“Viewers can relate to it,” she says. “The people in it could be your sister, your son, your next-door neighbor. The public identifies with the contestants and like to watch their journey through the show.
“Just yesterday I was walking down the street and two young men came out of the pub and asked if they could have a photo with me. They were only around 20, but genuine Bake Off fans. I love that. I think the show brings families of all generations together on the sofa.”
Bake Offhas been nominated for the Radio TimesAudience Award by Bafta judges for the third year running, and next season makes the move from BBC2 to BBC1. Mary says the change will make no difference to the format when filming starts just after Easter.
“All the values are the same – it’s about people’s passion for baking. The contestants put their heart and soul into it and that always moves me. Many of them have full-time jobs but stay up all night perfecting their skills.”
After the marvels conjured up by last year’s winner Francis Quinn, one wonders how the standards can continue to rise. “The bar is already pretty high, but I expect we will see the contestants in the next series becoming even more inventive,” says Mary.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the nation’s amateur bakers should worry. “It’s not always about showstoppers,” she says. “People send me pictures of their versions of cakes from Bake Off – the icing may be a bit wobbly but it doesn’t matter. It’s wonderful that people are inspired.”
The Radio Times Audience Award is the only prize at this year’s Television Awards chosen by the public. The shortlist was drawn up by a panel of top TV critics but the final decision lies with you. Your winner will be announced on Sunday 18 May 2014 on BBC One.