Lizzie Acker On Paul Hollywood, Her Favorite Fast Food, And Great British Bake Off - Exclusive Interview

"The Great British Bake Off" never has a hard time recruiting some of the most talented and colorful bakers from across the U.K. to participate on the show. While the program has amassed a hoard of fan favorite bakers over the years, Lizzie Acker struck a particular chord with audiences around the world. According to TVOvermind, this contestant has a regular day job at a nearby Jaguar Land Rover dealership in her hometown, takes comfort in baking, and also has a passion for dance.

The baker found ways to bring her own creativity and worldview into her creations over the course of the competition. Disability Horizons highlights how Acker celebrated neurodiversity during a Signature Challenge inspired by her own experiences living with dyslexia and ADHD. Even though the show came to an end, Acker has kept busy. The baker has since partnered with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas to create the perfect treat for Galentine's Day, has cookbook plans in the works, and much more. Mashed had the chance to sit down with Acker for an exclusive interview, where we learned more about how she got to be such good friends with fellow "Bake Off" contestant Freya Cox, her personal stories from the show, and we also heard what Acker has in store for fans.

Acker is BFFs with Bake Off's Freya Cox

Tell me a bit about how you got to be such good friends with Freya?

Me and Freya just clicked. Sometimes you meet [those types you immediately click with], don't you? You instantly click, and that was it. Freya turned up to "Bake Off" in a bright, colored coat, and I was like, "Colors, woo!" Then that was it, our friendship clicked. We went on in a 1,000 mile car journey together, a road trip, and went to everyone's houses. She's currently staying at mine now. She's moving in with me when the house is done. It's all a bit of a whirlwind. We've got matching tattoos. It's fantastic.

Tell me about the tattoos. What was the story behind the tattoos?

My little sister owns a tattoo shop and we were like, "Let's celebrate 'Bake Off.'" What's [a better] way to celebrate "Bake Off" then getting whisk tattoos?

Why was it with the whisk?

Because it's probably one of those essential baking things, isn't it really? If you haven't got a whisk you use a fork, but a whisk is always best, isn't it?

Acker and Cox visit fellow former contestant Maggie

What was the conversation like when you asked Freya to move in with you?

It was natural. We're together all time. We see each other every week, so it's going to be easier. It was great. We had so much fun together. We had our first friendship arguments about toothpaste, nothing about baking, nothing baking related at all. Then we've moved [on from] it. Got on the next day, got back in the car together.

What was your favorite memory during that trip?

I really loved it. We went to see Maggie and we went in the sea with Maggie. I've never actually been in the sea in the UK, so it was a bit of a new one for me.

Did you have any first thoughts when you saw the sea?

I'm one of those people that is slightly terrified of open water because of what's in it, but I felt like, if Maggie can do it — she does it every day — I could do it too. We got in it. It was great. We even did a little swim. It was fantastic.

Man, I imagine that's freezing too, probably.

It was quite cold. It really was.

Acker loves celebrating Galentine's Day

Does your relationship with Galantine's Day trace back to any of the friends that you made on "Bake Off"?

Galentine's Day is something that I've been doing with one of my best friends who I've known for ten years. The Nielsen-Massey recipe came about because my best friend makes me brownies all the time. Every life event, she will make me brownies. Then, when you look back and you realize, "Oh my God, these brownies are always there." I was like, it's like an ode to her, but with the vanilla-y goodness of Nielsen-Massey vanilla. It's like an ode to that friendship because "Bake Off" friendships are amazing, but this friendship is a friend that've had for ten years and she's been there. She was there all through the audition stages, going [through the ups and downs of], "I'm not going to be able to make it onto 'Bake Off.' What am I doing?" She was there for me. I feel like we should celebrate the new friendships. We should also celebrate the people that have been there for us for a while.

How far back does the recipe that you're baking in honor of Galentine's Day go? Does it go back to when you first met your friend or did it kind of develop over time?

No. She's been making me brownies literally since we were 17. Bad day, anything. When I passed my driving tests, she'd make these [as brownies]. The Lizzie spin was clearly, "Let's go completely the other way and do blondies."

A signature Galentine's Day treat

How hard is it to bake them?

