NANCY Birtwhistle has won the fifth series of BBC baking series The Great British Bake Off.
The 60-year-old retired GP practice manager scooped the prize of Best Amateur Baker after producing a spectacular Moulin Rouge-themed four-layer cake in the final challenge.
The grandmother of eight from Lincolnshire pipped Luis Troyano and bookmakers’ favourite Richard Burr to the crown, which she inherits from last year’s winner – fashion designer Frances Quinn.
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed and pretty speechless and fairly emotional. Who could believe it that I could win it,” she said after the judges’ decision was announced by co-presenter Mel Giedroyc.
Congrats to Nancy for her win, but have to admit I thought Richard had it in the bag with his consistently good performances #GBBOfinal
— Sophie Louise (@SophieHas88) October 8, 2014
Fellow judge Paul Hollywood added: “Everything joined together in the end for her. Nancy absolutely nailed it in the final.”
“Hand on heart, the right person won,” said Luis, who came second after his showstopper piece of a miner’s wheel – made primarily from ginger sponge and almond brittle – proved to the judges’ liking.
But the biggest surprise was Richard’s third-placed finish, as the father-of-two failed to tickle Paul and Mary’s tastebuds with his Pear Pain au Chocolat and Pain au Lait in the signature challenge.
— Gemma Walden ✨ (@xx_gemm) October 8, 2014
“I expected them to be absolutely perfect and they are not. They are supposed to be baked separately and they have joined together like a batch bake” said Paul of Richard’s pain au chocolat.
A despondent Richard said: “It’s always disappointing when your bakes don’t make the grade. What can you do?”
12 amateur bakers were selected from thousands of applications to endure 10 gruelling weeks, consisting of 27 different challenges which put their cake-baking, bread-making and patisserie skills to the test in a professional environment.
Nancy, considered a microwave enthusiast for her over-use of the appliance, impressed throughout the competition with an array of well-engineered bakes.
Richard, 38, a fourth-generation builder in his family’s north London firm, was widely tipped for the title having won star baker five times during the series, while graphic designer Luis, 43, who was raised in Stockport by his Spanish parents, won Mary over with his attention to detail and eccentric ideas.
Amid a gripping conclusion to the series, watched by 12.3 million, the three finalists battled it out for the coveted trophy – and a potential career in the baking industry – in three demanding tasks.
The signature challenge was based around producing two types of Viennoiserie – French-baked goods made from yeast-leavened dough – in two and a half hours.
The technical challenge reverted back to basics with the bakers asked to master 12 miniature Victoria sandwiches, 12 scones and 12 tart au citrons in the space of two hours.
Describing the intense pressure, Richard joked: “There have been times in my life where I have been calmer.”
Nancy came in first place, followed by Luis in second and Richard third, with Mary describing her light and fluffy Victoria sponge as “sheer perfection”.
The “ultimate” showstopper challenge presented the trio with the opportunity to construct their own “spectacular” end-product with a personal design, utilising all of the skills developed over the series.
“Week one now seems so easy,” uttered Nancy during the mammoth five-hour task – but the hard work paid off as her red-and-black French windmill centrepiece, with ginger and orange biscuit and mini shortbread decorations, wowed the judges.
“That’s a first-rate shortbread biscuit,” Mary declared, while Paul eulogised over the piece’s “perfect symmetry”, drawing comparisons to a birthday cake he enjoyed during his childhood.
Nancy was duly announced the winner at the Bake Off festival finale, where family, friends and contestants previously voted off gathered in anticipation outside the show’s Welford Park House location in Berkshire.
The past four Bake Off winners have gone on to publish their own cookbooks, write their own baking columns and appear on television.
Since filming has finished, Nancy – the oldest winner since the show began in 2010 – has gone on to bake her daughter’s wedding cake and embark on several other baking projects.
The BAFTA Award winning programme, which was promoted from BBC2 to BBC1 this year, has consistently drawn an average audience of 10 million viewers each week.