The monumental rise of Jo Wheatley is inspiration to us all – never underestimate the power of flour.

In the four years since she became the second winner of the Great British Bake Off, Jo has gone from unknown housewife who left school with just three GCSEs to her name to bestselling author and all-round baking bigshot.

Triumphing on Bake Off propelled Essex-based Jo onto an (edible) glitter-adorned career path she could only have dreamed of.

When she appeared in the Bake Off tent in 2011 the programme was still in its early days.

The Bake Off phenomenon we have come to knowand love was nothing like the smash hit it is now, attracting weekly audiences of almost 10 million, Jo, who lives in Ongar and now boasts 23.5k Twitter followers, explained: “I didn’t have any expectations of the showback then, especially about what winning could do for me, because it wasn’t as popular as it is now.

“Now the winners know they will become instant celebrities.

“I applied on a whim really. I wasn’t the most confident person and if it hadn’t been for my friend pushing me I’d never have even thought about applying.”

Jo, who has three grownup boys and has also recently become a nan, still remembers her interview where she had to prepare and take along two recipes – a cake offering and a bread bake. Jo whisked up lemon drizzle and Italian meringue cup cakes and a Stromboli for her audition.

‘At every stage I thought, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ I genuinely didn’t think I’d be selected, but they told me if I came for interview I’d get to meet Mary Berry afterwards. The thought of meeting her was so exciting, I decided to give it a go,” said Jo.

Gazette: Jo Wheatley's A Passion for Baking

“I remember waiting to go into my audition and seeingaman coming out of the room just as I was going in. He was really upset and said Mary Berry had really ripped into his cake because it had a ‘soggy bottom’! I was absolutely dreading going in after that!”

Jo needn’t have. Her encounter with the 80-year-old baking legend was the start of what now has become a lovely friendship.

“She told me my sponge was one of the finest she’d ever tasted. I was so thrilled – and very relieved,” said Jo, 45.

“That gave me so much confidence and when I was picked for the show I just went for it.”

So what are the presenters really like?

“Mary is absolutely wonderful, so is Paul Hollywood – they all are, to be honest. They are all so supportive of the contestants.

“Since I won Mary has put me forward for several jobs and I’ve got to see her and Paul quite a lot at events, I can’t speak highly enough of them.

“It really is like a family environment on Bake Off with Mel and Sue and the crew. I think that’s one of the reasons it has done so well – it’s very genuine.”

Gazette: Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry are the judges on The Great British Bake Off

Jo’s love of baking began thanks to her nan. The pair would always whisk up cakes and biscuits together and Jo cherishes her happy childhood memories spending time in her nan’s kitchen.

“One of the earliest memories I have is baking jam tarts with her.

“When my boys were growing up, I’d always bake with them and we always love to make jam tarts above everything else. It’s probably because they are so simple and anyone can do them.

“I think baking together as a family is incredibly important and so much fun. I can’t imagine not ever spending that time with them in the kitchen growing up.”

Since her Bake Off success, Jo has become a Times newspaper bestselling author with both of her books – A Passion for Baking and Home Baking.

She also has a regular baking column in the Sun, has started her own blog – Jo’s Blue Aga, and runs her own cookery school.

Statistics show that whenever Bake Off is gracing our TV screens, sales of kitchen gadgets fly off the shelves like the hot cakes they’ll eventually produce.

But, do we really need all these fancy gadgets?

“It certainly doesn’t do any harmand it’s nice to work with the best equipment, but I also think you can produce some great bakes with basic equipment if you knowwhat you’re doing,” said Jo.

“I was lucky. After I won the Bake Off, KitchenAid sent me their entire collection for free. I couldn’t believe it – suddenly I had all sorts of amazing gadgets to fill my kitchen with.

“You don’t need to have lots of expensive stuff at first though, if you can whip up a decent Victoria sponge you’re all set as you can build on it, adding your own touches and experimenting with different ingredients as you go.”

Jo is also now a regular face at food and baking shows – in fact, she’ll soon be appearing at the Cake and Bake Show to be held at London’s Excel Centre from October 2 to 4.


She will be showing off her baking skills alongside fellowGreat British Bake Off winners, EddKimber, and John Whaite, as well as cooking stars, Gregg Wallace, Rosemary Shrager, Eric Lanlard, Phil Vickery and Aaron Craze.

The show will give lovers of all things baking the chance to indulge their passion. It will even feature a dedicated Great British Bake Off stage where stars from the current series, as well as former champions such as Jo, will showoff their skills.

“I love appearing at shows now and meeting people who have the same passion for baking,” said Jo.

“Though at first when I’d go to showafter the Bake Off it was quite nerve-wracking. Once I was so busy chatting away about what I was doing I forgot to put eggs in the cake during a live demo. I thought I’d get away with it then an audience member came up later and asked to try a slice. I had to own up. She saw the funny side though.”

  • For more details about the showand when to see Jo at the event visit thecakeandbake Call 0844 854 1364 for tickets.