PETER Sawkins became the youngest winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2020. The 21-year-old was born in Edinburgh and grew up in Currie to the south-west of the city.

In honour of his culinary achievements, he was recently named Honorary Burgess of Edinburgh. Sawkins is in his fourth year at Edinburgh University studying accounting and finance. He has newly published his debut cookbook.

How did you fall in love with baking?

I started baking with my mum when I was around four or five. We would do that on Friday afternoons and make simple things like flapjacks, shortbread and packet cupcake mixes – Tom & Jerry ones. I am sure that last part horrifies people, but it got me baking and was good fun.

When I was 12, I got quite obsessed watching TV cookery shows: Great British Menu, MasterChef and Bake Off. It was the third series of Bake Off that got me hooked because John Whaite and James Morton – two young students – were on the show that year.

On the back of Bake Off, there were masterclasses showing you the techniques for the technical challenges and I got hooked on trying them out. It turned from being a fun hobby I did with my mum into something I took on myself and developed in the kitchen.

What are your earliest memories of baking?

There is a fun photograph that sparks memories. I was about four or five and my brother was six. We went for a sleepover at my auntie's house and made strawberry shortcakes from the DK Children's Cookbook. I can remember making those in her kitchen.

And the first thing you made?

There's a good chance it was flapjacks with my mum. She taught me the basics of baking. Then, as I got older, I took it on myself. I am self-taught and heavily led by all the many recipe books I own, as well as watching cooking shows on TV and YouTube.

Best baking advice you have been given?

It was a quote from John Whaite on the third series of Bake Off. He said that baking when stressed doesn't taste good. When I was on Bake Off that was something I focused on. If you are having a good time in the kitchen, you will always make something better than when you are stressed.

HeraldScotland: Bake Off winner and Christmas fan Peter Sawkins. Picture: Gordon Terris/Herald & TimesBake Off winner and Christmas fan Peter Sawkins. Picture: Gordon Terris/Herald & Times

What is your favourite thing to bake?

One-tin cake mixes. They are simple to make, easy to wash up afterwards and delicious to share with family and friends. I enjoy going back to basics.

Bake Off viewers will know that you are a big fan of Christmas – why do you love it?

Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I love the cosiness and being with family. I have such fond memories of us sharing Christmas with my gran, grandpa and auntie. It is a time when all the family gets together with no one rushing around being busy.

What are your favourite festive recipes?

We always have a Christmas cake. The one for this year I baked in June. That is going to be well matured. My mum makes the Christmas pudding that we have for dessert on Christmas Day. I will make an optional pudding to go alongside that.

My brother isn't a huge fan of Christmas pudding, so he will usually have the optional pudding. I have done ice cream bombes in the past and yule log is a classic. I made a mousse cake one year. I love baking for the tin too.

READ MORE: Christmas recipes: Jeni Iannetta from Bad Girl Bakery shares her favourite festive treats

Around Christmas time it is nice to fill the tins with treats so that if guests come round, you have something to enjoy with a cup of coffee. If we are snuggled in watching TV, we will pop back and forth to the kitchen to pick up a mince pie, a bit of fudge or a cookie.

What are your happiest Christmas memories?

It all revolves around food in our house. On Christmas Day when I was younger it was presents, then out to church and back home afterwards for Christmas lunch. Everyone would be stuffed. We would watch the Queen's speech and then go out for a walk.

We would eat more food in the evening. Everyone would be stuffed again. Now we are older, we go to the Watchnight Service at church on Christmas Eve. We have a relaxed Christmas Day where it is breakfast with present opening and everyone getting ready for lunch.

The day revolves around the Christmas food, table and dinner. We are all generally busy people and it is a time where we can relax, enjoy conversation and food together.

HeraldScotland: Bake Off winner and Christmas fan Peter Sawkins. Picture: Gordon Terris/Herald & TimesBake Off winner and Christmas fan Peter Sawkins. Picture: Gordon Terris/Herald & Times

How will you be spending it this year?

I will go home to spend Christmas with my mum, dad, brother, auntie and a friend from church. We have a small group. It is not one of those mad, massive family Christmases. It is a lovely time where we all chill out.

Who cooks on Christmas Day?

I stole that four or five years ago. I am the chef on Christmas Day and my dad is sous chef/chief washer-upper. My mum – who was the main cook of the house when I was growing up – gets to sit down with a glass of Prosecco and relax, which I think she quite likes.

What will be on the menu?

We are pretty traditional. Turkey, roast parsnips, carrots and roast potatoes. I peel the sprouts and fry them with chestnuts and black pudding which I think is the best thing on the table. I typically do some kind of stuffing bombe or stuffing wreath where I wrap stuffing meat in bacon.

There is always a couple of things that will be different each year. I like reading through food magazines around this time for ideas for new side dishes that I can tweak.

READ MORE: The Hebridean Baker: How Coinneach MacLeod became a TikTok sensation and put Scottish cooking on the map

But we like the standard turkey and trimmings, so I never go too far off-piste at any one time. If people enjoy something, then it might stay for the next year.

