Whipping up beautifully creative cakes won Candice Brown a place in British baking history.
The former teacher was voted the winner of The Great British Bake Off in October last year, pipping her fellow competitors Jane Beedle and Andrew Smyth to the coveted title.
Now the cake fanatic and lipstick lover is set to return to the baking tent once more - but not the Bake Off kind. This time, a year after being crowned the queen of cake, Candice will take to the stage at the UK's biggest consumer baking event The Cake & Bake Show (6-8 Oct in London and 9-12 Nov in Manchester) along with our favourite bakers, Rosemary Shrager, Eric Lanlard and John Whaite
"It’s a really nice event for me to do,” Candice told us. "I’m going to be making my black forest gateau, which is absolutely humongous. It's three tiers full of cream, chocolate ganache, cherries and I use cherry brandy or kirsch or port. I call it a splash but it’s one hell of a glug."
But before she takes to the demo stage, Candice talked to us about the launch of her debut cookbook, Comfort, meeting her idol Tom Kerridge – who she ‘completely adores’ - and answers the question on everyone’s lips; what it feels like to get a famous Paul Hollywood handshake.
Talk to us about your first cookbook, Comfort?
It’s things that my family love to eat and sparking nostalgic memories through food. There's a cornflake tart which was one of my school pudding dinners. I’ve met people who say I had that at school and I’m like, 'exactly'!
It also includes things that my nan used to like. Within the book there are three of her exact recipes because she is my food heroine. She was the apple of my eye and I aspire to be just a tiny bit like her. She was amazing.
What are your favourite recipes from the book?
My complete favourite, just because it means so much to me, is my nan's steamed fruit cake. It’s the one she always made for my grandad. There's a photo of the actual recipe in her handwriting. That's the one that means the most to me. Savoury-wise there's a chunky shepherd's pie, which is so homely.
Sweet-wise I mean any of them I would eat on a daily basis but probably the peanut brownies because they can be eaten as a cake or can be warmed up and served with ice cream for pudding.
What's your favourite lipstick?
When on stage I normally get a question about my lipstick - like what’s my favourite shade and what shade do you suggest suits me. My favourite is probably a real retro red, like a matt red. I just love anything Hollywood and vintage.
What kitchen utensils could you not live without?
Non-electric - it would be a good bendy spatula. I’ve got so many wooden spoons but my spatula gets absolutely everything out. I need to get another one at the moment because someone has taken a nick out of it.
Electric-wise it would be my Kitchen Aid. It’s one of those things you can put on and then come back to, like bread.
Who have you cooked for, other than Mary and Paul, that you've been most nervous about them tasting your food?
I was fortunate enough to do Pub in the Park with Tom Kerridge. He had all of his chef pals there. It was just incredible. Then there was me, so I felt like the biggest fraud in the world. I was just thinking, 'you’re actual real chefs and I’m making cake'.
At one point I was making black pudding sausage rolls and Tom came out onto stage and sat on the counter behind just watching and asking questions. That was daunting because I look up to him so, so much. I was just in complete awe of him. I had met him earlier on in the day, but for him to sit and watch what I was doing on the stage – he is just amazing. He is probably the nicest person I have met – I completely adore him.
What do you think of this year's Bake Off?
I think it’s absolutely brilliant, absolutely incredible. It’s exactly the same as it was and I think some people, excuse the pun, have probably eaten a bit of humble pie. I think they expected it to be different or all these changes to come in but it's still the Bake Off that we know and love just with a few adverts in so you can go get some cake or go for a wee.
How about the new line up of presenters and judges?
I love them. I think Sandi and Noel offer that light relief when it gets stressful as Mel and Sue did. When you need a cuddle, because your cake is going badly (and you need a cuddle when your cake goes badly, believe me), they are doing that.
Pru, I met a few weeks ago and she’s as amazing as I could have imagined. Her knowledge of food is amazing and she works so well with Paul. She definitely keeps him in line.
Who do you think is going to win?
I couldn’t call it because they’re all so good. And as I well know, you’re only as good as your last bake. So you can practise as much as you like, but sometimes you get into the tent an then the tent fairies start messing around and all of a sudden you don’t know what's happened and why it’s gone wrong. I had the best time in that tent. I’m so happy that they are able to experience it because I absolutely loved it.
How does it feel to get a Paul Hollywood handshake?
I always thought I was really out of my depth going into the tent and every week I really panicked that I wasn’t good enough. It was almost like 'oh god I’m going to be found out'. I just wanted to show them I could do it. When things went wrong and I got upset I was just so embarrassed. So for him to like something I’d made so much that he wanted to shake my hand, it was a really amazing result.
Comfort by Candice Brown (Ebury Press, £20), Photography by Ellis Parrinder