Once again 12 new bakers don their aprons and head for the iconic tent in the heart of the British countryside. Judges Mary Berry & Paul Hollywood have created 30 new challenges that will test their baking prowess, creativity, and skill, in a bid to find the country’s best amateur baker.

From Victorian classics to high end patisserie, chocolate sculptures to everyday staples, the bakers will need a cool head and even colder hands to make it to the final. With them every step of the way are Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, ready to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on.

Starting with Cake week, the bakers’ first signature challenge is to make a Madeira cake. It’s a well-loved cake, but which of our bakers will try to impress by reinventing this classic, and who will play safe in a bid to get perfect Madeira with its traditional crack?

With one challenge out the way the bakers face their first technical: Mary’s Frosted Walnut Cake, a pre-war classic that is as British as they come. Light sponge sandwiched with buttercream and covered with sweet meringue, this technically challenging cake is one of Mary’s favourites and no one wants to disappoint the Queen of Baking.

Day two and the bakers have to go all out to impress with their first showstopper, the Black Forest Gateau. This retro classic from the 70s has it all – chocolate, cherries and cream. It’s ripe for a reinvention and these 12 bakers are ready and willing.

Get to know this year’s 12 new bakers, as they don their aprons, head for the iconic tent in the heart of the British countryside, and face 30 new challenges that will test their baking prowess, creativity and skill.

Stu – age 35

Stu’s a professional musician and has toured the world as lead singer of his band. He lives in Surrey with his wife and two children and has been baking from a young age. He used to watch his parents in the restaurant kitchen they owned and was always amazed by the magic of the oven and “how something liquid could go in and out would come this fluffed-up awesomeness”. He is confident with most genres of baking and is fascinated by the science of it all. He enjoys trialling different flavour combinations, especially Middle Eastern spices.

Flora – age 19

At 19, Flora is this year’s youngest baker. An old head on young shoulders, Flora’s an assistant at a contemporary art gallery while she waits to start her history of art degree. Flora lives at home with her parents and two younger sisters in the Scottish countryside, 20 minutes from the nearest shop. But she always makes sure the larder is stocked, and regularly bakes cakes and loaves for the family, often filling the freezer up with ingredients. Flora comes from a big family of bakers and can’t remember ever not baking. But standards have to be high to impress her harshest critics – her sisters.

Ian – age 41

Ian lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and two children. He’s a travel photographer and has the honour of being the Dalai Lama’s personal snapper when he visits the UK. In recent years, Ian’s become more of a househusband and while his wife heads to work he often spends his days making giant catapults and zip wires for his children to play with. He started baking six years ago because he wanted them to have fresh bread every day. Ian’s passion for foraging and travelling the world mean he’s never afraid to bake with an unusual discovery from his garden – or much further afield.

Nadiya – age 30

Nadiya has been baking for 10 years after wondering why her father only served ice cream for dessert at his restaurant. Her family is originally from Bangladesh, where desserts aren’t a big feature of mealtimes, but encouraged by a school home economics teacher, Nadiya now delivers beautiful masterpieces at family occasions. Born in Luton, she now lives in Leeds with her husband and is full time mum to their three children. Having put her career on the backburner to devote her life to her family, with their support she now feels inspired to have her own adventure – and make them proud.

Mat – age 37

Mat began baking three years ago in between shifts as a London fire fighter. He’s now mastered not only simple cakes and biscuits but bread, pastries and pies. Preferring sweet over savoury baking, Mat calls himself a “competent amateur” who “learns every time he bakes”. Mat lives with his wife in London. He says his greatest ambition is to own a dishwasher.

Alvin – age 37

Alvin is originally from the Philippines, and works as a nurse in Berkshire, where he lives with his wife and their two children. He’s constantly jotting down everything from recipes to techniques so he can pass all his knowledge on to them both as they grow up. Seven years ago, he questioned why he was buying bread and cakes when he had an oven. And now he bakes at least four times a week and owns every tin imaginable – much to his wife’s amusement. A true perfectionist, Alvin once baked bread every day for three weeks until he believed he’d got it right.

Dorret – age 53

Dorret’s family are from the West Indies but she grew up in Preston and works as an accountant. A self-confessed foodie, Dorret has been baking for 40 years and enjoys tap dancing, ballet and salsa to counteract the calories she consumes. Dorret and her husband regularly visit Michelin-starred restaurants for inspiration and ideas for their next culinary experiment, and often host dinner parties to impress their friends with their skills. Mother to her 21-year-old daughter, Dorret’s dream is to go to the Cordon Bleu school in Paris.

Paul – age 49

Paul lives in Wales and has been a prison governor for eight years. Before that, he performed ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace in the Coldstream Guards. He sees being in The Great British Bake Off as “an opportunity to show that men like me, stereotyped by our jobs, do and can love baking and that it is a skill and talent to be proud of”. He may have a demanding, authoritative job, but Paul enjoys learning intricate skills like sugar-work to make his bakes beautiful. When not baking, Paul loves the outdoors and exploring the Welsh countryside with his wife and three sons.

Ugne – age 32

While baking is her main hobby, Ugne is also a bodybuilder. Originally from Lithuania, Ugne now lives in Essex with her partner, also a bodybuilder, and their two young children, and works as a PA and administrator. Ugne learnt to bake from her mother and grandmother, who used Eastern European baking methods and utensils. She loves English baking and each day makes her family bread, pies and pastries, but also likes to incorporate traditional Lithuanian flavours into her bakes to remind her of home. Ugne enjoys being ambitious with her presentation and ingredients – and isn’t afraid of the odd theatrical bake.

Marie – age 66

Marie was entered for The Great British Bake Off by her daughter, but her children claim at one point when they were growing up their mum couldn’t even boil an egg – so Marie’s come a long way. The turning point came in her thirties when Marie moved to Paris with her family and was inspired by all the French Patisseries. She fell in love with baking, specialising in elaborate, show-stopping decorations. But Marie also likes simple baking too and makes bread so her grandchildren can have “proper packed lunches”.

Sandy – age 49

Sandy is a child welfare officer who lives and works near Bradford. Mother of one, Sandy says that she bakes to show her family, friends and colleagues that she cares about them. Sandy started baking as a child and likens her style to the way she’d describe herself: “it might not be glamorous but it’s tasty”. In her job, she helps young people with emotional issues and after work Sandy also volunteers at the school, running a cookery club where she teaches children from deprived backgrounds to bake on a budget.

Tamal – age 29

Tamal is a trainee anaesthetist working at a hospital in Manchester. He grew up in Hertfordshire where his parents moved from India in the 1960s. His older sister played a big part in bringing him up and taught him to bake. She gave Tamal the ultimate compliment when he was asked to bake her wedding cake. Since then, he is regularly asked to bake family and friends’ wedding cakes too – the largest one was five tiers.

12 new bakers, 30 new challenges. On your marks, get set…BAKE!

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