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Mary Berry: Judging The Great British Bake Off

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Fiona Wickham Fiona Wickham | 15:30 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Great British Bake Off, presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, sees 10 homebakers testing their skills in the kitchen to be named top amateur baker at the end of the series.

Expert baker and author Mary Berry spoke to the BBC TV blog about her role as one of the two series judges.

Mary Berry with fellow judge Paul Hollywood

How did you come to work on the Great British Bake Off?

Quite simply - I was asked. I've written about cakes for years, and was thrilled to be asked to be given the opportunity to use my expertise to judge others.

Making a TV programme seems very different to how I imagine writing a cookery book must be - what are the differences that you enjoy?

The processes are very different, when writing a cookery book. With writing a cookery book, you have to research the recipes, then test them, and finally find a way to translate only the best recipes into language that everyone can understand.

By contrast, being a judge was about applying my knowledge, using everything I've learned to deconstruct the perfect bake, which is almost the other way round.

Some of the contestants would come in with recipes that I'd never tried myself, so I had to refer to the basics - texture, taste, appearance - to judge their attempts, but to explain what they could have done better.

Mel says she comes from a tradition of strong baking women - like an army - where did your love for baking come from?

My love of baking came from cooking at school - I wasn't very good at Latin and maths, so cooking was one of the first things that I did that I was any good at.

Baking has been important to my family for generations, both my mother and my grandmother baked. Families are a great resource for passing on baking expertise, and fostering a love of good cake.

Did you do home economics at school? What did your teacher think of your cooking?

It was my teacher, Miss Date, who encouraged me to cook. She gave me every possible encouragement, at a time that I wasn't much cop at school. The first thing that I ever took home was a treacle sponge - my father gave me great praise which I rarely got for any schoolwork, and I've loved to cook ever since.

Great British Bake Off hosts Mel and Sue surrounded by the judges and contestants

Are you a messy cook?

No, because it's me that has to clear up later.

Do you ever use ready meals or other shortcuts when you're in private?

Not really - I'll usually muster up something from the fridge and the store cupboard. But I do sometimes take shortcuts, I use puff pastry, stock cubes and I use my freezer as a long term store cupboard.

What's your favourite thing to bake?

Traybakes - they're quick to bake, wonderful to eat and good for every occasion.

The contestants are baking competitively and Sue talks about baking being about "solitude, peace and calm". What feeling does baking give you?

Sue is perfectly right - it's a wonderfully solitary activity. The only company I usually have are my recipes and my dogs, but I love cooking with my grandchildren. It gives me great satisfaction, especially knowing that you're making something that other people can enjoy. It's never work, always a pleasure.

What were Mel and Sue like to work with?

They were just wonderful, and both are quite keen on baking which was a wonderful surprise. But most importantly, they approached every situation with good humour, which made everyone relax, and particularly made the whole experience much more fun for the contestants.

Mary Berry is one of two judges on The Great British Bake Off.

The Great British Bake Off is on BBC Two on Tuesdays at 8pm.

Until 21 September, digital viewers can press red directly after the programme, to learn from the judges how to make a recipe from the show.

To see times of all episodes please visit the upcoming episodes page. You can catch up on all previous episodes on BBC iPlayer until Tuesday, 28 September.

You can see Mary's Victoria Sandwich recipe from The Great British Bake Off, and other recipes from the show, on the BBC Food website.

Mary has also written advice on cake-baking and has answered cookery questions for the BBC Food Q&A blog

If you're inspired to organise a bake sale, you can download tips, bunting and more recipes from the Get Baking For Children In Need page.

Fiona Wickham is the editor of the BBC TV blog.


  • Comment number 1.

    Bake Off is great fun. The interesting facts useful top tips and variety of contestants all add up to create a really enjoyable programme. It is great to see Mary and Paul they both are there to give useful advice as appossed to just promote their media career an sell a few books. Congrats as well to Mel an Sue its been years since Light Lunch which was anarchaic fun what a shame they never brought that back but great to see them together again. Genuinelyy relaxing mid week telly.

  • Comment number 2.

    british bake off is an excellent programme, Marys victoria sponge is still best recipe ive used it all my working life and everyone says its good the one time i tried another everyone could tell it wasnt the same its good to see that some judges can always find good things to say about contestants not just bad.

  • Comment number 3.

    Enjoyed the programme and it provided incentive for me to make better use of oven in the kitchen. Have tried to bake cookies last week. ^^
    Absolutely heartbroken for Jonathan's exit last week. I hope I will have chance to visit his backery if he opens one!!

  • Comment number 4.

    I can't believe they have voted off Miranda. Surely it was the person who made the best mini cake at that particular time. Ed made a complete mess of his effort. So he should have been booted off. That male judge couldn't tell the difference between a banana and a Big Mac...


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