Food: Bake Off star Martha on cake

Martha Collison
Martha Collison

The last two years have been rather dizzying for Martha Collison.

Back in 2014, aged 17, she competed in the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off, finishing a-not-so shabby fifth place. Since then, she’s baked for the Queen, given the Archbishop of Canterbury a cake masterclass, written her first cookbook, Twist, and put her sweet tooth to good effect as an afternoon tea advisor at Wimbledon.

All of which has been pulled off alongside studying for her AS and A-Levels.

“It’s been challenging,” deadpans Collison, now 19, with a laugh. “My friends have to book days with me in advance.

“It’s strange being a teenager and having to do that, but it’s fine. It’s just like jumping into work life before I thought I would, but there’s nothing bad about that.”

If anything, she’s thrilled by her prospects.

Although she hails from a family of keen cooks, nobody in her immediate circle had been bitten by the baking bug, until Collison showed an interest aged eight. While her friends wanted bikes and Barbies for Christmas, she had her sights set on a blender.

“I was in the dark a little bit, but it made baking more fun because it was exploring new territory,” recalls Collison, who lives in Berkshire with her family.

At school, she’d daydream about the concoctions she’d try later on, stopping off to buy ingredients on her way home, and remembers her family “gritting their teeth and smiling” when she presented them with her early efforts.

“I think they thought it might be a phase,” she adds, grinning. “But it wasn’t. It’s a long phase!”

Collison’s original ambition was to become a food developer, but appearing on Bake Off changed everything.

“It’s just been unbelievable,” she says. “I’ve had to re-imagine my life, but in a really good way. Bake Off has really helped shape my future, which I’m really grateful for.”

She hopes Twist, in which she details tasty ideas to reinvent a series of baking classics, will be the first of many books.

Given her successes since Bake Off, there’s little reason why this shouldn’t be the case - Collison still can’t quite get her head around how everything’s panned out.

“I planned all these things to say to the Queen,” she recalls of her time baking mini coffee and walnut, and lemon and elderflower cakes for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations. “But by the time it actually got to me, I was a bit overwhelmed,” she adds with a giggle.

“She told me it was very kind of me to make the cakes for her birthday, and I feel like now I have to always be kind because the Queen has told me that I am!”

While on the whole, Collison’s experiences have been extremely positive, not everybody’s been kind to her, and she received some spiteful comments online during Bake Off. “Everyone has their opinions,” she says today. “Not everyone’s going to love you when you’ve put yourself out on national TV, and some people are really not shy in telling you that, which is really mean.

“But you just have to remember that the kind of people who are going to write tweets like that are probably people you’re not going to be friends with.”

Watching Bake Off now brings back memories of serving up her first bake on the show - a Swiss roll - and facing Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood’s feedback for the very first time.

“They’d placed me on a station right at the front, which meant I had to be judged first. Because I was so much younger than everyone, I was absolutely petrified. I had no idea what it would feel like to be judged, especially with everyone else listening, it was just the weirdest thing.

“It was quite intense. But they liked my very first one, so that was a relief.”

Now, of course, she’s enjoying the fruits of her labour.

“For the first time in three years, I’m going to enjoy not having to study alongside all the baking,” says Collison. “It’ll be really nice to have that time to fully enjoy and appreciate everything I get to do.”

Inspired? Here’s a Twist recipe to give a whirl...