From coeliac disease diagnosis to Junior Bake Off champion
This month we introduce Tilly to our blog, an incredible 13 year old who you might recognise as the winner of Junior Bake Off!
Tilly was diagnosed with coeliac disease just over a year ago and has quickly adapted to the gluten free diet. She’s been baking for many years and credits her Nanny with teaching her everything she knows. Here, Tilly shares her story on her love for baking, her experiences on Junior Bake Off and her top tips for other children with coeliac disease.
Q. Who or what inspired you to pursue baking and apply to be on Junior Bake Off?
My Nanny first introduced to me baking when I was very young. Then when I got diagnosed with coeliac disease, I started baking more and experimenting with my Aunty. I’ve watched Junior Bake Off for as long as I can remember so it was always a dream of mine to be the show. I decided to give it a go before I was too old to apply and was amazed that I actually got on!
Q. Can you share some of your best gluten free recipes or baking tips for other children like you?
I love baking savoury treats, especially the ones that I struggle to get gluten free, like cheese twists and dough balls. I tend to improvise with recipes and add my own twists and experiment with the ingredients and methods. The main ingredient I find important when baking gluten free is Xantham gum. It’s also important to ensure the consistency of the bake is correct as it’s trickier to get it right when using gluten free flour.
Q. Did you have any challenging moments during your time on the show and if so how did you handle them?
My crêpe roll on ‘Dessert Day’ was a total disaster - I didn’t read the instructions very well! My Thanksgiving cake on ‘American Day’, where I baked a gluten free red velvet pony cake was also a fiasco! I couldn’t get the cakes to cool down in time to ice them so had to risk icing them warm and it was a total fail and it all collapsed! I tried to stay calm and keep positive, I was just enjoying myself so much in the tent that I wanted to enjoy every moment even if things went wrong!
Q. What advice do you have for other young people with coeliac disease who love baking or cooking?
I would encourage anyone that has been diagnosed with coeliac disease to get into baking because you can bake a lot of things gluten free that are not available in shops. It’s a great hobby to have and is really fun and so satisfying when you get to tuck in and appreciate what you have made!
I have found that most things are easy to adapt to gluten free when baking, even if sometimes it takes some trial and error! I am home schooled so I also incorporate a maths lesson into baking when measuring and working out quantities, so it’s also a good way of learning! I would say there’s some science in baking too!
Q. What's something you really miss eating from before you were diagnosed?
I really miss eating spinach bites which is probably a strange thing to say! I am going to try making my own gluten free version of them very soon though! I also really missed donuts, but I’ve started making my own now!
Q. Can you tell us about the funniest moment you had on the show?
It wasn’t funny at the time but watching it back, my crêpe roll and Thanksgiving cake is pretty hilarious! I had lots of funny moments with Harry Hill, I loved it when we were doing impressions of David Attenborough together! He is very funny!
Q. Since you were diagnosed with coeliac disease, what tips or advice would you give to other kids in the same situation?
I would say that although it is difficult having coeliac disease and it’s very hard to adapt at first, once you get used to it and work out which shops, restaurants and recipes are gluten free - it becomes much easier.
There is lots of advice online and some great social media influencers and bloggers. It’s always good to be open with people and explain your dietary needs as most of the time people will try to help you. Most importantly, never let it hold you back from anything you want to do and follow your dreams!