Bake Off finalist Ian on the pressures of Biscuit Week, giving up his job for cakes and his secret reason for applying

"When I got star baker three times, everyone thought I was super confident, but I’m not. I’m surprised at my progress, to be honest"

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As the Great British Bake Off final approaches, Radio Times has caught up with the three finalists, including technical master Ian Cumming. The 42-year-old travel photographer lives in the village of Great Wilbraham just outside Cambridge with his wife Eleanor, two children aged five and eight, a flock of guinea fowl, a cat and two guinea pigs.

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How did you manage to fit in Bake Off with your job?

May and June, when Bake Off is shot, is the peak time for my work, so essentially, I had to turn everything down. It was a risk, but the whole of Bake Off is a risk. Even some of the individual bakes are risky. My biscuit box was incredibly risky.

What made you apply?

I was watching the show last year with my wife and when it came to the tea party in the final, she said, “Oooh I’d love to go to that, sort it out darling,” so I applied. I have never thought of myself as a fantastic baker. I just like to bake for the family and make sure they have nice food. I wasn’t expecting to actually go anywhere on the show.

Did you do a lot of practice beforehand?

Yes, during the daytime, and some before the kids were up. I don’t need a lot of sleep. The Madeira cake – or, as we called it, grey cake, because it looked grey and it tasted grey – was not my finest hour and the test cake was even worse. Even though it had some nice ingredients in it, like freeze-dried raspberries and citron peppercorns.

Did you put on any weight?

I think I did. Even I managed to put on a pound or two. I really do like eating cake.

Do you have a gorgeous kitchen?

It’s not a fancy kitchen at all. Ours is a really old house with piles of stuff everywhere and the kitchen is an unreconstructed 1970s one, with brown lino and a very small preparation area. But I think that worked in my favour, because in the tent there is only one small bench, so what can you do? You have nice gear but no space, so you have to compromise a bit.

You revealed yourself as a fan of roadkill in the game pie challenge – did you use any other unusual ingredients?

For the frangipane tart I brought in guinea fowl eggs, as we have loads of them at home. They taste the same as hen eggs but give a fabulous colour. Everyone was fascinated by them and I told them about our new guinea fowl chick. Sue Perkins suggested we call it Mary – we decided to go with Squeaky instead!

Was the experience nerve-racking?

I kept a journal of the whole thing. Coming into week two, I wrote, “I just have to survive Biscuit Week.” I saw it as survival. That week I managed to come away with star baker, which genuinely surprised me. I didn’t feel good about my chances at all. Then when I got star baker three times, everyone thought I was super confident, but I’m not. I’m surprised at my progress, to be honest.

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The Great British Bake Off final is on BBC1 tonight (Wednesday 7th October) at 8.00pm