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Bake Off: The Professionals contestant reveals all about the Channel 4 show, meeting Stacey Solomon and her Gravesend cake business

A baker has revealed all about her stint on Bake Off: The Professionals after only making her first cake three years ago.

Nina Nicholls, from Gravesend, appeared on this year's show with team mate and owner of The Pink Kitchen in Sevenoaks, Aline Wickens.

Nina talks about her experience on the show

The spin-off to the Great British Bake Off tries to find the best patisserie team over 10 weeks of challenges.

This year's 12 teams were looking to impress judges and pastry chefs Benoit Blin and Cherish Finden and were welcomed by presenters former GBBO favourite Liam Charles and TV star Stacey Solomon.

The contestants compete in a miniature and show-piece challenge to win points, and a place through to the next episode.

Nina was invited to join Aline after she started taking her baking classes. She said: "She was impressed with me and so when she got the invitation and needed someone to work with asked me.

"I said yes and that's how I ended up on the show. We went to the audition and there were hundreds and hundreds of people there. In my mind there was no chance we would get in."

They had to bring a dessert and a batch of macaroons – which, unsurprisingly, had to be the same size, colour and shape – with them to the interviews in October.

From left: Aline and Nina represented The Pink Kitchen on the show. Picture: Channel 4/Love Productions
From left: Aline and Nina represented The Pink Kitchen on the show. Picture: Channel 4/Love Productions

After waiting for four months, the bakers finally received the call to say they had been chosen as contestants and had only a few weeks to prepare.

But Nina had a hard decision to make as to whether she would be taking part as she had recently lost her sister-in-law to cancer and her daughter was undergoing a series of surgeries on her arm.

The 43-year-old added: "It was really, really difficult for me to make the decision. I called them and said I could not do it but then I remembered my sister-in-law told me to do it.

"My kids also told me to and said I taught them to go for things and not give up, so I went for it.

"It was a fantastic experience but it was very, very hard. It was one of the most difficult challenges of my life and what they show on TV is nothing compared to what we go through on there.

"The amount of people and cameras, I cannot tell you."

From left: Nina, judge Benoit Blin and team mate Aline. Picture: Nina Nicholls
From left: Nina, judge Benoit Blin and team mate Aline. Picture: Nina Nicholls

Nina, of Old Road East, said they were surrounded by people asking them questions about their bakes and had cameras everywhere including above their heads and a little one along the worktop.

"I love people and talking to the them but there is a lot of pressure when someone is watching you," she said. "It is crazy but quite fun."

The mum-of-two said the judges and presenters were "great" although Stacey Solomon was the one she loved meeting as she is "just fun".

Nina and Aline appeared on series 7 episode 4 of the show and were in heat 2 alongside five other teams.

They filmed the episode across two days were they were told to bake 36 identical Mont Blanc tarts – a chestnut flavoured pastry – and a sophisticated chocolate sculpture in the three-hour secret challenge. They then took a trifle and turned it into something new along with another chocolate showpiece.

The former waitress said: "We did our best and had a great time. There was a lot out of my comfort zone so I am proud of us. Our heat was extremely strong."

Nina has her own cake making business run out of her home in Gravesend
Nina has her own cake making business run out of her home in Gravesend

The Pink Kitchen team went out in the first round of their group but Nina said it was an incredible achievement to get through in the first place as both own small businesses.

Nina started her own cake-making firm – Cakes by Nina Nicholls – three years ago during the first lockdown as she was worried about her restaurant job as the hospitality industry closed.

"My big sister, Jo, loved baking and inspired me so much to do something for myself," Nina explained. "She told me I cannot work in a restaurant forever and gave me my first lesson in cake baking and decorating.

"Before that I had no clue. I would bake a cupcake with the girls following the recipe from the back of the box. I really enjoyed it and I think it was always there – I just needed to bring it out."

When she first started, the baker – originally from Campogrande in Brazil – was only taking one or two orders per week but now has around 10 to 15 celebratory cakes as well as cupcake and brownie requests.

Nina's newest creation the 'Money Cake'

One of her new creations is a Money Cake where she fills the middle of the bake with a string of notes covered in plastic that can be pulled out by the topper.

The most popular cake is a Victoria sponge or a chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream but Nina's favourite is a vanilla sponge with Swiss meringue buttercream and fresh berries.

Currently, Nina has a kitchen in her home for her business but hopes as it grows she will be able to open her own shop in Gravesend.

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