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The icing on the cake for Bake Off fans

    Sue Perkins with the rest of the Bake Off team — Mel Giedroyc, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood
    Sue Perkins with the rest of the Bake Off team — Mel Giedroyc, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood

    Cakes and pastries play a large part in Jewish food culture, so it should come as no suprise that Sue Perkins, presenter of The Great British Bake Off, turns out to be Jewish.

    Ms Perkins, who, with Mel Giedroyc, fronts the BBC show watched by more than nine million viewers, has revealed in her autobiography that although she was raised a Catholic, she has strong Jewish roots thanks to her mother and grandmother.

    In the memoir, Spectacles, she reveals that her grandmother was so scarred by her experience of antisemitism in Britain that she denied her Judaism.

    But, as Ms Perkins told The Sunday Times, her grandmother would slip into Yiddish when drunk on Harveys Bristol Cream sherry - "which probably gave the game away".

    The presenter grew up far from the London Jewish heartland, in Croydon - saying she comes from "a nondescript road in a nondescript borough of London".

    Her father, a former car dealer, is Catholic and provided the religious direction in her early life.

    But she acknowledged a Jewish side in her tendency to be over-empathetic, which, she said, can sometimes be "exhausting".

    The atmosphere in her home was "a mix of Jewish angst and Catholic repression".

    Her parents, she said, "are very eccentric and tinged with anxiety and depression.

    "Anxiety runs through families. It can be a hormonal thing, it can be a serotonin thing, but mainly it's learnt, and if you look at your parents being incredibly sensitive, as my parents are - an emotional, loving sensitive - then you know."

    Describing what people see when they look at her, she says, "they just see a pair of glasses and a cursive tongue. They don't really realise that I'm like my parents, incredibly sensitive."

    In Spectacles she writes: "I am an appalling softie. But somehow, somewhere along the line, I've learnt how to hide it. Hide that sentimentality and vulnerability. Control the emotions beneath. My dad does it with data. My mum does it by catastrophising (so that reality always turns out better than her imaginings). I do it with words. Bluster. It fortifies me against the outside world. Take away the words, and I am lost."

    So far, there has been no attempt by Bake Off contestants to recreate a Rosh Hashanah-themed honey cake or a Shavuot-style cheesecake.

    The nearest Ms Perkins got to a kosher confection came in last year's series, when Kate Henry, a furniture restorer from Brighton, prepared an Israeli babka cake for judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

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