'British Bake Off' Winner Takes On The Toughest Judge Of All: The Queen | KUOW News and Information

'British Bake Off' Winner Takes On The Toughest Judge Of All: The Queen

Apr 21, 2016
Originally published on April 22, 2016 11:35 am

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II turns 90 this week, and like many of us do on our birthdays, she'll be celebrating with some cake.

This year the task of coming up with a cake fit for a queen fell to Nadiya Hussain, the winner of the most recent season of the wildly popular TV show The Great British Bake Off.

Hussain's story captivated audiences: She quickly became famous for her sense of humor and for her fantastical creations, which included a gravity-defying soda-flavored cheesecake and a chocolate peacock. She's the daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh, and she's become a role model to many in the U.K.

Her latest masterpiece is an orange drizzle birthday cake with orange curd and orange buttercream — which she hand-delivered to the queen.

Before that meeting happened, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro spoke to Hussain about her craft.


Interview Highlights

On how she got the job

A couple of weeks ago, I just got a phone call to say, "Hey, would you like to do this?" And my initial reaction was "no," because I was so afraid of getting it horribly wrong. And then it dawned on me that I can't say no to the queen. So once I got over the nerves, I thought, well, actually this is such an honor, how can I possibly say no?

On how she decided what to bake

I went through this phase where I thought I need to do something traditional, and it needs to be really kind of what I thought the queen would expect. And actually, I went from that to doing a complete 360, and I went on to [bake] an orange drizzle. And even down to the decorations, I've decided to go very, very different.

On putting her identity on display during The Great British Bake Off

I thought — how are people going to perceive me? I don't want people to look at my hijab straightaway and say, "Oh, she's just a Muslim." I don't want to be judged just based on that, because we are all so much more than that.

But that is who I am wherever I go.

On what it means to cook for the queen

There is definitely this weird juxtaposition between me and the queen and the cake — it's all a bit higgledy-piggledy. It's really odd. But when I accepted [the offer] to do this, I didn't think about who I was or who she was. It's the queen's birthday — and who doesn't like cake on their birthday?

On what she'll say when she meets the Queen

I'm trying not to think about what I'm going to say to her when I meet her. I mean, she is the queen, after all. I'm not even sure if I'm allowed to talk to her. I'm just trying to concentrate on not doing anything silly. I might high-five her and just be dragged away!

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There's a big birthday in Britain today. Queen Elizabeth turns 90. And like many of us do on our birthdays, she'll be celebrating with a bit of cake. This year, the task of coming up with that cake fit for a queen falls to Nadiya Hussain. She was the winner of the most recent season of the wildly popular TV show, "The Great British Bake Off." Her story captivated audiences in the U.K.

She's the daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh, and she personally delivered her orange drizzle birthday cake with orange curd and butter cream and purple frosting to the queen this morning. We reached her in Milton Keynes. Good morning.

NADIYA HUSSAIN: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell me, how did this come about? How did this happen?

HUSSAIN: The queen's cake or just life in general?

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's start with the queen's cake.

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: Well, oh, my goodness. So a couple of weeks ago, I just got a phone call to say, hey, would you like to do this? And my initial reaction was, well, no...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Really?

HUSSAIN: ...Because I was so afraid of getting it horribly wrong. And then it dawned on me. I can't say no to the queen. So once I got over the nerves, I thought, well, actually, this is such an honor. How can I possibly say no?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, how did you even decide what kind of cake to bake for the queen?

HUSSAIN: I think straight away, I went through this kind of phase where I thought, well, I need to do something traditional, and it needs to be really kind of what I thought the queen would almost expect. And actually, I went from that to doing a complete 360, and I went to an orange drizzle. And even down to the decoration, I've decided to go very, very different.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So how many versions of this cake did you make in advance? And who are your taste testers? I know you've got three kids.

HUSSAIN: I've got three kids, but my kids are not fazed by cake anymore. They just look at cake and say, mm (ph).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Like, mom makes too many cakes.

HUSSAIN: Yeah, not today. But this is the only version I've done. I've not had a practice run.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, wow...

HUSSAIN: ...I've just literally gone from start to finish.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me talk to you a little bit about your history. You've been quoted as saying that you were worried viewers might judge you for wearing a hijab.

HUSSAIN: For me, as a hijab wearing Muslim, British, I was doing something so big, so out of my comfort zone - it was, like, national television - I thought, actually, how are people going to perceive me? I don't want people to look at my hijab straight away and say oh, she's just a Muslim, you know? I don't want to be kind of judged just based on that because we're all so much more than that. And, you know - but that is who I am wherever I go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Obviously, there's a great symbolism with you baking this cake for the queen. You know, she is from an older generation. She's from a more traditional era. And you really do represent this kind of modern Britain.

HUSSAIN: Yeah, I mean there is definitely this weird juxtaposition between me and the queen and the cake. And it's all a bit higgledy-piggledy. It's really odd. But I just think when I accepted to do this, I didn't think about who I was or who she was. It's the queen's birthday, and who doesn't like cake on their birthday?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK, but she is the queen. What are you going to tell her when you meet her?

HUSSAIN: Yeah, I mean, I'm kind of trying not to think about what I'm going to say to her. I mean, she's the queen after all. I mean, I don't even know if I'm allowed to talk to her. So...

(LAUGHTER)

HUSSAIN: ...I'm just trying to concentrate on not doing anything silly. Like, I might high-five her and just be dragged away. You can't high-five the queen.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to see you try.

HUSSAIN: I bet you would. I bet you'd love to see me dragged away as well. It's like, ah (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there she goes. There she goes. All right, Nadiya Hussain, winner of "The Great British Bake Off" and now baker of royal birthday cakes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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