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Celebrity Bake Off is back: 'I burnt the cupcakes and the kitchen was a mess'

The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer is back – and the line-up this year includes documentary maker Louis Theroux, Love Island's Ovie Soko, and comedians Russell Howard and Jenny Eclair. And they've had plenty of baking disasters in the past, as Georgia Humphreys finds out

Sandy Toksvig and Louis Theroux in The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer

THE Great Celebrity Bake Off has become an unmissable TV event. Big names from the worlds of acting, comedy, entertainment and sport attempt to impress judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith with their cake-making skills. And, yes, it often goes wrong...

In each episode of the five-part series, four celebrities battle it out over three rounds – the Signature, the Technical and the Showstopper – in a bid to be crowned Star Baker.

It's all in aid of Stand Up To Cancer, the award-winning national fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 which has raised over £62 million since it launched in 2012.

Once again, the star-studded version of The Great British Bake Off will be hosted by Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig, who will give us plenty of laughs along the way.

Here, the first four contestants give us a hint about what to expect from their time in the tent.

LOUIS THEROUX

The 49-year-old documentary maker, son of US travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux, admits he hasn't "done a lot of reality TV".

"Maybe I've been a bit precious about not doing TV that wasn't essential to my work," says the father-of-three Theroux, who was born in Singapore, but moved to London as a child.

"And I thought, 'I'm going to turn 50 next year, maybe I'll start saying yes to things that, in the past, I might have viewed as frivolous if I feel like my kids might get a kick out of it'.

"So, I'm slightly doing it for them and for myself, as a family adventure."

So that's a motivation behind doing the show, but what about his baking skills – does he have any strengths in particular?

"I don't know if it's a strength, but I've made a LOT of banana bread over the years," says the journalist and author, who's famous for TV series When Louis Met... and Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends.

Asked if he's competitive, he says: "Sometimes I don't know how much something is going to matter to me until it happens. I'm not always in touch with my feelings. I think, if I could win the technical, that would mean a lot."

But if the technical challenge ends up involving bread of some kind, we could be in for some very interesting telly...

"I think bread would be really hard. I've never successfully made bread. Bread, bread rolls... Things like cupcakes, cakes and biscuits are relatively straightforward, but bread has got this mysterious quality where I think it's hard to get it right."

RUSSELL HOWARD

Bristol comedian Howard had never baked before deciding to be part of the show. In fact, he'd never even watched a whole episode of The Great British Bake Off. "I didn't know that the aim was to get a handshake from Paul," quips the 39-year-old.

"I lived on my own from the age of 20," he continues. "I started on Pot Noodles, substituted that with pasta, now I can make decent fajitas. Neither me or my wife are any good at cooking. My wife's a doctor, and I'm a comedian, and by the time we both get home we are frazzled, and Deliveroo is our friend!"

The TV personality – who has a satirical chat show on Sky called The Russell Howard Hour – claims he is "really cool under pressure".

But, he confides: "I find it more stressful trying to make vanilla slices in a tent than trying to make 15,000 people laugh in the O2."

At least the stressing is for a good cause.

"Everyone's been affected by cancer, either directly or indirectly," he notes.

"Anything that raises money towards trying to win that battle is a good thing to do. So if you flip out for an hour-and-a-half making a vanilla slice, and it makes people laugh, then great."

JENNY ECLAIR

"I'm a savoury girl, I like a pork pie and a lump of cheese," declares the 59-year-old comedian and author, who was born in Malaysia, but grew up in Lancashire.

Calling herself a "remedial baker", Eclair didn't have any of the right equipment at home – say, a baking tray, or rolling pin. So, the Bake Off team sent her a whole load of kit to try out.

"I spent possibly the most miserable Sunday afternoon I have ever had in the kitchen with my daughter [Phoebe], who's equally remedial," recalls the mother-of-one, best known for being a star of the hit show Grumpy Old Women.

"She's 30 and she literally can't cut an onion. So, the two of us just started bitching at each other, fell out, she went to bed for an hour with a stress headache, and it ended in disaster."

But Eclair loves watching Bake off normally.

"I sit there, criticising, when I can barely crack an egg. It's very reassuring television."

And she thought taking part in the celebrity spin-off would be a "good opportunity to put your money where your mouth is for a couple of days".

"It's all about awareness, isn't it? It's all about people talking about it. I'm a big fan of badgering doctors. If in doubt, see your GP. If you're still in doubt, go back and see your GP. You might be a nuisance, but it could save your life."

OVIE SOKO

Soko (29) was everybody's favourite contestant on the 2019 series of reality show Love Island.

He's also a professional basketball player. And, discussing why he wanted to support Stand Up To Cancer, the Londoner recalls how a former teammate, who was also his best friend, lost his mum at an early age to breast cancer.

"I saw how that affected him first-hand. We lived together for years, so I know how it can affect people. I think we all have a role to play when there's something hits the world as hard as cancer does."

A big Bake Off fan, he doesn't have much confidence in his own cake-making skills, particularly after an incident as a young teenager...

"Mum wasn't back from work yet, and she came back to a lot of her baking equipment burnt," he explains. "It was cupcakes, which sounds like it should have been easy, but I definitely burnt those.

"She wasn't very happy with me, and the kitchen was an absolute mess. I stayed away from baking since then!"

He definitely had nerves ahead of filming: "It's pretty surreal, coming on to such an iconic show."

But more than anything, he was just excited.

"I have a competitive nature in me, just from being an athlete. But experiences like this – it's such a privileged position to be in, so I just want to make the most of it."

:: The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer returns to Channel 4 tomorrow.

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