Any Christmas traditions?

On Christmas Eve, we always watch the movie Die Hard. Then we go to the Watchnight Service at the local kirk. On Christmas Day, we watch the Queen's speech after Christmas lunch and head out for a walk.

Every year we have a Sawkins family quiz. Dad is the quiz master and gets all the questions sorted. We then team up into three pairs to answer the questions. It gets quite intense and competitive, but it is very good fun.

Recipe: Mini Gingerbread Houses by Peter Sawkins

MY mum connects the time I first made a gingerbread house by myself on a random December morning when I was 13 with her realisation of how baking mad I am. When I was 15, I made a template for these mini gingerbread houses and sold them for a charity bake sale.

They were quite a hit and made a nice festive decoration in people’s kitchens before being enjoyed as a tasty treat later. This recipe was also the first video I put up on my YouTube channel, which continues to be a source of cringey entertainment for my flatmates. This recipe will make 4 houses.

HeraldScotland: Mini Gingerbread Houses made by The Great British Bake Off winner Peter SawkinsMini Gingerbread Houses made by The Great British Bake Off winner Peter Sawkins


For the templates 

Cereal boxes or other card 

For the gingerbread 

175g butter 

125g dark muscovado sugar 

100g golden syrup 450g plain flour (gf + ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum) 

1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda ½ teaspoon salt 

2 teaspoons ground ginger 

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

For the royal icing 

80g pasteurised egg whites (or 2 large egg whites) 

2 teaspoons lemon juice 

420g icing sugar green gel food colouring 

To decorate Christmas sprinkles (optional) (ensure gf)


Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/ 190°C conventional/gas mark 5. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. 

Cut the templates for the gingerbread houses out of card: 

• Roof: 11cm x 6cm rectangle 

• Sides: 8cm x 6cm rectangle 

• Front and back: 8cm x 6cm rectangle with a 3cm tall isosceles triangle on top. Draw a line 3cm up from the centre of an 8cm side. Draw lines attaching the point of this line to the corners of the 8cm side. 

• Four 12cm x 11cm cardboard rectangles, covered in silver foil to make bases for the houses. 

Make the gingerbread 

1. Add the butter, sugar and syrup into a pan over a low heat. Stir occasionally until the butter has melted and all the sugar has dissolved. 

2. Meanwhile, add all the remaining ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add in the liquid sugar and butter mixture and stir into the dry mix until all the flour has been incorporated. 

3. Allow to cool until barely warm to the touch, then tip out onto your work surface and knead for a couple of minutes until smooth and shiny. Split the mixture into 2 portions and wrap in cling film

4. Take one of the portions of dough and roll out on a lightly floured board to about ¾ cm thick. Cut out 4 of each template. Cut a small 2cm wide x 3.5cm tall rectangle from the bottom centre of two of the fronts to make the doors for the houses. Place these on lined baking trays, with a little space in between pieces and bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until browning gently around the edges. 

5. Repeat this process for the second half of dough. You can re-roll any offcuts. In total, you should have 8 biscuits of each template shape. 

HeraldScotland: Mini Gingerbread Houses made by The Great British Bake Off winner Peter SawkinsMini Gingerbread Houses made by The Great British Bake Off winner Peter Sawkins

Make the royal icing 

1. Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add in the lemon juice and whisk in the icing sugar in 4 batches. This is best done with an electric hand whisk or stand mixer.

2. The mixture should be firm, shiny and able to hold its shape. Fill a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle or a plain piping bag, then cut a small hole. 

Assemble the houses 

1. Pipe a border of royal icing around the door frames and pipe windows onto the front, sides and back of the houses. 

2. Spread a layer of icing around the border of the serving boards and pat with a palette knife or spoon to create a snowy look. 

3. Pipe royal icing onto the bottom edge of a house front and press this down on the serving board. Pipe down one of the inside edges and press a house side with royal icing piped onto its bottom edge into this to join. Repeat this with the other side of the house and pipe down the open edges of the sides and attach the back of the house. Leave this to set for about 30 minutes while you repeat this process with the remaining houses. 

4. Pipe royal icing down the slanted sides of the front and back of the houses and attach the roof pieces to these. The roof should slightly overhang the front, back and sides of the house. 

5. Pipe royal icing along all of the open edges of the roof to look like snow. Use a toothpick to ruffle these royal icing borders and give texture. 

READ MORE: Christmas recipes: Jeni Iannetta from Bad Girl Bakery shares her favourite festive treats

6. Pipe out the remaining icing and colour green with a little gel food colouring. Add to a piping bag fitted with a closed star nozzle and pipe vertically, directly up at the front of the gingerbread house to create a Christmas tree. Sprinkle some Christmas sprinkles over the trees. 

7. Liberally dust icing sugar over the houses before staging your own gingerbread village.

Peter Bakes by Peter Sawkins is published by Black & White Publishing, £20