'The Great British Bake Off' 2021 star Paul Hollywood: ‘The standard is incredible!’

Noel Fielding, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and Matt Lucas in The Great British Bake Off 2021
Noel Fielding, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and Matt Lucas are back in the tent for The Great British Bake Off. (Image credit: ©Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions)

The Great British Bake Off 2021 is here! Yes, it’s time to return to TV’s most famous tent for Season 12 of the Channel 4 baking contest, which airs from Tuesday 21 September.

Hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas will oversee proceedings as another batch of 12 eager bakers will be doing all that they can to impress judges Paul Hollywood and Dame Prue Leith and their first challenge will see them tackle Cake Week.

Meanwhile, later in the run, they will face German-themed bakes and culinary concoctions using alternative ingredients in Free From week.

We caught up with Paul Hollywood and Dame Prue Leith to find out more...

The Great British Bake Off is back for another run. What’s the standard like this year?

Hollywood: “It’s the highest I've ever encountered, it’s incredible.”

Leith: “Just count the handshakes! The youngest baker was 19 and the oldest, nearly 70. They have to be fantastic bakers, but they’re also so interesting and nice. You really want to be friends with them.”

Were there any disasters?

Hollywood: “There was a bit of collapsing! And sometimes they panic and either under-flavour or over-flavour or do something unusual and mess it up, but it was rare. Our judging this year was very difficult.”

Leith: “There was the most over-flavoured bake I've ever had on Bake Off. But, because all the bakers were really good, it’s easier to judge if you have a few disasters!”

The Great British Bake Off hosts, judges and bakers.

Noel Fielding, Prue Leith, Paul Hollywood and Matt Lucas welcome another set of bakers. (Image credit: ©Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions)

Are you still careful about not eating too much cake during filming?!

Hollywood: “No! Before Bake Off, I’d lost a stone and a half and I was getting fit. But I put on 12 blooming pounds in that tent!”

Leith: “I put on a pound. I did try not to eat three meals a day and cake all the time, but I could have tried harder!”

Can we expect lots of fun from hosts Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding this time? 

Hollywood: “Yes, last year you had [Matt as] Boris Johnson for the opening of the show and this year is unique as well. We always have a laugh doing the intros and there was a lot of dressing up!”

Leith: “You didn’t used to enjoy doing the intros, Paul, but you're a good actor and you can do accents!”

Prue, was there any teasing on set now that you are a Dame?

Leith: “It never stops!

Hollywood: “We were remorseless! I’ve worked with three Dames – Dame Prue, Dame Mary [Berry] and Dame Edna, and I won’t bow to any of them! But good on her. Prue’s done an amazing job, so it’s nice. We had a party for her and even changed the name on the door of her hut on set to add ‘Dame’.”

What has it been like living together in a COVID-19-safe bubble at the hotel during filming again?

Leith: “I missed home more this year but when you're eating cake for a living, you can hardly complain! We all did a lot of work this time – Paul, Matt and I were writing and Noel was painting. But we also played boules!”

Hollywood: “And Prue taught floristry skills and I taught people how to use nunchucks. It does feel like a really weird dysfunctional family!”

Where can I watch The Great British Bake Off season 12?

The new 10-part season of The Great British Bake Off will return on Tuesday September 21 on Channel 4 at 8pm. 

US viewers can watch the series on Netflix from Friday September 24.

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.