20 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Didn’t Know About The Great British Bake Off

From filming logistics to where the leftover bakes end up, here’s all your questions answered.
Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Noel Fielding and Alison Hammond in the Great British Bake Off tent
Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Noel Fielding and Alison Hammond in the Great British Bake Off tent
Channel 4/Love Productions

Comfort viewing doesn’t get much better than The Great British Bake Off.

Every year, 12 amateur bakers from all walks of life come together in the iconic GBBO tent as they face tricky recipes, high-pressure time restraints and temperamental ingredients, all in the hopes they might be crowned the winner.

The hit Channel 4 show (previously BBC) is currently in its 14th season, and has already witnessed naughty innuendos, soggy bottoms and a few Paul Hollywood handshakes – perhaps just some of the reasons why the quintessentially British show continues to draw millions of viewers year upon year.

But if you’ve always wondered what goes into bringing the show to our screens, then allow us to reveal the behind-the-scenes secrets you never knew before...

1. It was inspired by village fete competitions

It’s a concept so simple that it simply works. Richard McKerrow and Anna Beattie, who founded Love Productions which makes The Great British Bake Off, were inspired by village fete baking competitions when coming up with the idea for the show, according to The Guardian.

2. Yet it took some convincing to persuade producers

Commissioners initially felt that watching people make cakes through the TV would be too dull, meaning Richard and Anna’s pitch was passed on at first. But clearly, it’s exactly the sweet treat the British public were craving.

3. It’s filmed well in advance

Bake Off may arrive on our screens just in time for autumn cosiness, but there’s a reason most seasons see bakers flapping in panic when meringues are sweating and baked Alaskas won’t stop dripping. It’s actually filmed over a 10-week period between April and June, meaning hot weather can drastically increase the temperature in the tent.

4. Bakers have lives in between filming

You’ll often hear bakers promising that they practised recipes numerous times in the week. That’s because contestants don’t live in the historic estate that Bake Off is filmed at for weeks at a time. Instead, they go home during the week to live their lives and work day jobs as normal.

5. But they do spend their whole weekends in the tent

The contestants of Bake Off season nine
The contestants of Bake Off season nine
Love Productions/Channel 4

Former contestants have recalled long days filming each episode of Bake Off on the weekends, which can last between 10-16 hours. Season nine’s Antony Amourdoux told Insider: “You start early in the morning and it ends a little after six or seven in the evening.

“Normally they shoot on the weekends because some contestants work – like I was working. So Saturday will be the whole day and Sunday will be early in the morning to around midday.”

6. That means they have to wear the same clothes two days in a row

Episodes may be filmed over a couple days, but it’s all squeezed into one episode, which looks like one full day of baking. That means bakers have to wear the same outfits both days. Former Bake Off finalist Kim-Joy Hewlett told the Express: “I know that we have to wear the same outfits but I don’t know the actual reason why (but) I’ve heard lots of different reasons.

“It’s nice for continuity to have everyone in the same thing.”

7. But filming during Covid looked a little different

The 2020 Bake Off contestants formed a bubble so they could film during Covid
The 2020 Bake Off contestants formed a bubble so they could film during Covid
Love Productions/Channel 4

In 2020 and 2021, all the Bake Off contestants and crew lived in a hotel together for six weeks in line with Covid-19 restrictions. They moved the usual location at Welford Park to the Down Hall Hotel in Essex to create a bubble for everyone. All 130 people on site were also tested three times before filming started.

8. And they had a whole lot of fun in the process

Bake Off season 10 contestant and blogger Michael Chakraverty said he had heard that Paul hosted pizza nights and co-judge Prue Leith could be found flower arranging. “It sounds like the best summer camp in the world!” he told the Guardian. Sources even reportedly recalled an “indie festival” being put on by host Noel Fielding, along with boozy nights at the bar.

9. It’s filmed at a historical site

Welford Park in Newbury is the current home of the Bake Off tent
Welford Park in Newbury is the current home of the Bake Off tent
Digital Camera Magazine via Getty Images

Between 2014 to 2019, and again since 2022 Bake Off has been filmed at Welford Park, in Newbury, Berkshire. The house on the grounds that can be seen in aerial shots is a 400-year-old family home, and even once served as the deer-hunting lodge of Henry VIII.

Deborah Puxley, who lives at the property with her husband, James, and their two children, said that Welford Park’s agent “got talking to someone at a party” about Bake Off (per The Telegraph), before the crew moved in three weeks later.

