How would you rate your baking skills?
In my life I had made two cakes. One was a Victoria sponge and one was an orange sponge, and they were both birthday presents for my then girlfriend, now wife. The gesture of making the cakes is the important thing. I knew I was on to a winner just by having bothered to try.
A Victoria sponge for Victoria Coren, excellent. Does she bake?
Victoria cooks quite a lot in general and makes the occasional cake. She makes a very nice chocolate, rum and nut sponge cake if we have people round. She is quite good and is interested in those areas in a way that I am not at all.
What about the rest of your family?
My mum still makes cakes. My grandma made a lot of cakes, and I suppose that’s one of the reasons I never became a baker. I took them for granted. There would be Dundee cakes, chocolate cakes, Victoria sponges, and my grandmother made Welsh cakes because that side of my family is Welsh. I had a very fortunate, cake-filled childhood.
Why did you agree to bake for Comic Relief ?
As with all the things we do for charity in this country, it would assuage some of my sense of guilt about how screwed the world is, and how comparatively lucky I am. If I get absolutely covered in cake batter, then perhaps that’s some penance for the ills of Western capitalism with which I am complicit. But I really enjoyed the experience. Everyone was terribly friendly and fun. It feels like I haven’t done my charity penance.
Were you nervous about appearing in front of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry?
I was quite stressed about it in advance. In times of stress I find I’m quite good at not thinking about it. While a certain type of person would reduce their stress levels by preparing for the challenge ahead, I was better at living in denial that I had agreed to do it at all.
What did they make of your baking?
Paul and Mary were very nice and supportive. It was my ill-conceived plan to put a buttercream and jam filling in the shortbread biscuits I was making – the idea was to make them like a Victoria sponge. They asked, “Are you going to try and make the jam yourself?” And I went, “Yeah, all right!” Unfortunately I failed to make anything recognisable as jam. I ended up with a very gooey, sugary compote that made everything it touched soggy. It was strawberry soup.
So you’re not a natural cook, then?
I think the most cheffy thing I own is a pizza cutter. That’s probably not a sign of great culinary skill. I must say I think scissors are better for cutting pizza, anyway; that would be my top cookery tip!