What happens when you apply for Bake Off…

For the past couple of years, most people I know have mentioned at some point that I should apply for Bake Off.

Well folks, this year, I did.

Then, much to my amazement, I actually got through to the third round!

Technically I think it’s quite a secretive process, but by now they’ll already be nearly finished filming for the series, and I didn’t find out anything really juicy, so here I am, telling you how you do it!

The Application Form

Blimey, the Bake Off application form is quite possibly one of the LONGEST complex forms I’ve ever had to fill in! I guess if you’re keen, you’re going to be happy to sit for hours going through page after page of the essay style questions. There are questions about you, who you are, what you do, paint a picture of your life style questions. My middle class upbringing and quaint country cottage in Cornwall did feel not quite gritty enough for TV, but I wasn’t about to set upon a sob story.

Then there are the questions about your baking history, how you started, who inspired you and the sort of baking you enjoy. I have a lot of memories of baking with each of my grandmas, twisting Polish chrust dough (a twisted finger which is a cross between a doughnut and a biscuit) or layering sliced apples with my grandma. With my Mum we would make spiced biscuits and Tunisian orange cake. Then later I’d bake flat birthday cakes with my best friend Rach, console our teenage hearts with caramel slices with Ali, and forever bring banoffee pie to dinner parties.  think baking really came into play later as an adult. My uni housemate Joe and I would compete to bake the tastiest treats, often challenging each other to try more and more complex recipes (like my utterly failed first attempt at macarons!) When I ventured into blogging in 2015, and commenced my first go at the #bakeoffbakealong with Amanda, Cate, Hannah and others, the baking fun really started! It was such a fun challenge, baking every week throughout bake off season and trying some weird and wonderful bakes ‘d never even heard of! Three bake along’s later I felt confident enough in my new skills to fill in the application form!

The next sections were on specific baking genres. Is genres the right word? Topics? Segments? Basically about different types of bakes – cakes, biscuits, pies, bread, pastry, desserts, patisseries….you name it, there was a section on it. Questions about your favourite bakes within those, the ones you found harder, and all to be accompanied by photos. Now luckily….being a blogger and taking part in the bake along, I did actually have photos from all genres, but if you’re planning on applying, definitely get some baking done beforehand and snap happy.

The Phone Interview

After submitting my application form before Christmas, I didn’t have a single clue when the next stage would be. I mean, I guessed they’d be filming from April, but I didn’t know anything about the following stages or the timeline for them.

Therefore receiving a phone call from a London number on a Sunday morning in late January came as a bit of a surprise. Especially as I’d just jumped out of the shower and was still dripping wet!

We chatted for about 20 mins or so, with most of the conversation reiterating the similar themes from the application form – baking history, my life, the bakes I liked, disliked…etc and then there was a technical quiz.  It was quite quick fire style, and I had definitely not prepared any answers. Some questions I found were easy – differences in the types of meringue, what blind baking is…you get the idea! Then there were others I took a stab at, and later realised I got completely wrong – two main ingredients in a sourdough starter (I said yeast and water, and it’s flour and water!). The sort of interview where I knew that I knew the answer, but under pressure and in the moment it just totally slipped my mind.

I was sure I hadn’t got through, but they said that if I hadn’t heard anything by mid March, I’d have unfortunately not made it.

Bakey Bake Bake

Much to my enormous surprise, five days later I had another phone call asking if I was available to come to London for a face to face interview the very next week. I had a crazy busy weekend planned with Adam’s Dad staying with us, days out with his whole family as his sister and our niece and nephew were over from Canada. I was granted last minute annual leave for the interview day on Thursday, and spent the weekend trying to cram in a few hours of baking to decide what I wanted to bake. The decision was the hardest really, and as you’re asked to bring a sweet and a savoury bake with you, I had no idea what would show off my skills best.

The best bake I’ve ever made was probably the mirror glaze cake from the Bake Along in 2016, but the issue was that I had to travel with it to London, on the train, and then a tube, in undetermined weather conditions, and the mirror glaze is predominantly meltable or cream based. So that was out of the question. From lots of discussion with my self-declared Bake Off mentor and all round baking inspiration Hannah, I settled on a cake and a pie. Two different genres, one sweet, one savoury, and showing very different skills. The sweet would be a classic, my signature bake, and one I’ve made more than any other cake, a fancy version of a lemon drizzle. The pie, a gorgeous decorative hot water crust, with chicken, pork, pistachio and apricot in well defined layers.

