You were the outsider to win The Great British Bake Off. How does it feel to know you’ve actually won?
“I’m still in shock. I know it sounds a cliche, but it still hasn’t sunk in. A lot of the press thought I shouldn’t be in the final, that I didn’t deserve to be there because I’d had so many ups and downs in the series. I started off strongly and then hit rock-bottom in the middle, before raising my game in the semi-final and final. Many a time I sat on my stool, thinking ‘I’m going home this week’, and if I’m honest even I didn’t think I was worthy to be in the final.”
How did you feel going into the final?
“I went into it feeling the outsider. I knew the strength of James and how particular Brendan was, and it felt scary being up against such strong bakers. I didn’t think I was good enough. Until I heard them say my name, heard I was the winner. Then I believed in myself.”
The Fondant Fancies in the last technical challenge looked really tough!
“Because they have to be cut so precisely, it has to be so exact, and the time limit was just ridiculous. Mine were OK, but too small. I was like Mr Kipling on adrenaline.”
It was your Chiffon Cake that really seemed to leave Paul and Mary in awe…
“It was supposed to represent what 2012 meant to us, so I made a Heaven and Hell cake. The chocolate and orange ‘Hell’ cake [given a glorious mirror finish with the help of a hairdryer] symbolised my law degree finals, which were pretty difficult to study for whilst filming over summer. The lemon and coconut meringue ‘Heaven’ cakelets on top represented taking part in Bake Off and my nephews being born. The judges were blown away by it. Mary said it was the ‘perfect slice of cake’, and of all my bakes in the series it’s the one I’m most proud of.”
What do you think of your fellow finalists, James and Brendan?
“James is a true gentleman; so humble and modest and doesn’t know how good he is. Brendan, on the other hand, knows exactly how good he is! And rightly so.”
Where did your passion for baking begin?
“It’s not a big sob story, but Mum started baking with me when my parents split up. She wanted to be with me and make sure I was OK and baking became the glue that kept the family together. I remember the two of us, wrapped in aprons, with flour and eggshells all over the kitchen as we made fairy cakes and gingerbread. Baking was like a comfort blanket to me and still is; whenever I feel a bit down or stressed I turn to it as therapy.”
You had a lot at stake when you entered this competition, as you were in the final year of your law degree…
“My mum and stepdad wanted me to study law so getting on the show was a bit of a statement, it was me saying, ‘I’ve done what you wanted for so long, now let me prove myself doing something I love!’ Winning made my mum so proud and my stepdad said, ‘OK John, you’re free to do what you want.’ That meant the world to me.”
You currently work in a bank, but will your Bake Off win signal a change in career?
“It’s hard to say this early. I don’t want to expect too much or count my chickens. But I’ll embrace it if it does because my dream is to write recipe books, which I’m doing already, and I want to go to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and gain more expertise in patisserie. Ultimately I’d love my own bakery.”