Here’s one he made earlier. Liam Charles, the breakout star of Bake Off 2017, steals the show with sensational cakes and bakes. Here he opens up about on big tent moments, guilty pleasures and buttercream drama.
How has life changed since Bake Off? I’m still studying drama at uni, I still live with my mum in Stoke Newington, North London, the people around me haven’t changed – it’s just that I occasionally get to do cool things like present Bake Off: The Professionals and publish a cookbook!
What do your friends think? They have been supportive since sixth form, when I did weekly bake sales. I called them Cheeky Treats, which had to be the title of my book. That support is still there and means everything.
Your three favourite cheeky treats? Tough, but I’ll go for chocolate caramel layer cake, bakewell tart and doughnuts. Give the doughnuts in the book a go!
First thing you ever baked? Lemon cupcakes with green icing when I was 15. Even though they weren’t the best in the world, it took just that one bake to show me that I could express myself creatively, whether through flavour combinations or concepts – I was hooked.
Who taught you to bake? I pretty much taught myself after watching loads of food programmes on television – I was obsessed with them. After a while I thought, ‘I could do that.’
Best memory of Bake Off? Walking into the tent for the first time was surreal, and getting a handshake from Paul Hollywood for my millionaire’s shortbread was a moment.
Are you the new Paul H? Ha, ha, I don’t know! He’s great at what he does and I hope I can be great at what I do. He paved the way and is someone I look up to.
Signature bake? Salted Nutter, a stacked sponge cake with three different buttercreams – salted caramel, chocolate and peanut butter. Basically, it’s me in cake form.
Any similarities between drama and baking? Definitely. A performance piece I did for my degree was all about buttercream – seriously. It was wicked.
Ever baked to impress a girl? Only once, for someone I really liked in my second year at uni. I can’t tell you if it worked.
What about a recipe from Cheeky Treats for those of us who aren’t star bakers? Definitely have a go at the brownies. They will stand you in good stead no matter what level you are.
Earliest food memory? Going to my nan’s for Sunday dinner – always homely food such as rice and peas, fried chicken, macaroni cheese, curried goat or roast chicken. I still go there.
Guilty pleasure? Sweet potato fries with blue cheese sauce.
Last meal on earth? My mum’s tuna pasta bake.
Favourite food programmes on TV, apart from Bake Off? Chef’s Table on Netflix and, at the other end of the spectrum, Come Dine With Me.
Food heroes? Heston Blumenthal, Paul Hollywood, Tom Kerridge, Jamie Oliver, Levi Roots and two amazing bakers, Christina Tosi and Dominique Ansel – they are all legends.
Most essential piece of kitchen equipment? My cranked palette knife. It’s key for perfect icing and cake decoration.
Where will you be in five years’ time? Hopefully doing more of the same. I definitely want to do another book – I’ve got so many more recipes in me.
If you could only have one food book what would it be? The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. It isn’t a cookbook, but an incredibly comprehensive guide to which flavours go together.
Food philosophy? Always believe in the sauce, by which I mean always have faith in yourself when you cook. If you are happy and confident, that will be reflected in the final dish.
Liam Charles recipes
You’re on the go but breakfast is essential. Before you leave the house you take a last glance at your kitchen worktop and you see cupcakes and a fruit and nut mixture – what do you choose? How about a combination of the two?
These slabs are one of the first things I baked, successfully anyway, so it had to go in the book!
I was in the sixth form when one of my teachers asked me to make her a carrot cake. I went through a phase of making complementary biscuits to go with the cakes I baked, so I invented carrot cake cookies. Since then I’ve developed the recipe and these are not anyone’s sidekick any more. My carrot cake cookies take centre stage.
Banana bread is such a crowd pleaser and is extremely versatile – chuck in a few nuts, chocolate chips, fold in some fresh blueberries, you name it. When I came up with this recipe I said to myself, ‘If I ever open a shop, café or a pop-up this will be definitely going on the menu.’ Super simple and crazy tasty.
I think there should be a law that every single recipe book – actually every book – should have a brownie recipe. If you like ’em fudgy, dense fudgy, check it… OK, it’s fair to say this recipe makes a pretty hefty brownie because, trust me, we’ve all been there when we say we wish there was more, but there isn’t. I’ve got this. Once the mixture is made, don’t be afraid to add to it – cookie pieces, salted caramel, candied bacon, pretzels – ahhh, damn, that’s a recipe in itself… But you know what I mean. Enjoy, guys!
SAVE 25% ON LIAM’S NEW BOOK
Cheeky Treats by Liam Charles will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 12 July, price £20. To order a copy for £15 until 15 July visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.