiet English girl in the corner, and I could not contain my excitement as I called my parents to tell them the good news. I spent the whole day (and rest of the week!) walking around the city with the biggest grin on my face, not being able to tell anyone why I was so happy, as I knew there and then that my life would change for good.
Before I knew it I was walking into the tent that I had seen and loved for the last 4 years and I still can’t believe it has happened. I’ll be blogging my top 10 highlights from this year over the rest of January, so watch this space!