10. The Paul Hollywood handshake came about naturally

A Hollywood handshake is seen as the seal of approval from Paul
A Hollywood handshake is seen as the seal of approval from Paul
Channel 4

A Hollywood handshake is a baker’s equivalent to an Oscar. It’s an honour that can bring even the most experienced of pastry makers to tears, but Paul has previously revealed that the tradition really came about quite naturally.

“I just saw something that was particularly good and I shook [the contestant’s] hand and went: well done,” Paul said in an interview with Love Food. “And that was it. The rest of it was the press going, ‘Oh, he’s given out another handshake. It must be good.’ It’s out of my control.” The first one was apparently given in season three.

11. And, yes, the handshakes have increased throughout the seasons

The handshakes are always a joyous highlight of any Bake Off episode. But if it feels like you’ve been seeing more of them in recent years, that’s because you have. One BuzzFeed writer did the maths and found Paul’s seal of approval has indeed inflated with each series.

12. They get through A LOT of supplies

When food critic Jay Rayner went behind the scenes of Bake Off for series five in 2014, he discovered that the previous season saw contestants bake their way through: 200kg of flour, 150kg of sugar, 90kg of butter, 80kg of chocolate, 2,000 eggs and 35 litres of double cream.

13. A single artist illustrates every single bake

Bake Off’s beautiful signature illustrations are drawn by one artist – Tom Hovey. According to his website, he’s drawn more than 3000 different bakes for the show. Crucially, he’s tasked with drawing what the bakers planned to create, rather than the finished product. So, if things don’t go to plan, he has permission to exercise some artistic licence.

14. They have no trouble at all making sure all the bakes get eaten

Can you think of a better way to end a long day of filming than to devour the leftovers? That’s exactly what the 100-strong cast and crew get to do.

Antony Amourdoux told Insider that “everything just disappears in minutes”, adding: “The crew and production team dig in and each of the bakers is sent bites of each other’s bakes so we all get to taste each other’s as well.”

15. A Victoria sponge is cooked in every oven every day to test they’re working

There’s no room for error in the Bake Off tent, and that means the tools have to be top notch, too. To avoid any malfunctions, all 12 bakers’ ovens are tested every day – by baking a Victoria sponge.

“We then get a runner to stand at each station with their cake mix so we can be sure they’ve all gone in at the same time and can be properly tested,” explained food researcher Georgia May to the Daily Mail.

16. The record number of ingredients used by a baker surpasses 100

The record number of ingredients used for a single bake is 124.

Bake Off 2013 winner Frances Quinn made a three-tiered cake inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Each tier was a completely different type of cake, representing the play’s three stories, which required a very long shopping list.

17. There’s a dedicated team who wash up everything by hand

An insider previously told Daily Mail that dishwashers are too noisy and take longer than doing things the old fashioned way. One crew member, Iva Vcelak, was required to wash every piece of equipment at the tent’s two huge sinks, where she could spend up to 16 hours a day.

Each series apparently requires 1,000 dishcloths, 80 sponges and 30 litres of washing-up liquid.

18. There’s a lengthy application process

Before bakers can even even get competing, they have to go through a long application process. According to former bakers who spoke to Insider, it first requires a lengthy questionnaire to assess personality and baking skills. After that, there’s a phone call which assesses baking skills further.

Those who make it past these stages then get the chance to actually bake for a food technician who will taste the goods. Next, there’s a screen test which replicates the feeling of being on the real show. Finally, all remaining candidates will meet with a psychologist to make sure they can handle the demands of the show and subsequent public attention.

19. After all that, they have to keep it secret

Bakers are not allowed to tell anyone they’re on the show. Stacey Hart from season eight told Insider that to fulfil her NDA (nondisclosure agreement) she had to come up with an excuse for her children that explained why she was away.

“I told them I was doing a cooking course,” she recalled. “They would tell the world, my kids, they couldn’t keep that secret.”

20. There’s a reason it has a different name in America

Bake Off is called The Great British Baking Show in the US
Bake Off is called The Great British Baking Show in the US

Across the pond, GBBO is called The Great British Baking Show.

It turns out the name change isn’t to appeal to a US audience, but rather to avoid a clash with another famed baking contest. America’s most famous baking contest is called The Pillsbury Bake Off, date back to 1949. To avoid confusion, Bake Off became a ‘baking show’ in the States.

The Great British Bake Off airs Tuesdays at 8pm on Channel 4.


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