The Great British Bake Off’s Master Baker Paul Hollywood casts his merciless eye over this year’s series and this week’s final, which screens on BBC2 on Tuesday evening…

How are you feeling about the Bake Off final?

“This is the best final we’ve ever had, it’s incredible. After an all-male line up last year, it’s all about the girls this time and they’re phenomenal.”

Was the competition close between Frances, Ruby and Kimberley?

“When they walk into the tent for the final day any one of them could win.”

How did you decide the winner?

“It actually comes down to the final bake – the flavour, style, presentation – everything mattered because it was so close. But in the end there was an obvious winner for Mary and I. We looked at each other and went, ‘Yep, that’s her.'”

In the final, the three ladies have to bake a picnic pie, sweet and savoury pretzels and a three-tiered wedding cake showstopper! That sounds so tough!

“I have to say, their nerves are unbelievable and do get the better of them. It was quite scary to watch and I did have to back off because whenever I walked in the tent it felt like panic stations. It was borderline ridiculous – I was thinking, ‘Get the heart monitors on and medics in!’ But this is The Great British Bake Off final, remember, so the tension’s bound to be crazy.”

The show does so well in the ratings. What impact do you think that has on the bakers?

“Knowing we had 7.2m people watch the final last year probably added to the pressure. I think we’ll get 8.5m this year. It would be funny if we got 10m! That would just be ridiculous. That’s in Strictly and X Factor territory but, you know, in some people’s minds Bake Off’s up there with the big guns!”

Do you think about the show’s ratings?

“I don’t think about it too much to be honest. It doesn’t make any difference to me. I’ll keep eating my bacon butties and just do my job!”

Have you enjoyed this series?

“I can’t think of any lows. We haven’t really had one bad week because the standard from the start was really high – that’s been the annoying thing about this bunch! What’s great is they’ve all been very different characters and have brought different things to the table – creativity, flair, passion, innovation – leaving us with no idea what was going to happen.”

Was there anyone at the start that you thought would be in the final?

“I got it wrong. I earmarked two people at the beginning who I thought would make the final and one dropped out early – Rob! He was a very precise baker, but got a bit lost in the detail.”

Do you think you have been unfair at all this series? Mel and Sue have looked a bit shocked at some of the comments you’ve made!

“Look, Mel and Sue have got their own opinions, but at the end of the day it comes down to what Mary and I think. And as this is the final it will get brutal. The problem is, Mel and Sue have become attached to the contestants. I never do that, I never have any contact with the bakers outside of filming because that’s not my job. That distance allows me to be honest and purely judge the bake when we come to the table. Mary’s the same, we step back.”

Do you change your judging style for the final?

“I’m as honest as always. If I don’t like it, I say. But listen, viewers needn’t worry; they’re in for a treat. The impact of the final winning bake as it came to the table was unbelievable and shocked us. I thought, ‘Jeez, you can come and work for me anytime!'”

Are you busy after Bake Off ends?

“Yes! We’re currently filming the Celebrity Bake Off special for Sport Relief. I love that one, it’s such a giggle. The celebs are fantastic and there’s a very different feel in the tent. It’s much more relaxed.”

The show is coming back for another series on BBC One next year. Will the four of you be returning, too?

“Oh yes, we’re all in, absolutely. We’re already working on it.”

Do you think either Mary or yourself will ever leave the show?

“Mary will live until she’s 180 so we’ve got another 80 years left at least! I’ll come in the tent on my Zimmer frame. I’ll never leave Bake Off!”