In Brief

Great British Bake Off: meet the celebrity contestants

Sports stars and a former Spice Girl will join Samantha Cameron and Ed Balls for charity bake off

Great British Bake-Off: Nadiya already the favourite to win 

28 July

The nation's favourite baking show returns to television screens tonight, with even the Queen rumoured to be a fan of the soggy bottom disasters in the Great British Bake-Off tent.

Tonight's episode kicks off with a traditional sponge; the much-loved Madeira cake. Contestants will then battle it out in the technical challenge to produce a frosted walnut cake to impress goddess-of-cakes Mary Berry.

"As usual the results are mixed, with Madeira cakes lacking the crucial 'crack' and suggestions from Hollywood that some of the walnuts are 'too gritty'," The Independent says in its preview.

The 12 amateur bakers taking part this year are an eclectic bunch – from the Dalai Lama's personal photographer to a former Buckingham Palace guard – but they are all united in their passion for baking.

Bookmakers have already offered odds on the contestants with 30-year old stay-at-home mother Nadiya the favourite at Ladbrokes. Just behind her is Marie, a 66-year old grandmother who struggled to boil an egg while her children were growing up and bottom of the list is Matt, a London firefighter, and Ugne a Lithuanian body builder who lives in Essex. 

So who are the rest of the brave souls putting their creations under the stern glare of Mary and Paul and what are their chances of going all the way? 

Nadiya

6/4

Nadiya, 30, has been baking for ten years, initially to help her dad expand the dessert menu of his restaurant. Born in Luton, she now lives in Leeds with her husband and three children. She put her career on the backburner to bring up her children, but now says she wants to have her own adventure and make her family proud.

Marie

3/1

Marie received the ultimate accolade when her daughter nominated her for the Great British Bake Off, but her children remember a time when she couldn't even boil an egg. In wasn't until she moved to France in her thirties and started wandering in the patisserie-lined streets of Paris that Marie fell in love with baking. At 66, she is this year's oldest contestant.

Alvin

6/1

Alvin, 37, is originally from the Philippines and now lives with his wife and their two children in Berkshire, where he works as a nurse. Seven years ago, he decided to start making his own bread and cakes, and now bakes at least four times a week. Alvin once baked bread every day for three weeks until he was happy with the result, and he's hoping his perfectionism will serve him well in the tent.

Flora

6/1

At 19, gallery assistant Flora is this year's youngest contestant. While she prepares to start an art history degree, Flora lives with her parents and two younger sisters in the rural Scottish countryside, meaning she often has to stock up on ingredients. Flora comes from a big family of bakers and says her harshest critics are her sisters.

Dorret

8/1

Dorret, 53, grew up in Preston in a family of West Indian origin and has been baking since she was a teenager. A mother of one, she works as an accountant and enjoys tap dancing, ballet and salsa. She and her husband frequently give dinner parties, and love to visit Michelin-starred restaurants for inspiration. Dorret's dream is to attend the Cordon Bleu culinary school in France.

Ian

8/1

Freelance photographer Ian, 41, lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and two children. He has the honour of being the Dalai Lama's personal photographer when he visits the UK, but Ian spends most of his time as a house-husband. He started baking six years ago to give his kids fresh bread, and loves exotic ingredients.

Paul

10/1

Prison governor Paul, 49, is from Wales. Before entering the prison service, he served at Buckingham Palace in the Coldstream Guards. A father to three boys, Paul sees being in the Great British Bake Off as "an opportunity to show that men like me, stereotyped by our jobs, do and can love baking".

Sandy

10/1

Sandy, 49, from Bradford, is a child welfare officer and mother of one. A keen amateur baker since childhood, her focus is on substance rather than style. "It might not be glamorous but it's tasty," she says. When she's not at work, she runs an afterschool cookery club where she teaches children from deprived backgrounds to bake on a budget.

Stu

10/1

Stu, 35, is a professional musician and has toured the world with his band. He lives in Surrey with his wife and two children and has been baking from a young age, having grown up in a restaurant-owning family. He says was always amazed by the magic of the oven and "how something liquid could go in and out would come this fluffed-up awesomeness". Stu doesn't shy away from unusual flavour combinations – he'll just have to hope Paul and Mary like them.

Tamal

12/1

Tamal, 29, is a trainee anaesthetist at a hospital in Manchester, but grew up in Hertfordshire. His older sister got him into baking, and was so impressed with his progress that she even asked Tamal to bake her wedding cake.

Mat

16/1

Londoner Mat, 37, is a relative newcomer to baking, as he only started three years ago. He's wasted no time, however, and has taught himself as much as possible about cakes, biscuits, pies, bread and pastries. A firefighter by day, Mat calls himself a "competent amateur" who "learns every time he bakes".

Ugne

16/1

Lithuanian Ugne, 32, now lives in Essex with her partner and their two young children. She works as a PA and administrator, but outside of work she is a keen bodybuilder. Ugne is hoping that the Eastern European baking techniques she learnt from her mother and grandmother will stand her in good stead.

  • The Great British Bake-Off series six starts on BBC 1 at 8pm, Wednesday 5 August

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