A couple of weeks ago Mary Berry made her Strictly Come Dancing debut: she burst out of a giant wedding cake and was rewarded with rapturous applause. “It was really good fun,” she says. “The dancers were wonderful and everybody got into the spirit of the thing. I was thrilled.”
It was the, er, icing on the cake after a non-stop year that began with a candid documentary about her life, saw the most fêted Great British Bake Off to date and will be topped off with a festive masterclass this week, in which, as well as the gingerbread house, she’ll also produce a mincemeat streusel and a Tunis cake.
But the queen of cakes has no intention of taking it easy over the festive period. “Putting my feet up is not one of the things I like to do. There’ll be about 12 of us around the table and lots of fresh air to walk off all the things that we’ll be eating...
“My husband always gives me an IOU, because then, when you’re on holiday, you’ve got time to buy a present. But it’s just the fact of all being together I enjoy most,” she says. “Everybody together in the kitchen and around the table.”
Paul Hollywood, who will be making Scottish black bun and a Boxing Day pie for the programme as well as stollen, confesses he’s usually the chap you see scurrying around the shops like a headless chicken on Christmas Eve, panic-buying presents. His excuse? He spends much of December baking batches of mince pies – 48 at a time – for family and friends. “The food for me is where it’s at: good turkey, good stuffing, and I always look forward to the Christmas pudding.”
After a much-reported break-up from his wife earlier this year, this Christmas he’ll be spending the holiday abroad “in the snow” for the first time. The hotel had better dish up dessert Hollywood’s way or the chef – like many a Bake Off contestant – may experience the lash of that tongue. “It has to be served with custard! If you had a steamed pudding, which is what Christmas pud is – would you have brandy butter with that? Of course you wouldn’t!”
For her part, Mary prefers a slosh of brandy cream with her pudding. “But my daughter-in-law adores custard, so I do some for her, too,” she concedes. “Everybody likes different things. Make what your family enjoy.”
The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special is on tonight at 8:00pm on BBC2.