In the 11-year run of Great British Bake Off, certain contestants inevitably rise to the top as unforgettable fan favorites. Season 12 of the show — which aired in 2021 as the second season to be filmed with all the contestants, hosts, and crew members living in a six-week COVID-19 bubble together — was chock full of legendary characters from all around the British Isles. Chigs! Jürgen! Freya! Crystelle! It was a veritable pastry case of lovable bakers with outstanding accents to match.
No one brought more verve to the Season 12 tent, though, than Liverpudlian Lizzie Acker, who told stories of her dead pig, dressed in a splashy style that gave Noel Fielding a run for his money, and did not appear to be afraid of Paul Hollywood. Eater spoke with Acker about what it’s like to be a baker diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, and all the behind-the-scenes secrets you’ve been itching to know from the most famous tent in TV history.
Eater: You’ve watched Bake Off for a long time. What did it feel like to actually be on the show?
Lizzie Acker: I’ve watched Bake Off since it started. Over here, it started on a BBC channel that no one used to watch. It got bigger, then moved, then it got moved again. I’ve been there for all of the moves. I absolutely love it.
It was so surreal [being on the show]. Obviously, you’ve got this idea of what Bake Off is in your head. When you go film it, it’s just like that, but then there’s all these people. You never encounter how many people it takes to make a TV series; I’ve never been part of TV. I don’t know how no one’s ever been caught, how you’ve never not seen a dodgy cameraman’s hand. It’s amazing. It’s like Harry Potter magic.
Your season was the second season to be filmed in a COVID bubble. What was that experience like?
Obviously [you’re thinking], “What if I get locked up with all these people and I don’t like any of them or they don’t like me? What if we don’t get along?”
It was the best experience I’ve ever had. If I would have done it the other way where you come back every week, it would have been so awful. The bubble was amazing. Paul Hollywood made me pizza! He done like a pizza night and made everyone pizza. At what point in your life are you ever going to be in queue stuck waiting for Paul Hollywood to give you a pizza? It was absolutely amazing. You come down for breakfast and [hosts] Noel [Fielding] and Matt [Lucas] are there and you’re just like, “What world am I living in? This is fantastic.”
Do you think people bonded a lot better because you were all in this bubble together?
The contestants all really, really bonded a lot more because of the option of living with each other. There’s nowhere to escape. When I used to try and escape, I used to go and be like, “I’m going to go back for a little nap and put Harry Potter on and fall asleep.” I’d wake up and Freya’d be on the end of the bed like, “We’ve got to go do this!”
You and Freya became really close over the course of the season.
I just bought a house in Liverpool and she’s actually going to move in with me in two months. She’s got her own room and that. It’s hilarious because even the builders know now and I got radiators delivered the other day and they’d even written on the radiators, “Freya’s room.” We have a Tuesday series on Instagram where we like to challenge each other to do stuff that we’ve never done before, just to try some mad stuff together, do all crazy things and get away from baking. We bake all the time. We want to try some new stuff. Next week we’re going to go make dresses out of vintage curtains. To expand our horizons a bit and see what’s out there. When you think about it, we are all still quite young and we’ve lost two years to COVID. Why not try all these new things while we can?
How has Bake Off changed your life since you were on the show?
It’s definitely given me a platform to speak about neurodiversity. I’ve definitely had a lot of positive outreach about that, so I’m doing a lot of neurodiversity talks in schools. It’s obviously given me a great friendship with Freya, which is probably the best thing ever to come out of it.
How have your ADHD and dyslexia impacted your baking?
On Bake Off I was really scared that I wasn’t going to be able to read the technical challenge, so it was all agreed upon that if I struggled, the producers would help me read. Also, what was quite funny was — with me ADHD — if I’m in that sort of pressurized place, I can only focus on one thing at a time, otherwise my brain would go into overdrive and I’d think about too many things and then just do too much and not get through what I have to get done. So I used to stand there finishing a jam and I’d have Chigs or George running up and down because they always put them in front of me or behind me and I was convinced it was to try to make me look slower. They’d be jumping around and I’d be staring at a jam for 15 minutes, looking at everyone. It was a big learning curve, I had to really adjust. I’ve got to think, like, Noel’s coming into the tent.
Some of the bakers, they had read reports about how much it would affect me in terms of baking. Maggie really took time to help me. She taught me how to learn backwards. She’d say like, “How much time does that take you?” and she’d get me to write it down and then she’d write a timetable for me backwards so that it would go forwards. One of her great nieces or nephews has dyslexia so she was really compensating and took me under her wing and taught me all the little skills.
Do you feel like your baking has continued to improve since being on the show?
