I still don’t know how I won the Bake Off
Still pinching herself to check she’s not dreaming, Candice Brown tells about life since
CANDICE BROWN won the BBC’s Great British Bake Off last year, and now has her first book out. Let’s just say, she’s still trying to get her head around these really quite delicious facts.
“It’s funny saying that... ‘My book!”’ she says, laughing.
Winning Bake Off would, you’d think, prepare a person for automatic cookbook domination and a tasty TV career. However, 32-year-old former PE teacher Candice is still utterly gobsmacked.
In fact, when she got the call confirming her book deal, she was wandering around Fortnum & Mason, staring at the meat in the butcher’s section – and had to hang up to gaze, stunned, at the carcasses for a while longer, while the news sunk in.
Three manic months of writing, cooking, developing (and very little sleep) later, and the result is Comfort, a collection of Candice’s tried-and-tested home classics: “The sort of things you want to stick your face in, grab a spoon, dive straight in and worry about burning your mouth later”.
Squidged between snaps of her pug Dennis, the recipes are huge, decadent and sometimes borrowed treats – think an enormous, bubbling shepherd’s pie, sausage rolls the size of bricks, and her beloved nan’s boiled fruit cake.
Piecing recipes together was something of a challenge though, as London-born Candice admits she’s “awful at writing them down”.
“My boyfriend Liam would always say to me, ‘Are you writing that down?’ And I’d go, ‘YES, YES!’, knowing full well I’m not writing anything down at all, because I do what I call a ‘guess-a-cake’ – I just whack everything in and hope for the best.
“But then, if it works really well I’ll be like, ‘Argh, what did I put in that?!”’
And if it goes horribly wrong? “Don’t worry about it,” she says. “You either don’t tell anyone and start again, or you turn it into something else and say it was supposed to look like that – that’s how I get by a lot of the time.”
Minor mishaps aside, Candice, who started baking before she was five, considers it “one of the only things that comes naturally to me”, but still doesn’t comprehend fully how she won Bake Off.
“I don’t think I was the best baker in the tent,” says the pub landlord’s daughter, without artifice. “Some days I still don’t know how I did what I did, because I hadn’t been able to do it at home.
“Dad always said I was the same at university and school. I’d say, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do it’, then the pressure would hit, and I’d get my head down and do it.”
In the end, she beat finalists Andrew Smyth and Jane Beedle to the crown. “It’s crazy, it’s stressful, intense, it’s tiring – but I’d do it a hundred times over,” she says, recalling how demanding it was manning an oven while at the mercy of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood’s taste buds. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
And yes, she will be watching the new series on Channel 4. “It’s always been my favourite programme – it’s going to be so funny. Prue (Leith) is a culinary legend, then you’ve got Paul who’ll just give that icy stare and wind everyone up.
“And you know what? The breaks are just going to give you time to go for a wee and get a cup of tea.”
Comfort: Delicious Bakes And Family Treats by Candice Brown, photography Ellis Parrinder, is published in hardback by Ebury Press, priced £20.
Candice Brown pictured at a food market in an image form her new cook book Comfort, below left