Great British Bake Off favourite Steph has said she had “so little belief” in her capabilities that she expected to be eliminated earlier in the competition.
The 28-year-old shop assistant is in the finale of the Channel 4 baking show along with teacher Alice and international health adviser David following weeks of gruelling challenges set for them by judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.
Having been named star baker four times throughout the series – including for her work with desserts and pastry – Steph has been named the favourite to win the series by bookmakers Ladbrokes and Coral.
However, speaking ahead of the grand finale, she said that repeatedly coming out on top left her more nervous as it added to the pressure of having to keep performing at a high level.
Steph said: “I never expected or even thought about getting a star baker prior to filming. I was so astonished that I had made it into the Bake Off tent and had so little belief in my capabilities that ‘success’ was never something I considered, it was just a case of how long until they realise I’m not good enough!”
She said that, even now, she is “still thinking, ‘Wait, I was on Bake Off!’
“Strangely, when I received the first star baker, I actually became much more nervous, I felt a pressure – completely self-inflicted – to live up to the standard I had then set; I thought people would think I was a failure if I didn’t keep ‘performing’.”
The amateur baker, from Chester, added: “I never thought or even dreamt I would be a finalist – it wasn’t in my head as a possibility, I just didn’t think I would be good enough or capable – even when we were told the result in the semi-final, I didn’t believe I was in the final!”
London-based David, 36, shared a similar sentiment, saying that he “never thought I’d make it to the final”.
“It seemed like everyone else wanted it more, but maybe that was to my advantage because I was so happy to have just made it on the show, I was chilled,” he said.
However, unlike Steph, he said that he felt his nerves “diminished as the competition progressed”.
He added: “Each week, I felt more privileged that I had managed to get through and if I bowed out the next week I would feel satisfied.
“Having completed 27 bakes, I felt good going into the final weekend and nothing was going to stop me enjoying myself.”
Alice, who teaches geography and lives in London, said that both times she was named star baker she was shocked and made sure she did not look too far ahead.
“My aim for each week was just to survive and try to enjoy it,” she said.
“Being proud of what I had done was what mattered, not winning. Both times I was star baker, it was a shock, and a lovely one, but I just took every week one by one, and tried not to look too far ahead.”
Of being a success on Bake Off – and finding fame on the small screen – the 28-year-old said: “It’s a weird experience seeing yourself on TV. I think I’m quite self-critical.
“I just wish someone had told me how many weird facial expressions I make!”
The Great British Bake Off concludes at 8pm on Tuesday on Channel 4.