‘If I were to change, my mum would let me know real quick!’
Smiley and energetic, Liam Charles won over the nation on Bake Off, so it’s no surprise he’s landed his own show, says Georgia Humphreys
You wouldn’t believe Liam Charles is only 21. Great British Bake Off contestant, cookbook writer and now the face of his very own TV show, the Hackney-born drama student, nicknamed Cake Boy by his friends, is ticking off lots of goals. With his Channel 4 series, Liam Bakes, he hopes to prove that baking can bring people together. He embarks on a personal culinary crusade to share his favourite recipes while giving an insight into his east London life.
“Everyone does music and sport and that’s amazing, but it will be nice for people like me to show people in my area there’s more to life than just that,” he says of being a role model for young people. “Do whatever you want, as long as it’s positive.”
With the series filmed in and around east London, we will see Charles, who started baking when he was 15, take to the streets of his community to show off the street food he loves to eat when out with his friends.
Meanwhile, as he showcases easy-to-follow sweet and savoury bakes, we will also learn how he has been inspired by the people closest to him.
“There’s four recipes per episode. They’re not themed, but each recipe has its distinctive identity,” elaborates the presenter, who we also saw co-host Bake Off: The Professionals earlier this year, alongside comedian Tom Allen.
“There’s one recipe, an ice-cream sandwich, and it’s so cool. On each side there’s a different topping — biscuits, Smarties, popcorn — and ice-cream between two biscuits.”
With his university pals, the excitable youngster cooks “nacho ordinary tortilla chips” — a sweet take on nachos.
Meanwhile, his nephews, aged 12 and seven, join him on camera to help make a “massive” layer cake.
Do they think their uncle is really cool?“My youngest one, yeah, I think he thinks I’m cool,” replies Charles, with a cheeky grin.
“My eldest nephew kind of plays it down. He was telling me some of his friends and all of the teachers always want to talk to him now. He was like, ‘I get so annoyed because they always talk about you’.”
His family and friends chipping in to help make the show is something Charles seems particularly proud of.
“They’re from all walks of life as well, so it’s very inclusive baking and cooking,” he says, adding that he loved getting to make savoury scones with his mum.
“My mum’s not a massive fan of the camera, but I said, ‘Come on, you’ve got to do it’, and then she was fine after the first two minutes. It’s been a while since I baked with my mum, but it was fun. She likes to think she knows best.”
Asked if he found it challenging to let cameras into his personal life, Charles is nonplussed.
“I don’t have anything to hide, it was fine. I’m so proud of my community, it was great to have it on camera.”
And Bake Off fans will be chuffed to hear that his nan, who he mentioned a lot while on the reality show, has a cameo, when she is speaking to Charles on the phone.
“It’s crazy for her. She used to buy me flour and eggs because I was on student finance,” he says. “And she still wants to chip in — she doesn’t 100% get that I’m earning money. She told me to get a part-time job the other day,” he adds with a chuckle.
Although delightfully witty and warm, Charles is quieter at times than I expected him to be — perhaps he’s a bit overwhelmed by the position he finds himself in.
Indeed, he says he pinches himself every day about how his life has changed since being on Bake Off, in which he finished fifth.
“At first I thought I was such a doughnut. I was like, ‘Oh Liam, why are you doing all this weird stuff ?’,” he jokes when asked about watching the show back.
“You can never anticipate how people will receive you, but it was mad. Every day was like, ‘I can’t believe this is actually happening’.”
With such a crazy year behind him — and many more to come, no doubt — he feels lucky to have friends and family keeping him grounded. “If I changed in the slightest, my mum would tell me real quick,” he jokes.
For now, Charles has his studies at Goldsmiths University to finish — and he’s still keen to be an actor in the future.
“Drama was my first passion before I started baking,” he says. “If it happens, it happens, but in a couple of years’ time I definitely want to be in The Avengers.” And that’s not his only big aim in life. “The ultimate goal is to become a household name in baking. So when they say, ‘There’s Paul Hollywood, there’s Mary Berry, there’s Nigella, there’s Liam Charles’, that’s the ultimate goal.”
Liam Bakes, Channel 4, Monday, 8pm