I feel like my baking has come on loads, [with] all the different techniques you’d never learn. All the ways different people think about things has kind of rubbed off. Now I’ve got this WhatsApp group of 11 baking masterminds that I can text if something goes wrong. We talk every week. It’s become a bit less because everyone’s worlds are completely hectic. It’s great. I made my friend’s wedding cake a while back and I wanted to do a champagne syrup and when I done it, it tasted awful, so I put it in the group and was like, “Champagne syrup. Let’s go.” Within minutes, Jairzinho has a recipe and was like, “This is the best way about it.”
It must be sort of like the Bake Off version of the Avengers.
Bakers, assemble! If that happens, it’d be funny to see what objects we’d all turn up with. I’m definitely going for a dough hook. They’re so heavy. I actually broke my fingers on a whisk the other week. I put my hand in the mixer. I was in the middle of making a cake and I finished the cake and the adrenaline wore down then and was like, my fingers are really hurting. I had them strapped up for about two and a half weeks. Whisks are dangerous. It’d be a good choice to pick.
What was your schedule like when you were baking and filming?
It was two days on, two days off, so we practiced for two days and then you filmed for two days, so it was really hard physically and emotionally. After two days, someone is obviously going, then you’ve got to get over it and get back in the practice tent and just think of the next week. The longer you were along, the worse it got because the more you fell in love with the people around ya and the whole being in this bubble of this little world. It was like this COVID weight had been lifted, but then people were kind of like thrown back in. No more Freya, she’d been knocked out, she’s going back. It was a strange little reality.
By the end of the season, were you just emotionally fried?
By the end you’re thinking, “If I see another cake again, I’m gonna scream.”
One of the behind-the-scenes things people are always curious about is the laundry situation. What happens with your clothes between day one of filming and day two?
Absolutely nothing. You get a new apron. Your apron gets clean but nothing else does. Everyone smells. You love each other so you’re giving everyone a hug and it doesn’t matter. Crocs have no air vents and I got back to the green room at one point and I took me shoes off and Chigs told me, “Your feet smell vinegary. Put them back on.”
That’s what you do when you’re close, right? You’re allowed to tell people to do that.
Our little green room was our little space of rest. Maggie would give everyone shoulder massages and tell everybody we’re going to be okay. George would make everyone tea. It was great.
Have you been inside the actual manor that the property is on?
That’s where we lived! It was a hotel when we were there. It does weddings. We all had really fancy wedding rooms. Mine opened out onto the grounds and oh, I felt like a lady of the manor. I do all real vintage fancy nighties and I used to like walk out and call meself lady of the manor and everyone must have thought, something must be wrong with her. I’d be like good morning! I love Bridgerton and all that so I was in my element.
Why do you think Bake Off is so successful in America?
It’s definitely the wholesomeness, the fact that the contestants help each other. Everyone wants the best for everyone. Everyone wants to share the knowledge and wants everyone to succeed. It shows at the end of the episodes when everyone is holding hands with each other, it’s just a genuine love for each other.
The whole amazingness of it is that it’s 12 home bakers that have learned to bake in their own kitchens. But suddenly you put them in a field with a tent with no sides, so rain can come in, the sun can affect the heat, the fridges are slightly dodgy. And you’re just expected to bake the same. It adds a whole TV element that you need, doesn’t it? Entremets don’t set and it’s bad for the contestants but it’s great for TV, which is what everyone loves about Bake Off.
Because it makes no sense at all.
It’s all crazy. If it was a proper foodie show, you’d have blast chillers and all that and proper sides and it’d be air conditioned. Everyone loves the drama. The weather was so temperamental when we were there and the rain was all coming in from the sides, and because of COVID, they couldn’t put the sides down on the tent. So the rain was all just swaying on in. It was awful.
I made it gluten-free because I feel like everyone needs to be included in the baking world. You don’t actually see that much gluten-free stuff. The whole inspiration for it is how tired the Easter bunny must be after the whole giving everyone eggs [thing]. Now he’s like, “I’m done with this, I’m going back home,” and he’s crawling back into his little rabbit hole and he’s leaving us. That’s why you see his little legs sticking out.
Is it a super vanilla-heavy cake?
Nielsen-Massey vanilla is obviously an amazing vanilla, but vanilla is actually the best friend of all flavors, so it’s a lemon cake and then the rabbit itself is a vanilla meringue. The meringues are there as a way to sweeten up your slices as much as you like. You can take as much of the bunny as you want, or you can leave it if you just want that whole lemon-ness. But it’s also an almond base, so it’s nice and nutty, too.
Meringue can be challenging for a novice baker. Do you have tips you can share?
Definitely do not get freaked out by meringue. Don’t use plastic [equipment] because plastic absorbs grease. Even if you wash it, it’ll always have bits. So if you use metal or glass equipment, it’s easier to wipe down. Always wipe down with acidic lemon or vinegar to get any grease off. You can also warm up your sugar a bit. That stabilizes the meringue a lot.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.