So…I got baking!

Practicing for those bakes was one of the most stressful weeks I’ve ever had. Why did I care quite so much about two sodding bakes that I’d usually be able to whip up no problem.

Obviously, they needed to be as fresh as possible, so it’s not like I could bake everything on Monday and just take it with me on the Thursday. Plus, I had a full time job to satisfy in the meantime. So each night after work I came straight home and cooked solidly from 6.30pm – midnight.

On the Monday I made a practice pie, and sorted my lemon meringue kisses, and the first batch of mini macarons for decorating the cake (which utterly failed!).

On Tuesday, I baked the cakes (which thankfully came out as I needed them to) and attempted my second batch of macarons, which failed AGAIN. I was tired, flagging, and frustrated because I couldn’t work out for the life of me why they kept failing!

Then, on the final evening before the big day, I baked what I hoped would be my winning pie (though, LOL, it had a hole in, so ended up making yet another one at the last minute), made two types of buttercream (lemon zest and stem ginger), picked up the gorgeous edible flowers from a local organic farm, and tried for one final time to bake some successful macarons. For these, I took them back to basics, going for the plainest recipe I could, and thank the lord, they worked! (It turns out, the orange essence I was using to flavour them was stopping the skins from drying, hence the waste of the first two batches).

The London Interview

By the Thursday morning, I had developed a heavy cold from the stress and exhaustion of the past week, and just about packed everything up, half assembled into my huge bag ready to set off for London. Mum and Dad paid for a taxi from the train which was such a relief, and I met the loveliest ladies on the train. Of course, I ended up at the secret Bake Off venue about 3 hours early, and noticed amusingly how many other applicants were milling about, in the nearby Pret, on the pavements outside, in the tube station. By this point I was remarkably calm, and knew all the hard work was done and there wasn’t a lot more I could do to improve my chances.

The interview was well organised and involved a few form signings, photographs and final assembly of our bakes. My slot was at the same time as another five or six others. Someone mentioned that only 1% of total applicants got to this stage, so if it’s true, I’m chuffed. I was pleased with my final bakes, they were by no means perfect, but they were, at least, the best i could have hoped for.

The bakes were then taken away and everyone sat around chit chatting until your name was called and you were taken to the judges to discuss them. One lady I had spoken to on the street outside said her bakes were absolutely slaughtered by the judges, so I will admit, I wasn’t expecting much hope. However, on that side, the judges were so nice, offering kind words of encouragement and even commenting that my macarons were the best they’d had that day (hooray, but what a faff!) and my pie was perfectly flavoured and in beautiful layers.

After some more waiting, you are then taken into another room for a short screen test in front of a camera, and yet another technical style quiz, as well as questions about your areas of weakness. Maybe I was too honest about never having made an enriched dough, maybe my technical knowledge just isn’t up to scratch, but this is the point where my bake off journey ended and I was sent home.

Sitting on the train back, I wasn’t disappointed, I was relieved. Whilst it would have been an incredible experience to get onto the show, I am proud of how far I got, and just those three rounds were stressful enough to make me realise that I would have spent the entire summer without a second of spare time. How people keep it a secret from everyone around them I have no idea!

3 pies, 150 failed macaron shells and approximately 23785645 hours baking later, I’m done.

Will I apply for Bake Off again?

Probably not if I’m honest, but that doesn’t stop me looking forward to the next series, and the chance to Bake Along again. However, if any of you decide to apply, please let me know, I realise how mammoth a post this has been already, but ‘d be happy to chat all things bake off with anyone that wants to know more!





My Bakes were:

Triple layered lemon drizzle with homemade lemon curd, lemon zest buttercream, stem ginger buttercream, white chocolate and lemon mini macarons, lemon meringue kisses and edible flowers

Hot water crust pie with layers of pork, chicken, pistachio and apricot, with homemade cider apple butter