Belfast Telegraph

Cake king John rises to the top

John Whaite said the double challenge of completing his degree while perfecting his pastry on the Great British Bake Off actually helped him rise to the top and win the hit cookery show.

The 23-year-old, who was recently awarded a first-class law degree from Manchester University, said the pressure spurred him on to be named 2012's best baker on the BBC Two series.

He said: "If I hadn't been in the middle of the degree I'm not sure I would have won.

"It meant I had to be organised and know what I needed for the exam and what I needed for baking and it helped me concentrate. I don't think I'd have got such a good grade without Bake Off.

"It was tough though. I finished one exam on a Friday and went to Bristol to film the semi-final before getting home late on Sunday in time for another exam on Monday."

Wigan-born John, who now lives in Manchester, was crowned the shock winner after facing fellow bakers Brendan Lynch and James Morton in the final where they created a puff pastry pie called a pithivier, fondant fancies and chiffon sponges.

The show, presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins and featuring judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, has been one of the surprise hits of the year. Last week it pulled in 5.6 million viewers, beating Holby City on BBC One.

John, whose creations have included an enormous gingerbread Colosseum, credited his partner, Paul, with some of his success.

He said: "He's a graphic designer, he does birthday cards and I do the cakes. With the Colosseum he drew up a template on the computer so that was a team effort."

He also said the support of presenting duo Mel and Sue helped keep him going despite the pressure: "I don't think I could have done so well without them. When something goes wrong they come up and give you a cuddle or crack a joke to relieve the tension."

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