Bake Off star Ruby, 20, has had to juggle her time in the tent with a batch of university exams. While Ruby seems to have struggled with nerves she’s been crowned Star Baker more than once and made it to this week’s final. Here’s what she had to say to Radio Times about her flour-covered experience…
How long have you been baking?
Only six months before I applied for Bake Off, when I started uni and had use of a kitchen. I’ve always had a very sweet tooth though. For my fourth birthday, my parents gave me a big recipe book with pictures and said, “Pick a birthday cake.” I scrawled “BIRTHS” over every page in crayon. I wanted all the cakes!
Why apply for Bake Off?
I entered on a whim. I’m not really sure what I was thinking except that it would be a good challenge. It’s out of character as I’m quite shy and don’t like being the centre of attention. It’s been a steep learning curve.
Shy? But didn’t you used to be a model?
Yes, really briefly – when I was 16/17 – but I hated it.
What was it like juggling Bake Off with your studies?
I am prone to being anxious about things but it was so stressful there wasn’t even time to get hung up on it. It just became just something I had to go through. I had my exams in weeks four and five of filming. I think Paul knew because he was like, “Are you winging it?” When I did wing it, it was stuff to do with presentation – the afterthought things – rather than what I was going to make. I was never completely unprepared.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I used to look on the internet a lot for the techniques but after that it’s a case of doing something again and again and again. I know it doesn’t look like it on the programme but I did take a scientific approach to testing: I would change one variant or another. Throughout I was taking it week by week. They weren’t the healthiest months: I was living by myself but getting through 3kg of butter a week.
In week eight when we had to make a novelty cake. It had to be in the shape of something and it had to be decorated, which isn’t something I usually bothered with. I did a scale replica of my dad’s allotment – it really was the weirdest cake – but it went down well. For Father’s Day a few weeks later, I made dad’s garden shed out of gingerbread and clad it with chocolate.
The first episode was horrible. My custard curdled and all I could think was, “What if I’m the first one to go?” I wasn’t upset because my custard had curdled – I don’t sit at home and sob over a custard – it was the pressure cooker-atmosphere. I was so embarrassed that I was crying.
How did you cope with the pressure? We’ve heard a rumour about Rescue Remedy…
Loads of that! I don’t think I really developed an effective coping mechanism but we became more comfortable with each other and with the crew – that helped.
Who do you watch with?
I struggle to watch it – even the episodes where I’ve done well. I don’t watch it live: I watch it on iPlayer later with a glass of wine. I have to close my eyes sometimes. It’s painful.
Why? You know what happens…
Yes, but you are in such a tizz about the whole thing: you say so much rubbish and do stupid things and don’t even realise you’re doing it at the time. Watching it back, you go, “Why did I say that?” I shout at myself on the TV.
How did you cope with their criticism?
You do take it to heart because you have invested so much time and energy in the recipes. But I think that was really good for me because I had never, ever presented stuff to people I wasn’t completely happy with before Bake Off. I was a real perfectionist to the extent that it was stupid and wasteful. So to be forced to go up there and give them something that I wasn’t happy with and they weren’t happy with was refreshing. What’s the worst that could happen? They don’t like it, and that’s that.
You’ve borne the brunt of the negative comments on Twitter and online. Was that upsetting?
Yes, but so many people are nice. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be online but that really helps every week, seeing people say, “You did a really good job.” Sometimes people send me nice pictures of things they’ve baked or their kids have baked, which is lovely.
Did the accusations of favourtism shock you?
It’s easy to brush it off because I know how it was in the tent – and there was no favouritism. It was all very fair so that doesn’t get to me very much.
Did anything else surprise you?
People commented it was strange that I was wearing a cardigan in a tent. I always wear big knitwear in the kitchen – I like it – and it was often really cold in that tent. But then there were equal numbers of people going, “Where do you get your cardigans? I love them!”
It’s an all-female final…
Obviously it’s quite nice – girl power and all that – but it could just as easily been an all-male final as it was last year. Men are every bit as good at baking as women are; in the same way that women can be chefs, just like men can.
Do you have cold hands?
I’m not sure! I’m not very good at pastry so maybe I don’t.
If you win will it change your life?
I’m doing a philosophy degree at University College London and just going to lectures is nice, although it does feel like a bit of an anti-climax after so much stress and turmoil!
The Great British Bake Off final – Tuesday, 8:00pm, BBC2