Why you didn’t see me on The Great British Bake Off – Oh and some Sage Derby Scones


Two measly scones you cry? You ate the rest already? Well no, the other dozen or so were eaten – or possibly spat out – by members of the production company for BBC2’s The Great British Bake Off which reached it’s finale this week.

The white board of anecdotes I have rashly promised to write about in future posts on this blog is pretty long and I had kicked these scones and their tale of my eleventh hour audition for Bake Off into the long grass. However watching television last night I was filled with a little “what if” and a much greater amount of “thank god”.

I already knew Edd, last night’s winner, had got in the last 25 or so candidates for the show as well as a few who hadn’t. The Bake Off production company had emailed me earlier in the year and although I liked the sound of the show, I disregarded taking part due to the impossibility of arranging childcare for Ted for an inflexible filming schedule if I got through. Weeks later the Bake Off people emailed me again saying they were finalising the last few contestants and would I like to do an audition on camera and bring some food in to their office in Holborn. With barely 24 hours notice it was a tad inconvenient but I agreed thinking “Que sera sera.”

I made a perfect batch of Nutella macarons like these ones for the Masterchef event, some orange and cranberry cookies using dough in the freezer, these sage derby scones and for a bit of fun, some left over cake pops although I explained that these were not made from home made cake.  By the time Ted had gone to bed it was gone 8pm and I stayed up til the small hours hard at work.  The scones were a hybrid of both a Delia Smith and a Hummingbird Bakery recipe and it’s so long ago I cannot remember the recipe. I just know they had sage derby cheese from my wonderful local Spar in them and some bacon. One of the hazards of mothballing food photos is that you forget recipes.

Sage_Derby_Scones_2 Sage_Derby_Scones_3

With Ted dropped off at daddy’s office for 90 minutes, I turned up to the Bake Off offices with my Charlie and Lola tins. The tables were laiden with baked goods that other people had been bringing in. After receiving applications from “thousands” of people, around 30-40 had been asked to bring in actual food. By being interviewed by phone I’d already skipped over about 3 stages of the process. If I got through that day, there would be a day’s filming the following week and the final ten were being selected following that. The show itself was being filmed through May and June. This presented me with a problem as I already had a holiday planned and needed my son’s baptism to happen during the same period. Regardless of whether or not I was good enough, I was just too busy to do this right now.

After a chat on camera with a very nice lady I went back out to the room with all the cakes to be asked about my technical baking skills.

“How good are you at bread?”

“Er… I’ve not made it for twenty years but I did a fougasse at Christmas” (I kept quiet about the dog turd shaped brioche)

“What types of pastry have you made?”

“Shortcrust and flaky but the flaky pastry was twenty years ago.”

“Who taught you to cook?”

“My home economics teacher… twenty years ago”

You can see a bit of a theme developing here.  And so it goes. I envisaged myself being depicted with a sarcastic Come Dine With Me Style voiceover, “Today the contestants are baking Eccles cakes but Sarah has not baked these for twenty years…”

So it was with a certain amount of relief when I got the call later that evening that I would not be going through to the next round. My husband only has so many days annual leave and there were none spare for Teddy watching whilst wife tries to get on the telly.

The show itself has been a joy to watch, even if it was a two horse race from very early on. The contestants were never made to look silly, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood were always constructive with their criticism, Mel and Sue presenting made it feel like a very friendly show. It was far from Come Dine With Me which makes it’s contestants look like idiots. I would have been proud to have been in the Bake Off and I hope I would have lasted longer than the bus driver. However, seeing how the filming took place over long weekends, travelling to places as far as Scotland to Cornwall, I would never had been able to spend so much time away from home. Plus I’m rubbish at making scones.



  1. says

    Well good on you for doing the audition anyway – that’s far braver than I would be! I only saw a few episodes of the bake-off (and the final last night) but it was compulsive viewing.

    • Sarah, Maison Cupcake says

      You get all our TV over there don’t you? I noticed that when I was in Dublin last month.

  2. says

    I would have loved to have seen you on there, you have such a great personality that would really be suited to TV, but I can understand the time and being away from home issue. Maybe when Ted is a little bit older?

  3. says

    One of my friends e-mailed me the application form. I gave it serious consideration to the point where I read that they wanted fully fledged bakers, not just someone who piddles about with cakes and has laughable sugarcraft skills.
    Next time I’m in the Orford Road vicinity for a craft fair, I might make a pilgrammage to this mythical Spar. I’m lucky if I can find plastic bread in mine!

  4. Deer Baby says

    Aahh – I could have watched you every week in my own home! Never trust those television people – they would have had you baking in just your apron or something whilst balancing Ted on your head.

    You did really well to get selected that far. Sure you would have gone all the way if you’d gone on but – yes, timing very tricky.

  5. says

    Wow…that’s exciting to go for such challenge! You are very brave, Sarah! I don’t think I can take that type of stress…my knees will just buckle…haha. Well done for the scones…beautiful!

  6. says

    I too went for the Audition and I know of others that went. They told me I wasn’t successful do to the ‘High Standards’. So I wasn’t sure if it was me or my Tea Loaf that they didn’t like. However, had I been on the programme The Secret Tea Room may not have been born. So as they say ‘When one door closes another one opens.’I like the door that’s open right now.
    I’ve met both Ruth and Edd, they came to one of my Afternoon Tea Parties and they are lovely people. I wish them every success in the future.

