Who says you need eggs to bake?

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Interviewer got to sit down with the ’s (GBBO)  first ever vegan contestant, Freya Cox. After having appeared on the show in 2021, as a 19 year old in her first year of university, Freya has solidified our knowledge that she is an excellent vegan baker, breaking into a market that has been covered in misrepresentations of what it means to enjoy vegan sweet treats! But let’s see what she’s up to now. 

I’ll always say being vegan on bake-off was hard…

A familiar question that might come to mind is where exactly did Freya get her love for baking from? Although we now know her to be an experienced vegan baker, we wanted to hear more about where her journey with veganism and baking began. Freya has been vegan “for almost four years now” and seeing the lack of inspiring vegan baked treats in the shop was something that inspired her to get further into baking. “My dad’s been vegan nearly ten years” she explains, and “…it’s been a bit of a domino effect called my family is now vegan.” As far as baking experience goes, Freya describes how she “always made…friend’s birthday cakes” but the extent of her talent wasn’t really tested until it came to the GBBO application process.

As you might imagine, the ‘bake-off’ application process really tests the bakers’ abilities prior to coming on the show. Freya, still relatively new to baking, describes never having made pastries or even bread! It was therefore the application process where she began fine tuning her skills prior to going on the show. Commitment such as that evidently stems from a source of passion. After having watched the show in 2020, the season before Freya was on the show, she had imagined how cool it would be to have a vegan contestant. So why not take up the challenger herself? It was clear at that point that veganism needed more representation within the realm of baking. Freya’s response to a frequent lack of interest around vegan baking goes something like this: “I’m over it”!

Obviously it’s not a vegan show

So, as becomes the first ever vegan contestant on GBBO, this was sure to come with some interesting experiences. “I’ll always say being vegan on bake-off was hard, but it was just because I was quite newly vegan as well, and I was still only trying things.” Despite being more of a newcomer, Freya was determined to tackle all the challenges. “Being on bake-off is really hard full stop” which is something we should acknowledge as a testament to Freya’s talent. She also explains that “…obviously it’s not a vegan show, you know, like all the challenges are not catered around it sort of being easy to do that [vegan baking]”. Freya further explains that “…there was lots of times where I did loads of trial and error and loads of the challenges were particularly hard because things that you make on bake-off, you wouldn’t make every day”. One of the earlier challenges required “something stupid, like an anti-gravity cake that you just never usually would make”!  Nonetheless, Freya wasn’t judged any differently for her vegan baking, as she remarks that “if I hadn’t said it was vegan, they wouldn’t have known!”

Freya went vegan “one hundred percent for the animals” and this has been a driving moral factor behind her passion for sharing the joys of vegan baking. As a bonus, she remarks that “I’ve never felt healthier than I do now” and that it was the best decision she ever made. To Freya, veganism is paramount to who she is, and so sharing her baking with others is too. Freya describes how she wanted to show people that it is not right to think that vegan baking is harder and not as good, and wanted people to have access to the recipes at their convenience. “They just literally don’t know what they’re doing.” It comes down to small things, Freya explains, such as an assumption that you need eggs to bake when you really don’t. This is exactly what Freya’s recipe book, Simply Vegan Baking: Taking the Fuss Out of Vegan Cakes, Cookies, Breads, and Desserts, is all about. Freya describes the experience of writing the book as “really intense” as the writing took place over roughly four months. However, Freya explained that she has always had a love for writing, so was really excited to channel that into her other passion. “I really committed everything to it, ” she described. Although upon reflection of this interview that sounds like an understatement, considering that Freya spent time down in London shooting for the book, baking fresh in the middle of the night at her airbnb. “I’d definitely love to do another one at some point and when the opportunity comes along.”

Freya is really grateful for her time on ‘bake-off’. She described it as the best experience she ever had, where she “met so many amazing people and have been given a lot of really cool opportunities”. With no prior experience in front of the camera, Freya explained how the crew and all the cameramen were wonderful at making the whole experience very enjoyable. At the young age of 19-years old, although Freya made a few comments that she perhaps later cringed at when watching the show back with her friends at the pub, ‘bake-off’ has changed her life. Having done an extremely popular collaboration with Castle Howard in York, last year, there is clearly no end to Freya’s determination to bring the joys of vegan baking to everyone. And finally, from Freya Cox: “I’ve always got more to share.”

Image: Channel 4, Carole Poirot via Castle Howard

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