Baker Martha Collison was introduced to the world during her time as a contestant on the fifth series of The Great British Baking Show (known as The Great British Bake Off in the UK). Only 17-years-old at the time, Collison was the youngest The Great British Baking Show contestant to date. Each week, Collison served up intricate bakes while studying for her AS-levels. Since then, the 20-year-old has been on a whirlwind. Her first book, Twist: Creative Ideas To Reinvent Your Baking, was released in the United States this week. The cookbook is filled with delectable treats baked with Collison’s creative spin.
I spoke to Martha earlier this week about Twist, her favorite recipes, and her advice for young baking enthusiasts.
DIAMOND SHARP: Your new book is called Twist. What led you to publishing the book?
MARTHA COLLISON: After the show [The Great British Baking Show] I loved reading cookery books. I grew up reading them. I would read them before going to bed instead of actual books—I’m a bit of a food geek. [Laughs] So when the opportunity arose, I talked to my agent and she said, “If you’ve got an idea let’s put it down on paper and see if we can find a publisher.” It’s been amazing ever since then, really.
What were some of your inspirations for the recipes?
I get some of my inspiration from traveling. Living in the UK is great because Europe is so close, you can get inspiration from different countries and cultures quite easily. The rest of it is just what I like to eat. I grew up baking using what we had in the cupboard. I was quite young when I started baking so I wasn’t able to go out and buy my own ingredients. I was able to use what was in the cupboard and make it into recipes. [The book] is called Twist because I like taking a simple thing and then use what you’ve got to customize it.
What were you like when you were younger? Were you always interested in baking?
I think I was one of those kids that had loads of different hobbies. I had a finger in a lot of different pots. I loved doing creative things and sports but baking and cooking was something I stuck with. My parents thought it would be a phase like a lot of other things were, but I continued growing in it and loving it and learning more and more. They didn’t really complain because they were getting a lot of free food out of it. [Laughs]
What’s your favorite recipe in the book? What do you find yourself baking over and over again?
That’s a difficult question. I feel like it changes week to week depending on how I feel. My favorite one at the moment is the chocolate and passionfruit cake. It’s a rich chocolate cake with a summery twist.
While on the show, you were studying for your AS-levels. Are you in university?
I haven’t gone to university yet. I was going to go to study food—that was my original plan—but I haven’t needed to. I’ve just been getting experience and learning through a different way I suppose—and saving the money as well.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’ve written Twist and it’s been out in the UK for a year and is coming out in the United States this week. I’ve written a second book [Crave] that is coming out in the UK in July and maybe in the United States at some point as well. I do a lot of work with a big supermarket in the UK called Waitrose. I write recipes for them and have a weekly column. I do a lot of charity work with Bramber Bakehouse using baking as a rehabilitation method.
At the moment I’m just waiting for Crave to be released. That will fill out my summer—I’ll do a lot of demonstrations at food festivals and work with different brands. It’s exciting to not know what’s coming next. In the future, I don’t know if I want to have my own bakery or something like that. I’m just taking it as it comes at the moment.
What advice do you have for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t give up on it. Sometimes you make things that just don’t work but just keep persisting and trying and you will learn things and you will improve. I used to read different books and blogs to learn as much I could. It’s exciting when you start to learn things and can share them with your friends and family. Baking is an amazing skill to have—it’s something that brings joy to other people and something you can share. It’s a really great skill to have especially as a young person. ♦