Martha Collison on life since the Great British Bake Off
PUBLISHED: 12:02 11 December 2017
Our favourite contestant from The Great British Bake Off is now 'all grown up' but will be back in Ascot for a traditional family Christmas
When Martha Collison, then a student at Charters School in Ascot, took part in GBBO in the summer of 2014 you couldn’t help but notice the almost doting grandmotherly eye of Mary Berry as the show’s youngest ever contestant at just 17 battled her ways through the rounds.
Martha made it all the way to the Week 8 quarter-finals and the last five, picking up a couple of first places for the technical challenges along the way before the advanced dough test saw her leave. It was, she happily declared, the right time for her to go.
She’d somehow managed to keep her involvement a secret from school friends, but the Collison family were glad to have her back – and who wouldn’t want such a baking star in the kitchen at Christmas? Since then, Martha’s moved on, like GBBO, and the promise foreseen by Mary Berry has come to fruition.
She’s always been a wise head on young shoulders, evidenced by the three A levels she collected along the way – in Maths, Chemistry and Food Technology. “Originally I was planning to go to university to study Food Science, but I was already developing a career so had to make a decision,” she says. “I had this massive opportunity and eventually decided that coping with university exams at the same time was going to be a bit too much. So I decided to make a go of the other things first – you can always go back to university later.”
Those ‘other things’ have seen two books published. There was the acclaimed ‘Twist’ last year, in which she took basic recipes and turned them into contemporary treats such as pink grapefruit drizzle cake, or even with a bit of gin and tonic flavour if you want to go the whole hog. On the success of that she followed up with ‘Crave’ this summer, packed with indulgent ideas and the joys of the likes of doughnut muffins (why spend ages making them when you want them now!)
‘Twist’ took her to book events in New York, where she was greeted by American GBBO fans: “It’s really weird to go to a different country and meet people who know more about Bake Off than you do. They’ll say things like ‘Oh, I’ve watched it 20 times on Netflix’ and have really bought into British baking.”
Add in work with Waitrose and The Sunday Times, personal appearances and charity work and you can see why Martha decided uni would have to wait.
Most recently, she’s partnered with British Gas to come up with ‘Ad Bakes’ – quick and easy energy-efficient recipes that can be whipped up in four minutes to fill the ad breaks, so viewers can have a tasty treat to satisfy cravings while watching the bakers take on the next challenge on Channel 4.
More on this in a moment, but perhaps the biggest sign that she’s ‘all grown up’ is that Martha moved to seaside foodie capital Brighton recently, sharing a home with three friends. There’s also a boyfriend on the scene, Michael, a Sussex University student.
“They all get to try what I’m working on. But it’s not likely they’ll say ‘No’ when I’m standing in front of them and say ‘Just eat this, please,” she reveals.
“And as I’m always working months ahead, they’ve got used to the idea that you eat Christmas pudding in September and hot cross buns before Christmas!”
Another discovery is that our girl, for all the speedy recipes, is not a high tech planner, iPad at the ready. “I have a little notebook that goes everywhere with me, so I can jot down ideas. I used to have a laptop in the kitchen but it got covered in flour. A physical notebook you can flick backwards and forwards through suits me much more. Although I’m always the only young person on the train with one – you get some funny looks!”
She’s continued her role as an ambassador for Tearfund, the Christian relief agency working across the world, including a visit to Cambodia in 2015, and has also joined the Bramber Bakehouse team which helps women rebuild their lives and find self-worth after exploitation, see bramberbakehouse.co.uk.
And then there’s Ad Bakes with British Gas, include tasty delights such as peanut butter truffles, cheesecake pots and a seasonal toffee apple mug crumble. It turns out that Martha is more than happy to give a brownie a quick blast in the microwave and had great fun with the theme, to the delight British Gas who would like everyone to be more energy efficient while showcasing smart energy monitors connected to Martha’s smart meters.
You can follow the recipes on video, just google British Gas and Martha Collison. Martha says: “The GBBO ad breaks may take a while for us to get used to, but they’re actually a great opportunity to whip up a tasty treat to enjoy while you’re watching the contestants take on the next challenge – and you can even see your energy use on your smart energy monitor in real time while baking.
“Watching food shows on TV always makes me hungry, so I love having a few quick and easy recipes up my sleeve to satisfy any cravings!”
As for the new format, Martha misses Mary Berry but thinks Prue Leith is doing a great job, having taken on a formidable task.
Thoughts turn to home at this time of year and readers won’t be surprised to know that Martha will be back in Ascot with the rest of the Collisons, including younger sister, Hannah. We can guarantee that the family and friends queue to try her seasonal baking treats will be forming, although there’s no doubt they’d be just as delighted to see her if she simply said: “That’s enough cooking for now.”
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