Really easy. It's such an easy recipe and it's made better by the vanilla, because the Nielsen-Massey vanilla compared to other vanillas has mad, mad levels of tones. I think it's something like 300, which is like, "woo," really, isn't it? When you think one simple ingredient can be actually so complex.

Would you say that it is your favorite thing to bake or do you have something else that ranks even higher?

I love anything, any baked goods. I'm not fussy. I have been baking a lot of them at the minute because my idea is that I'm going to make them all feel like ... All the women in my life that support me. I'm going to give everyone some blondies. Give them out, spread a bit of love, isn't it?

Do you have anything that ranks as your top favorite thing to bake?

I don't know because I change so much. It depends on your mood. I love to bake breads. I love cinnamon rolls. Even simple baked ... You know sometimes when you can't bother, [you end up making] a nice bowl of porridge, stick some vanilla essence in it, some Nielsen-Massey vanilla and then some raspberries and stuff, and it's like, boof, special porridge, isn't it?

Acker's most important baking ingredients

Would you say that's your favorite ingredient or do you have something else, like an ingredient that you can't live without?

I think if it comes to baking, if you haven't got flour, you're not baking, are you?

Good point. Past the essentials, is there a flavor or something maybe that you can't live without?

Vanilla is up there because it's the Galentine's of every other recipes flavor as well. It supports so many. Even if you just add it to any other recipe, it elevates it. Lemon cake with vanilla, boom. Chocolate cake, add a bit of vanilla, boom. It makes everything so much better.

Did your relationship with baking change any before "Bake Off" and after "Bake Off"?

Unlike most people, I didn't go into "Bake Off" thinking it was a competition. I went into "Bake Off" loving "Bake Off," as a "Bake Off" fan. Being in that tent was mind blowing for me. I never saw it as a competition because I was like, "This is such an achievement to be here and to say, I've been on 'Bake Off.'" I never thought I was going to say it, so it's mad, crazy that I can say that. Then I get to do stuff like this, because I'm a person that absolutely loves "Bake Off" and could probably name you everyone that's been on "Bake Off."

What Paul Hollywood was like off-camera

With that being said, do you have a "Bake Off" idol, or going into the competition was there someone who you were just like, "yeah, I want to be at least as good as that person?"

It's so hard with so many cool bakers. Creativity wise, Heller and Kim-Joy, but we've got to say, calm and collected, Selasi, he is the bomb really, isn't he? That man never panics. I never saw any sweat on him. He always just stood there. Going in, I was like, "Let's channel Selasi, let's channel Selasi." Never channeled Selasi. I was always crazy.

Are Paul and Prue basically how they seem on television, or are they totally different off-camera?

No, they're pretty much the same. Paul's a lovely fellow. I think he's made up to be a bit mean, but I think he's a genuine guy. He's lovely.

Is he less scary in person or is it just as intense as it looks with Paul?

I don't think he's scary to start with. I've never got that from him. Maybe it's because we both come from around the same area that I've always been like, "Well, he's just an average fellow from Walton." I've never really got those vibes to start with. I think I grew quite a bit when we started talking, and he'd be like, "Why is she not worried by me?"

Acker's next baking plans

Do you have a favorite memory from being on the show that really stood out?

Standing back, I'd finished piping my last cake, and standing back, and feeling proud of myself and then looking at Giuseppe. Giuseppe was nearly crying. Chigs was offering to give me a hug, and Crystelle was stood there nearly crying. I was thinking, "Oh wow, I've done something good." You know when something sinks in, that was it. It was the best moment.

Thinking back on it too, if you could go back and do anything different, would you?

No, definitely not because I think it was the best experience. I'm happy I went out that week. The people that were there were amazing. It was like some weird dream, because I still work in a car factory, I'm still in the car factory, and I think, six months ago, I was in the "Bake Off" tent. I'm now writing recipes for Nielsen-Massey. What's going on with my life?

What are your future baking plans looking like?

Right now, I don't know. I'm talking to people about a book and working on a recipe for Nielsen-Massey for Easter as well, which is exciting. It's nice to be able to work for a brand that I use because sometimes, you're thinking, "What is going to happen?" Then, for a brand that I use and I love to reach out to me, I was like, "Good on me." That was so exciting. Then, talking about a book and then there's been bits on podcasts, and TV shows, and stuff. It's like a crazy rollercoaster ride.

