Our Nancy takes the cake – Prescott

Published: Thursday 9th October 2014 by The News Editor

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This year’s Great British Bake Off champion can count former deputy prime minister John Prescott among a host of celebrity fans.

Sixty-year-old grandmother Nancy Birtwhistle, who is originally from Lord Prescott’s home town of Hull, blew the judges away with her windmill showstopper on the hit BBC show to became the oldest winner of the competition.

Lord Prescott, Labour MP for Hull East from 1970 to 2010, declared his support by tweeting: “Come on Nancy! GBBOfinal.”

After the retired GP surgery manager had sealed her victory, he added: “Hull – Premier league team, Challenge Cup Winners, Olympic Champion boxer, UK City of Culture 2017 & now GBBOfinal winner! Well done Nancy!”

Other famous fans of the top-rated show were also thrilled by the surprise win.

Welsh international and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey tweeted pictures of three cakes and said: “Brilliant series and a great final of gbbo.”

Presenter Richard Osman tweeted: “Long after ever cake, bun, biscuit and pastry has been forgotten, we will still remember Chetna’s wonderful hair gbbo.”

Comedian Jack Whitehall was engrossed by the show and tweeted “Bake Off Final. Woah s***s getting real.”

Ms Birtwhistle told An Extra Slice , the GBBO’s follow-up show on BBC 2: “I certainly did not go in with the confidence to win at all. I can remember the first time us bakers all came in together and thinking how good everybody is. “

She joked that her plans now included a film where Julia Roberts could play her and judge Paul Hollywood could play himself.

She added: “It has been a fantastic, incredible experience. There has been the baking, learning and writing recipes. Getting to know the other bakers has been fantastic and being amongst lost of young people, seeing how television works – the whole exexperience has been fantastic.”

She joked that she had thought “neither” of the defeated finalists, including hot favourite Richard Burr, 37, and graphic designer Luis Troyano, 42, had been a threat.

After the show a gracious Mr Troyano tweeted: “Massive congratulations to @nancybbakes and to @RichardPBurr love you both. Thanks to everyone for the massive support and good wishes.”

And builder Mr Burr said: “Congratulations to @nancybbakes. A brilliant baker, and a great friend. Hope I gave you a run for your money nance!!”

Judge Mary Berry praised Ms Birtwhistle’s “quiet determination” while Hollywood said her baking was “close to perfection”.

Ms Birtwhistle had been named “star baker” in only one week of the series – during the first heat – against the five times when Mr Burr took the title, including a three-week run of supremacy ahead of the final, and he had been the bookies’ favourite.

She said she was so caught up in the moment, she could now barely recall the actual triumph: “The judges said my name, and I can’t really remember what happened,” she said.

“Later I was asked how I was feeling in an interview, but I felt I didn’t have the vocabulary, it was all a bit of a fog.”

Ms Birtwhistle and her fellow finalists had to complete the toughest challenges of the series, finishing with a towering “piece montee” as their showstopper, with sponge, caramel, choux pastry and petit fours, completed in five hours.

She leapt ahead during the technical challenge, coming first with her array of tartes au citron, Victoria sponges and scones, while Mr Burr blew it by coming last.

Ms Birtwhistle said it was an emotional moment as the three hopefuls gathered to hear who had won after 10 weeks of competition in which they had undertaken 30 separate challenges.

She said: “I can remember having to stand for what seemed an eternity to hear the result. I looked at a tree in the distance and focused on that rather than looking at the judges, and felt what will be will be.

“We were all pretty exhausted, Luis was close to tears, and Richard looked the same. I took a big gulp, and realised that this moment was like knowing the snowman is going to melt and it will never be the same again. So it was quite a poignant time for all of us.”

They were joined by the eliminated contenders from throughout the series in the famous marquee pitched on the estate of Welford Park in Berkshire.

Ms Birtwhistle added: “It was a fabulous day with the sun shining and all my family had come. There was a band playing and it was a lovely atmosphere, we had such a great time and everyone loved it.”

The result will surprise many viewers who had been expecting Mr Burr – known for his signature pencil tucked behind the ear – to be the victor after his many strong performances.

Berry said: “You never know how the bakers will be affected as we go through filming week by week, but Nancy remained constant throughout. I think it was her quiet determination that drove her through, and the fact that she never really lost her cool.

“It was a close run when it came to judging the final, but Nancy is deservedly our winner and I must admit that I have been inspired by her baking. The bakers have been so keen, so creative and the results have been mind-blowing. It’s been a real joy to judge this year.”

Hollywood said: “Nancy has been confident, creative and unafraid as a baker and that showed from the very start. In one of my judgings I called her close to perfection, so that says it for me.

“This series has been one of the best for me, as we have had great bakers who have built on their baking expertise each week. They have shown both a depth of knowledge and a sense of humour, you really couldn’t have asked for a better bunch.

‘They have really pushed the boundaries of technique this year. The style, the finesse and the precision – the class of 2014 have been exceptional.”

The programme moved from BBC2 to BBC1 for this year’s fifth series and created a buzz like never before. It has pulled in around nine million viewers and has become one of the most popular shows on the channel.

BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore said: “It was absolutely right for one of the nation’s most talked-about programmes to move to the nation’s favourite channel, and I’m more than thrilled BBC1 viewers have taken it to their hearts.”

The challenges:

:: Signature dish – Viennoiserie

:: Technical – 12 mini tartes au citron, 12 mini Victoria sponges, 12 mini scones

:: Showstopper – Piece montee

Published: Thursday 9th October 2014 by The News Editor

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