Cake king Whaite rises to the top

Cake king John Whaite has said the double challenge of completing his degree while perfecting his pastry on the Great British Bake Off actually helped him rise to the top in the hit cookery show.

The 23-year-old, who was recently awarded a first-class law degree from Manchester University, said the pressure spurred him on.

He said: "If I hadn't been in the middle of the degree I'm not sure I would have won. It meant I had to be organised and know what I needed for the exam and what I needed for baking and it helped me concentrate. I don't think I'd have got such a good grade without Bake Off.

"It was tough though. I finished one exam on a Friday and went to Bristol to film the semi-final before getting home late on Sunday in time for another exam on Monday."

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

The BBC2 show, presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins and featuring judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, has been one of the surprise hits of the year. Last week it pulled in 5.6 million viewers, beating Holby City on BBC1, and has sparked a baking revival and has its own line of official merchandise.

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 has 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."