One of Bake Off's toughest obstacles

Thinking back on the whole experience, what was the biggest lesson that you learned from it, if you had to take anything away?

I think the biggest lesson of it was to always be yourself and not to ever listen to other people because when we ... We shot "Bake Off" and then it comes out, so it's a pure experience. Then once it is [out there], you're opened up to Twitter and everything. We knew what was coming. I remember one week, someone saying, "Oh, can Lizzie even read or write?" Like [I] don't even know the fishes as plural. I was like, "Well, wait for three weeks and you'll see stupid," because all this stuff comes at you from nowhere. You're thinking, "These people don't really know me, or know I'm dyslexic, I struggle with all this." They're just saying this stuff and it could affect you, like that label.

How did you get through that? How did you cope with it?

I've got an amazing group of 11 friends [and] we're all going through the same [thing] It's the best support system.

Acker wishes she could meet this chef

At this point, is there anyone, any chef living, or dead that you would go and have a meal with?

I would've loved to meet Anthony Bourdain.

Why Anthony Bourdain?

Because he is amazing. He's also my comfort chef. When I'm feeling a bit down and stuff, I'll always watch his travel things. I think he's so normal and he doesn't lie, does he? He's just him.

Do you have a go-to fast food order?

I think this is really clear for a "Bake Off" [contestant], McDonald's apple pie.

That's perfect. But if I could ask, why?

[It's the crispiness]. I've got a thing, I love hearing crispy noises, like ASMR. The crisp on that apple pie — amazing. Also, the fear of whether it's actually going to burn every one of your taste buds off, or whether you're going to survive, is amazing.

I'd love to hear a bit more about the cookbook plans that you have coming up and could you tell me about what you're thinking about what you want to have in there?

I'd love to have a really fun cookbook that's interactive and that everyone can use. Color backgrounds, people with SEN issues, stuff like that.

What about when it comes to the content of it, and you're thinking about what recipes to add to it, is there any particular inspiration that you're drawing from, or is it just everything that you love?

Just fun, because I think in the kitchen, it's got to be fun. It's not about what you make at the end, it's about the whole, the joy of making it.

Acker lives out a bucket list fantasy

Is there any particular recipe that stands out as the most fun?

I don't know. I'm thinking off my head. I got so many things. I did really enjoy making ice cream when I had that ice cream maker. They lend you one on "Bake Off," that was fun.

Do you have an ice cream maker at home?

Sadly, no.

Do you have a food bucket list? Either recipes that you want to make, or foods you want to try, or things like that?

Yeah, I do have a restaurant bucket list. It's a bit crazy because there's a restaurant in Copenhagen that does a tasting menu, like 15 courses of seasonal things and it can be crazy things, like sea moss.

Is that the one that was on "Chef's Table" on Netflix?

Yeah [Acker is referring to Noma].

I hear that's fantastic.

That's like top of my bucket list. All the bucket list things I did this weekend, it was to ride a tandem and sing the Daisy song.

Who did you ride the tandem with?


Did you both get to sing whilst you did it, or was it just you?

It was mainly me. Freya was recording me sing, and I was living my dream.

Acker's next television plans remain a mystery

You said you were going to do some acting as well. What's the story with that?

Well, I couldn't act, [but] appearances on shows and stuff like that.

Gotcha. What shows though?

I don't think I'm allowed to tell you. All top secret.

That's okay. Do you have anything in the works where you're going to do any television in relation to baking?

Nothing as of yet. Everything's sort of flakey, isn't it? Until you sign a contract, you don't really know what you're doing.

That's true. I mean, sometimes there's talk and then they pull through.

Things change every day, don't they really, with it all?

Is there anything that you want the culinary world to know about you that might not have been said up to this point?

No, because I think I'm a very all-or-nothing person. I think people that have watched "Bake Off" can see by the way I dress, the way I talk, the way I act and they know who I am from that. I don't hide anything. I'm very all upfront.

Make sure to check out Lizzie Acker's team-up with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and try out her blondie recipe if you need a special treat for Galentine's Day. Otherwise, follow her on Instagram keep an eye out for what this baker has in store.