In the end, his hopes fell as flat as a soggy sponge, with a cake designed to celebrate the United Kingdom.

Scot James Morton was carrying the hopes of a nation along with fans of Fair Isle jumpers and innovative recipes, but he was beaten in the final of the Great British Bake-off tonight.

Law graduate John Whaite was instead crowned king of the bakers in the dramatic finale of the BBC2 show, which has been one of the surprise hits of this year's TV schedules.

Presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and featuring judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, it pulled in 5.6 million viewers last week, beating Holby City on BBC1. It has also sparked a baking revival, its own line of official merchandise, and a dedicated Twitter hashtag: #gbbo

Wigan-born Whaite, 23, who now lives in Manchester, was named the winner after facing Morton and Brendan Lynch, 63, in the final, where they created a puff pastry pie called a pithivier, fondant fancies and chiffon sponges.

Whaite, whose creations have included an enormous gingerbread Colosseum, credited his partner, Paul, with some of his success.

He said: "He's a graphic designer, he does birthday cards and I do the cakes. With the Colosseum he drew up a template on the computer so that was a team effort."

He also said the support of presenting duo Mel and Sue for keeping him going despite the pressure, saying: "I don't think I could have done so well without them. When something goes wrong they come up and give you a cuddle or crack a joke to relieve the tension, it's like having a little friend on your shoulder."

Whaite, who plans to release a recipe book and swap law school for pastry classes, said he had been surprised by the show's success and how often he has been stopped in the street by fans.

He said: "The strangest one was in the swimming pool, I was doing a length and had just come up to rearrange my goggles and my trunks and this man stopped and said 'Are you John Whaite from Bake Off?' I was so surprised I nearly drowned."

Morton, a Glasgow University medical student, has known the outcome of the hugely popular baking contest for four months, and was at a family party tonight while the episode was screened.

He won the technical challenge for his fancies, and was tipped by Whaite to take the title, but another of his final bakes was not to all tastes: a "political cake that will divide Scotland", with five sponges. The central, and biggest one, was covered in fruit shaped like a Union Jack to mark events this year.

Apart from potentially upsetting pro-independence viewers, both Berry and Hollywood judged the cake too dry. Hollywood said: "United Kingdom was his idea, but there was nothing united about that."

Morton, who started baking with his gran when he was a youngster, is from Hillswick, Shetland, and is the son of Scottish broadcaster, writer and musician Tom Morton.

He said at the end of the final episode: "One of the best experiences of my life;  it feels like everyone's a winner."

He has become a fans' favourite since appearing in the third season of the BBC 2 show and is well-known for his experimental approach to baking. He won the title of star baker three times during the series, including on his 21st birthday, and will be fondly remembered for creations including his derelict gingerbread house, Paris-breast bike and sweet potato and pecan pie.

However, it is not just his baking skills that have caught people’s attention. The Shetlander’s Fair Isle jumpers have also been praised by fashion industry experts and Morton believes his choice of knitwear is also responsible for his new found sex symbol status.

He said: “It all started after the third episode when I got ‘star’ baker and wore a tank top. I think people confused their attraction to the tank top with liking me.

“The Fair Isle jumpers were a deliberate decision as I’m a proud Shetlander. They did get a bit smelly after a long day’s filming in that warm tent, I must confess.”

As well as baking, he is a talented classical bass player and has already reached grade eight.