Kate Henry: Life has totally changed since Bake Off
08:00 11 August 2015
Former upholsterer from Sussex, Kate, was one of the bakers in the Great British Bake Off last year – she reveals the lessons she learnt, her love for Brighton and some advice for the new contestants
Sugar-Free Chocolate Truffles with Kate Henry on Slice
Firstly, hello! What have you been up to today?
Just got back this morning from a trip to Manchester – I went on a baker visit. Had my first free weekend in a while and thought I would take the plunge and visit some of the Northern contingency. I went out for dinner with Nancy, Luis, Claire and Diana and their other halves. It was brilliant. I am totally exhausted as the journey home took seven hours. Next time I might get the train! I have a cake in the oven, obvs. I’m recipe devising for a company I’m working with. There is always a cake in the oven.
How has life changed for you since the Great British Bake Off?
Life has totally changed since Bake Off. What hasn’t changed is that I still bake pretty much every day! My focus since bake off has moved back to the kind of baking and cooking that I did before the show. I do a lot of gluten-free and sugar-free recipes. In fact, I’ve just filmed some episodes for a You Tube channel that include lots of sugar-free recipes. I’m also writing a low-sugar book. This last year has been wonderful in terms of opportunities. Every week, a new challenge is offered. It’s very exciting. Being recognised a lot is a strange phenomenon. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.
This time last year, filming had already finished for the Great British Bake Off – what was it like having to keep it all a secret?
I had no problem keeping it all a secret. It was the only sense of control I felt I had. In fact, I went on holiday just as all our names and pics appeared in the newspapers. My friends I was away with were fielding calls from national newspapers whilst I was completely freaking out. Telling people was furthest from my mind!
What did you learn from the Great British Bake Off?
I learnt that if I can do that – I can do anything. I have found that very little scares me now, as that was just about the scariest thing I have ever done – by several miles! It has given me lots more confidence. It has been very liberating actually.
Would you recommend the experience to other home bakers?
Hmmm – that’s a question I have had to really think about. Completely randomly, I do actually know one of the bakers in this year’s Bake Off that is about to air, so I was asked that very question and for the first time. I would say – actually, I did say – that it is something you need to think long and hard about. You don’t know how you are going to fair against other bakers. You don’t know if you will be the one who goes out in the first week. You have no idea how you will be perceived by the public, you don’t know how it will feel to suddenly be recognised by so many people in the street. The problem is that it is a highly stressful and all-consuming experience. Long after the public who have watched it have forgotten your name, you are still living it every day. It is a huge deal and one you just can’t prepare yourself for. The only advice I had in the end was that if you are chosen, throw everything you have at it. No excuses, no regrets. If you enter into it with a positive attitude and give everything you’ve got that’s the perfect place to start.
Did you have any embarrassing moments on set?
Each week before the episodes were aired, I would be overwhelmed with the memory of something horribly embarrassing I had done on set that week. Genuinely, ‘on set’ didn’t feel like that. It was just an incredibly stressful couple of days of baking! The cameras were forgotten and I just got on with the job at hand. There was one week in particular where Sue [Perkins] and I found ourselves crooning the words to ‘Flying Without Wings’ whilst I was whipping up an Italian meringue. It was an interesting rendition, thankfully left on the cutting room floor! I was absolutely petrified that they would show it. They didn’t. In fact, they were very kind to me.
How did you feel about the speculation in the media about Paul Hollywood allegedly ‘flirting’ with you?
It’s a shame really. Very lazy journalism. I was worried about it at the time. Especially when a national newspaper or two turned up at my house. When I closed the door without comment they then knocked on all my neighbours’ doors and asked them questions. It felt like a huge intrusion. Now it’s just funny.
You have been sharing lots of yummy sugar-free and gluten-free recipes – is there a particular reason behind using sugar and wheat substitutes?
Before Bake Off, I did a lot of grain-free and sugar-free recipes. My sister and mother are both gluten free, and I was for a while. With the recent reports on sugar intake and the dangers to your health, it occurred to me I should find some alternatives. It’s pretty hard to bake successfully, unless you are prepared to experiment, a lot. So, I’ve done that for you!
What is your favourite thing to bake?
It changes constantly. I tend to make something until I get it right, then exhaust it by making it a lot in different guises. Right now it’s a rich sugar-free chocolate torte. It’s really, really good!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from new flavour combinations I discover. I keep a notepad by my bed at night and I often wake up with a flavour coupling in my head, so I write it down! Recently it’s been ginger and bay. I made a custard with these flavours and it’s my new favourite thing!
What do you love the most about Brighton?
I moved to Brighton about eight years ago from London. Brighton is such a sunny place, in attitude if not always in actual sunshine! The people are tolerant and it genuinely has an optimistic vibe. I have the most wonderful group of friends here which definitely helps. The streets are full of independent retailers and with the Downs and the sea on my doorstep, it couldn’t be more perfect.
Do you have any favourite places to eat in Brighton?
I love 64 Degrees in the Laines. It is a wonderful place to eat for a special treat. The food is so well thought out and their attention to detail is second to none.
What would your top tips be for our readers who want to take their baking creations to the next level?
It depends what floats your boat. Flavour is the important aspect for me – I hate munching on a cake that tastes of nothing, it happens all the time. Sort out the flavour first, you can work on the presentation later.
Do you have any bad habits in the kitchen?
I have lots of bad habits in the kitchen. They mostly involve burning things!
What are your must-have items in the kitchen?
My mixer. I couldn’t live without it. Oh – and my dishwasher.
Do you have anything in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
My new show has just been launched on Slice which is a food-based Youtube channel. That’s very exciting. My low-sugar book is in the pipeline too, I’m very excited about that. I have been working with a food company called Opies – devising recipes for some of their products. What an amazing job that is! Oh and not forgetting class of 2014 GBBO – I’ve just filmed for that, it should be out on BBC1 at the end of the summer.
Words: Daisy McCorgray