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Baking merry – how the bakers spend their Christmas

Deck the Pauls with boughs of Hollywood… ahead of The Great Christmas Bake Off (Christmas day, 19.40pm on Channel 4) and The Great Festive Bake Off (New Year’s Day, 19.40pm on Channel 4), we asked our festive bakers to give us a sneak peek into what Christmas is like at their homes. So sit back with a cup of sherry and a mince pie, and get ready to start feeling festive.

Paul’s Christmas

“I have memories of helping out my mum as she was the cook in the house, as the rest of the family could burn baked beans. I think I took on the interest for baking and cooking early on, and we always had great Christmas food. However, my baking memories of Christmas are with my wife and boys and seeing how much we love Christmas day.

“It’s all red, gold and green as we transform the whole house for Christmas, including the cats’ collars. I have always cooked the Christmas dinner as I have quite exacting methods and timings for the food. I always introduce new flavours for the vegetables, and hope my meats are cooked to perfection. There is always a choice for desserts, but we are more savoury lovers and so I bake lots before Christmas.”

Favourite festive bake:

“I intend to make a Yule log for Christmas day, but I’m also making a really special centrepiece for the table. I have always made mince pies and have already made up Prue’s pear mince in a large jar ready for Christmas bakes. I love to make a boozy decadent trifle that all the family enjoy, as well as traditional Stollen.”


Selasi’s Christmas

Our family Christmas is quite traditional. We have lots of food – a mix of both British and Ghanaian dishes. My strongest childhood memory is that I remember eating the cake, and always getting into trouble for it. Making wishes for the new year is a tricky one. I am a kind of a ‘live for the moment’ person, so just happiness. That is infectious. In terms of cooking, I have a lot to learn so I just want to keep practising and learn, learn, learn.”

Favourite festive bake:

“Roast leg of lamb served with cranberry sauce. I’ll also be making a Yule log and mince pies.”


Val’s Christmas

“Every Christmas for as long as I can remember I helped my mum make the Christmas cake. I listened to her tips as we added the different ingredients. Christmas Eve was the time for making mince pies, lemon curd tarts, sausage rolls, almond tarts, chocolate log, petit fours and trifle – the house was full of Christmas scents like cinnamon, spices, brandy and sherry.

“I still spend every Christmas Eve day baking the usual favourites and make a traditional dinner. I also do the same on 27th when my sister is over from New York and again on the 29th when family come down from Yorkshire.”

Favourite festive bake:

“Christmas pudding, made in November and full of boozy fruits, served with rum sauce.”


Beca’s Christmas

“Mam and I bake the fruit cake and decorate it differently every year. My favourite style was the chimney fireplace we once made, complete with Father Christmas’ legs dangling down! My two daughters help me now too, by baking the cake in October and of course decorating it in December. It’s a lovely tradition to carry on and pass down….Plus, I love doing it!

“Some elements of our Christmas are traditional, and because we have young children, we’re trying to create new traditions to share with them. Christmas Eve is lots of fun – we have a big brunch with either cinnamon buns or an American-style brunch consisting of egg casserole, country gravy and biscuits – I have American family and this brunch is a proper nod to them as well as being a treat! Mrs. Claus delivers Christmas pyjamas and a new movie for us to watch on Christmas Eve, too – something the girls love! And again, as a nod to my American family, we have a BBQ in the evening… even if it’s freezing, I’ll be out there, wrapped up, cooking some steaks for us to enjoy. I love it as it’s just completely different to what a lot of my friends do.”

Favourite festive bake:

“I have too many! My fruit cake is always very well received, and that may have something to do with the amount of booze that goes into it. I also make frangipane topped mince pies which never last long!”



Benjamina’s Christmas

“My Mum is a great cook but doesn’t bake very much so I’ve always been the one to make any Christmas cakes or treats which I loved because it meant I could make whatever I wanted.

My Christmas is just full of good food and family! We don’t do a turkey as no one ever eats it, so we’ll usually have a chicken, some lamb or pork and lots of Nigerian food. We don’t really do gifts anymore, it’s more about spending time with each other, eating lots and then watching the EastEnders Christmas special!”

Favourite festive bake:

“Each year, I make a different showstopper Christmas cake – nothing traditional but I get free rein to create whatever I want. Last year we had a chocolate, Kahlua and raspberry cake which went down well!”


Sandy’s Christmas

“Gosh, thinking about Christmas memories has brought a tear to my eye. I always helped my mum bake and make Christmas cakes, puddings and mince pies. We just about made everything to do with Christmas. My Dad used to help Mum with lunch and he also made an amazing fry-up with leftovers from Christmas dinner. In fact I think I may have succumbed to the odd sprout in that fry-up.

“My Christmas is very traditional. Fire lit, I cook, Mum has plenty of sherry, and we watch a good old film, take a long walk and then come back for Christmas pudding. It’s a very lazy day.”

Favourite festive bake:

“Too many to mention, I think! My Mum’s brandy butter (complete with ground almonds and double cream) melts beautifully over Christmas pudding. I also love a red onion marmalade to eat with a homemade pie.”


Rav’s Christmas

“Baking wasn’t a big part of my childhood, I surely did it when I got into my teens, though. My sister and I used to be in the kitchen a lot working together on something. I say that… but it was most likely me washing the dishes.

My Christmas is traditional in a sense of it being all about family and great food. We gather around the tree in the morning to exchange gifts and the rest of the day is spent snuggling up on the sofa with a box of chocolates watching a movie. We all collaborate on the food, and I always end up on dessert duty.”

Favourite festive bake:

“We are not a fan of Christmas pudding in our household, so we will opt for something else like sticky toffee pudding. I do like to try different things each year – this Christmas I am going to attempt a festive Croquembouche.”


Rob’s Christmas

“As children we all used to help my Mum bake the Christmas cake but it’s the memory of making mince pies that I remember most. At Christmas you can seem to be able to make enough of them, and so I remember lots of Saturday afternoons rolling out and cutting pastry.

“We have quite a traditional Christmas at my house. We’ll wake up, open stockings, drink coffee and then slowly work our way downstairs to open presents by the tree. Then it’s all go in the kitchen preparing food before the meal itself, followed by plenty of games going on late into the evening. In recent years, our family has grown and so there’s now children running around and Christmas takes on a different meaning.”

Favourite festive bake:

“It has to be a classic mince pie, served with plenty of mulled wine.”


Catch Selasi, Val, Paul and Beca on The Great Christmas Bake Off, Christmas Day at 19.40pm on Channel 4. Then, on New Year’s Day, Rob, Rav, Benjamina and Sandy will take their positions in the tent for The Great Festive Bake Off, also at 19.40pm on Channel 4.

Merry Christmas, bakers!