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Christine Wallace: ‘Bake Off gave me my life back’

PUBLISHED: 16:36 19 August 2015 | UPDATED: 16:36 19 August 2015

Cotswold baker and GBBO contestant, Christine Wallace.

Cotswold baker and GBBO contestant, Christine Wallace.

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Great British Bake Off series 4 contestant, Christine Wallace, from Oxfordshire, reveals her experience in Britain’s most famous tent

Christine judging cakes at a food fair.Christine judging cakes at a food fair.

Firstly, hello! What have you been up to today?

Today I have been experimenting with beer recipes for a local brewery and also making lime and mango and salted caramel macarons for a party. There never seem to be enough hours in my day!

How has life changed for you since the Great British Bake Off?

Enormously! I knew of course that my life would change after the Bake Off, but not to the extent that it has. I co-host a Sunday Radio baking programme, Garden Café, for BBC Oxford as well as covering some outside broadcasts which I really enjoy. I also demonstrate at various food festivals, talk about the Bake Off to different organisations, judge baking competitions, compile recipes for different companies using their products and many more activities too numerous to mention! I love what I am doing and have met, and continue to meet, some wonderful people.

This time two years ago filming had already finished for the Great British Bake Off – what was it like having to keep it all a secret?

Some of my family knew the outcome because they attended the Finals party, but they had to sign confidentiality agreements as did everyone else on the day. It would certainly ruin the whole series for everyone if the results were known beforehand, so it wasn’t hard to keep it a secret.

Were you allowed to tell anyone about your time on the show before transmission?

Yes – we could tell whoever we liked that we were going to be a contestant, no problem. I think most of us told everyone we possibly could... the excitement was overwhelming!

What did you learn from GBBO?

I came out of the Bake Off knowing half as much again as when I went in. Naturally, we learned different techniques from Paul and Mary, as well as an awful lot from each other – both different ways of doing things and better ways of doing things. I learned that there is no point in panicking or throwing a wobbly, both of which I felt like doing on occasion, but it achieves nothing! I was very ill the year before I did the Bake Off and lost a lot of confidence in myself. The whole experience gave me all that back, in fact, it is not too dramatic to say it gave me my life back! Now, I can bake in front of 500+ people without fear and pretty much knowing that all will go well. I couldn’t have done that prior to Bake Off.

What would you have done differently?

Ha... I would have not made the mistakes that meant I couldn’t get to the end! But having said that, we were all amateurs baking under huge pressure and in a strange environment – I would be very surprised if it was said in the future that nobody made a mistake. We all did and they all will!

Is there anything that happens behind the scenes that viewers may not expect from watching GBBO?

The feeling the viewers get, that the programme is lovely and that we all get on, is absolutely true. No one sets out to make a fool of us – if we drop a cake they will film it, if we cry they will film us, that’s television. But in no way were we ever ‘set up’ to fail. In all programmes things happen behind the scenes that viewers don’t see or know about, things that enhance the experience for the viewer and I am firmly of the opinion that it should stay that way.

Your book, Warm and Cosy, is available to buy on your website – is writing a recipe book something that you’ve always wanted to do?

When I left the Bake Off the last thing I wanted to do was to compile a book, but as the time has gone on people ask me all the time about my recipes, so I decided it was time to do it. I am very proud of it and have sold a huge amount. When I have compiled even more recipes I shall probably do book number two.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My original inspiration to bake came from my lovely grandmother. My father was in the Air Force and as a child we travelled all over the world. On returning to the UK we would stay with granny until we moved on again. She baked through necessity and I watched everything she did, as well as having a go.

Are you still in touch with the other contestants?

Absolutely! I have 12 friends for life. We all stay in touch and sometimes work with each other on different projects. We are having a reunion shortly, probably when this years Bake Off is on so we can discuss what we think.

When you take a break from baking, what are your favourite things to do in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds?

I love where I live and spend quite a bit of my leisure time travelling around and exploring the area. I love to walk in the summer (I’m not a bad weather person!) and visit the river and lochs to sit and read and watch the boats go by. My husband and I love eating out and enjoy finding new venues with great food. I also have a love of shopping and go on my own to browse for as long as I choose!

Do you have any bad habits in the kitchen?

Not really. I am scrupulously particular about hygiene and am very good at not nibbling. I suppose my worst transgressions are forgetting to turn the oven off and having my favourite music too loud.

What is your favourite thing to bake?

I taught myself sugarcraft and am never happier than when decorating a cake for an occasion.

What would your top tips be for our readers who want to take their creations to the next level?

Look at other recipes and see if what you’re trying to produce could be enhanced by any tips or hints from other people. Keep practising and go online to learn – the internet is a wonderful learning tool and Youtube is a great medium for learning new skills. Most importantly, never give up!

If all this talk of baking has got you running for the kitchen, head over to Great British Life to find the best baking accessories.

Words: Daisy McCorgray

Images: Copyright Christine Wallace

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