    • Sarah, Maison Cupcake says

      Darn those high standards! Yet it was blatantly obvious who were 3 out of the 4 entrants to be booted out in the first fortnight.

  7. says

    Rubbish at scones too, I would have been kicked out in the second round. Still, I have to say the show’s friendly concept somehow made for less exciting watching than Come Dine with Me or Masterchef. Oh well, I think it had a clear target audience…

  8. says

    Very interesting post. I had no idea what was involved in casting the show and how it worked. I’d be interested in applying for season 2 now that I what the format is. I was always worried that I wouldn’t get to bring my own or follow others recipes and we would just have to throw ingredients in the whole time. Do you know when season 2 casting begins?

  9. Lucie says

    I loved the show too, very inspiring. What an experience for you to have been considered in the first place…but I like to believe you would have won :)

    • Sarah, Maison Cupcake says

      You are too kind. Paul Hollywood would have had much constructive criticism to make. Although admittedly Greg and John from Masterchef were quite kind to me so you never know.

  10. says

    I really admire you just for making the attempt!
    I have been glued to the TV watching that show. I kind of wondered how I would do, what I would make etc… but the truth is, i am a very non competitive person. I am not good in those kind of situations.
    *kisses* HH

  11. says

    Well done for getting that far in the process.

    I just knew Edd was going to win from the outset. In fact I had a hunch he was going to win even before the first show aired. He’s just so GOOD.

    All in all it was a great show and such a refreshing change from all the “let’s make this as dramatic as possible” crap you see on Masterchef.

    • Sarah, Maison Cupcake says

      Yep, I knew Edd would be selected as one of the ten when they were casting and from the first episode I thought he would win. He’s a lovely talented guy and deserves every opportunity this show throws up for him.

  12. says

    I never watch any foodie TV, but I would have made an exception to watch you ever week!! The flavour sof these scones have inspired me to make scones this weekend – my sage plant needs pruning anyway 😉

  13. says

    Interesting to know the background to GBBO – and well done for getting so far. I enjoyed the series immensely and wondered if they would ever ask them to bake gluten-free cakes – maybe next time!


  14. says

    Oh Sarah, I would have gone MAD if I’d seen you on TV. Mad with excitement, of course. Being addicted to BBC foodie programs, especially any series, I watched the show and LEARNT so much. How I longed for a SMEG fridge, a kitchenaid and those bowls from John Lewis (I think). Good on you for getting so far – superb….LOL

  15. says

    First of all Sarah love the new site! All your hard work has really paid off. The story of your trials and tribulations at the Bake-off is hilarious! I think you sell yourself way too short lady. You should have been boring them with your amazing baking skills if nothing else. I missed the whole thing tbh so there you go! Must try and watch more tv. :)

  16. says

    Hey Sarah – what a great post – love hearing about what really happens in the production process of these ‘reality’ shows 😉
    I think it would’ve been an amazing experience to have taken part in the show, but unless you’ve got round-the-clock childcare it’s just not realistic.
    Really enjoyed catching up with you last night :-)

  17. Amanda says

    Dear Sarah, I have just come upon your site as I am obsessed with the whole Great British Bake Off at the mo. I have actually sent in an application!!! Must say that you are a lovely writer and have made me laugh quite a bit reading the lead up to the audition but there is a posting from another Sarah (Sept 23rd) who talks about the application saying they wanted proper bakers etc and now im terrified!!!!!
    Im good at baking and absolutely love it but y’know…..
    Do you have any words of wisdom to impart?

    Amanda x

      • Nina says

        Sarah, thank you so much for writing about this, I love baking and have really enjoyed the GBBO series so far…. I’m about to put in my application, and would really appreciate any tips you may have on having the application noticed! I’ll come back to you for the sage scones recipe (they look amazing btw!!) if I get a call to take some ‘actual’ baking in!!!
        Thanks, Nina x
        P.s. Amanda, how far did you get in the whole process? Are you re-applying this year?

        • Sarah, Maison Cupcake says

          From what I gather, your best bet is to exaggerate how good you are to get on it then practice like mad if you actually make it.

          The contestants get a lot of time to practice as apart from the technical bakes, everyone has to submit their recipes in advance to make sure there’s no overlap between them – oh and to provide free content for the latest Bake Off book. So the likelihood is you’d get several weeks to practice each thing – nevertheless taking part would take over your life and your success will depend on whether you’re in a position/motivated to do that (I seriously would not have been). Another factor is a certain amount of manipulation by the production team who will decide early on which 3-4 contestants they want to get through to the final. I wouldn’t be surprised if they rearrange which order the challenges happen in if they know someone is weak/strong in a particular area. If you want an insider’s low down then Danny from series 3 wrote a brilliant post on her ‘Baking as Therapy’ blog which confirmed a LOT of stuff I’d suspected about the process.

          I barely saw any of the 3rd series, I’m just sick of formulaic and reality TV… unless it’s The Apprentice!

  18. says

    Sorry to change the subject (But how enlightening re the GBBO:I think it must be nerve racking) but how did yo get that Cision top ten button? I’m in the top ten Art and cratf blogs but can’t find the button. I hope you don’t mind this comment. You can delete it if you like.