Can you bake?
I can bake, and I live by my mother’s ethos, which is “If you can read, you can bake.” Some people live on the edge, they don’t want to follow instructions. I’m happy just to read along and try my best. I’m sometimes messy, and obviously there are disasters that happen along the way, but as a concept, I think I do understand baking.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strength is that I am anxiety-free. There is nothing that is going to put me under pressure. I am resilient and resourceful, and if I make a mistake, I will quickly try to resolve it. I think the drawbacks that might be to my detriment are sometimes I make more problems for myself trying to solve problems. I might be trying to rescue a sunken cake or smooth out some fondant, and it was actually better before I tried to save it.
Do you have a signature dish?
I love a lemon curd, I’m not into sweet, sweet, sweet, but I learned how to make a really delicious lemon filling, with lemon zest, it’s really bitter and tangy. I think that goes really well in the middle of any cake, and then you can ice it with butter cream and just that little hint of zest. I think that gives it intrigue. So, if I just put that little lemon curd in anything that I’m baking, that’s my secret.
Have you ever had any culinary disasters?
I have certainly had sunken cakes. I made a pumpkin pie once with waaay too much salt, and it became a savoury dish. Pumpkin pie is a Canadian classic, and the pumpkin is meant to have the texture of peanut butter. It’s just a really lovely pie. But when I made it, it was more like salty mashed potatoes, and that was a real let down, not just for my family, but for my country.
What’s the worst thing you could be asked to make in the competition?
Any meat pie. Anything savoury like a sausage roll or a pasty or steak and kidney pie. I appreciate so many things about the British culture, but that whole genre is not one of them. We don’t do meat pies where I’m from, and I just don’t understand it.
I’m so sorry, I just had a sausage roll for my lunch!
That’s alright, I understand, because you’re British. If you want to have a Scotch Egg, whatever you want to put inside a pastry, that’s fine, but I will run past a Greggs.
Have you done anything in the way of practise or preparation for the competition?
I would have loved to have prepared for the competition, and I was doing absolutely nothing for five months, so had I known I would be involved in the competition, I think I would have done a lot more baking, just like most of Britain. That’s if I’d had any flour on the shelf – for some reason that was THE item – loo roll and flour. But this week I’ve been incredibly busy, so I haven’t had time to practice any of the bakes. So, I’m going in totally green.
Are you competitive? How badly do you want to win?
Well, it’s for charity, obviously, so if other bakers are genuinely more talented or competent than I am, then I will happily accept defeat. But I am competitive with myself in everything that I do. I always want to do my best. I do have high standards. If you’re going to do something – anything – you might as well try. When I was a waitress, I tried so hard to do the best job that I could. So, I really want to perform well.
Why is SU2C important to you?
I just think Stand Up to Cancer is such a brilliant charity. I love that they find light in darkness, they align themselves with comedy in so many fundraisers. And they just have a really fresh way of bringing everyone’s attention to a cause that’s so important, because it’s touched so many of our families.
Are there any major differences between baking in Canada and the UK, or do we all make the same stuff?
I know that The Great British Bake Off is very popular in Canada, and of course lots of Canadians are of Irish or British descent, so a lot of the same recipes make it over there. We have a few things, like pumpkin pie that I already mentioned, that are different. We have amazing cream pies, like Mennonite recipes, that I don’t see as much over here. And we make a lot more rice squares than you guys – you know, crispy rice and melted marshmallows. We go big on lemon meringue, and on chocolate cream pie. I think the main difference is we don’t put meat in pies, we fill them with sweet, creamy things. Other than that, we’re really quite similar.
Is there going to be a Canadian element to any of your bakes?
I’m going to try and make a lot of my recipes gluten-free, which isn’t necessarily Canadian, but growing up in Canada, my mum was President of the Coeliac Association where we lived, because my sister had quite aggressive coeliac. It was really unknown in the 80s. So, my mum was really adaptable in how she baked. I don’t know that I’ll have the opportunity to represent a Canadian recipe, but certainly I will try to represent my upbringing with the gluten-free element.
What does Violet make of you coming on the show? Is she at the age yet where she’s appalled by everything you do?
Violet is not allowed to be appalled by everything that I do. She does not get to participate in most if my work, as she’s 11. So, Bake Off, the regular, amazing Bake Off with the actual talented bakers, is one of the very few shows that we get to enjoy together and really both love. It’s got just the right amount of drama, intrigue, and beautiful visuals. We always watch it together. So, I sent her a little picture of the set today. She was very excited. I don’t think there’s any other project that Violet would be so proud to have me on.
How are you feeling about being on the end of the rather acerbic judgements of Paul Hollywood?
I love a good roast; I love to be dragged. If Paul Hollywood wants to bring his acerbic, critical palate to my work, then I am here for it. I can give as good as I get, and it’s about time someone put me in my place. I can’t wait!