I Was Born to Bake
This is a small, silly spin-off story about characters from I Was Born for This, written as a treat for readers in March 2020. This story is not necessarily canon, but would occur – I think – about eight months before the events of IWBFT. I hope you enjoy it!
Let it be known that going on Celebrity Bake Off was absolutely Rowan’s idea, not mine or Jimmy’s, so when Rowan inevitably has a meltdown halfway through trying to make puff pastry, he only has himself to blame.
I told him this on the way there and he told me to fuck off.
“Can’t believe we’re gonna get inside the Bake Off tent!” says the woman sitting opposite me. We’re all in the green room – a large sitting room in the manor house of Welford Park. The Bake Off tent is literally visible from the windows.
I think this woman is a former contestant from Love Island. She’s hot in a kind of very-physically-fit, probably-has-had-facial-surgery sort of way, so that checks out.
“I know right,” I reply, flashing a smile at her. She smiles back, twirls her hair, and goes to continue speaking, but that’s when Jimmy emerges from the changing room and says-
“Literally fuck this.”
He’s wearing the brightest clothing I have ever seen him wear.
I have to cram my lips shut to stop myself laughing. Bake Off has an aesthetic – we all have to wear colourful clothes – but Jimmy just doesn’t seem like Jimmy when he’s not wearing black, or at the very least grey. The fans are going to go fucking insane when he pops on screen in a red, yellow and green colour-block sweatshirt and, to his horror, blue skinny jeans. Yep. The fans will lose their shit.
It does suit him, though. I mean, everything suits him.
Rowan, who is sitting next to me, does laugh. “You look like a CBeebies presenter.”
Jimmy points at him. “Fuck you too.” He looks down at himself.
“Can we tone down the swearing, kids?” Cecily says from the sofa next to ours, without looking up from her phone. “You all look like JoJo Siwa. Deal with it.”
I’m wearing a jacket that has little illustrations of beachgoers all over it. Rowan’s wearing an oversized button-up with giant orange and white vertical stripes.
Jimmy slumps onto the sofa next to me with a grumpy expression that makes me want to poke his cheeks.
“I don’t look like JoJo Siwa,” he mumbles. Then he looks at me. “Do I?”
I confirm to him that he definitely, without a doubt, could not look less like JoJo Siwa. He actually looks hot, in his usual Jimmy way with his soft hair and big brown eyes.
I always think that, though. In fact, I think it pretty much every time I look at him. Which is fine. It’s just a fact. I think a lot of people are hot. I can deal with it. It doesn’t affect me in any way whatsoever.
“And you look hot,” I add, “so don’t worry.”
He just snorts, looks away, and mumbles, “Shut up.”
“Your signature challenge this week,” begins Sandi, and then she lays out what’s about to happen – we have to prepare a Victoria sponge.
I knew that this would be the first challenge. We’d all been told months ago, with the idea that we would then go away and prepare. Learn how to bake a Victoria sponge. Practice, maybe. Get good at it.
You will not be surprised to learn that I did none of those things, and have instead opted to ‘wing it’, which usually works out for me.
Rowan is on the table next to mine. He actually did prepare. In fact, he went back to his mum’s and spent a whole weekend practising. He’s staring down at his ingredients with the fiery determination of someone who actually enjoys the act of ‘trying’. I truly, truly can’t relate.
Jimmy is on the table in front of me, apron tied neatly into a bow behind his back. I watch him clenching and unclenching his fists – one of his nervous tics. He’s been pretty anxious about today. He doesn’t like people seeing him fuck stuff up, which is a very strong possibility for both of us, seeing as Rowan is the chef in this friendship group. Jimmy’s an UberEats addict. I can barely make toast without setting the fire alarm off.
“On your marks-”
When Noel comes round to check on me, I’m basically just chucking ingredients into the bowl without measuring and hoping for the best. I mean – flour, sugar, butter, eggs, a bit of baking powder? That’s it, right?
I used to make cakes with my mum sometimes, when we had the money to get the ingredients. But that all stopped when I became a tiny shitbag who hated everyone at the age of ten, so I’m just going off old memories, I guess. My mum probably won’t watch this, anyway.
Paul appears in front of my table and watches all my ingredients mixing together in my KitchenAid.
“What?” I grin at him.
He just stares, smirking.
“I know,” I say. “I’m naturally talented.”
He slinks away without comment. Probably means I’ve monumentally fucked it up already.
Jimmy has turned around to check up on me. He has already covered his sleeves in flour and has some sort of substance – hopefully just egg – in his hair. “What did he say?”
I shrug. “Nothing. He just gave me an ominous look.”
Jimmy looks down at my mixture. “This actually looks good. Literally who are you?”
“Is yours okay?”
“No. Mine looks like vomit. Like, it’s actually reminding me of the time you threw up at-” Jimmy glances around, suddenly aware that cameras could be on us, and finds instantly that one is pointed right at us. Jimmy whips his head away, embarrassed. We’d deliberately been told not to look at the cameras.
I decide to divert attention from him and shout out to Rowan. “Ro? How’s it going?”
Rowan is furiously hand-whisking his mixture with something close to a snarl on his face.
“Everything is fine,” he snaps back at us.
“Leave me alone. I’m busy.”
Jimmy rubs his forehead, somehow getting even more baking ingredients on himself.
I reach out and brush the flour off his face. It was just annoying me.
Jimmy bats at my hand. “Fuck off.”
“Don’t swear. We’re on TV.”
He purses his lips. I grin at him. I can tell he wants to swear at me again.
The smug look on Rowan’s face when he wins the signature challenge is incredibly irritating, but I act happy for him and clap anyway, because that’s what you do on Bake Off.
My cake, to everyone’s shock, came second. So I guess I did remember a few things from Mum’s recipe.
We get to have a little break in the green room and Rowan gets into conversation with another contestant – a comedian, I think – while Jimmy sulks and eats a slice of Rowan’s cake.
Love Island woman keeps pulling me into an extremely dull conversation. I keep it going to be polite, and also because, as previously mentioned, she’s kind of hot, and I just act like a shallow idiot around hot people. I can’t help it.
I look up to find Cecily frowning down at me.
“Once you’ve finished flirting,” she says, “you’re needed in hair and makeup.”
“I wasn’t-” I stop myself. I had been flirting. I just can’t help it.
Jimmy stifles a snort next to me. Fuck him.
“For this week’s technical challenge, Paul and Prue would like you to make six identical pork pies.”
I laugh out loud. Several of the contestants turn around to look at me.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a pork pie in my life.
To be fair, at least this one comes with instructions. And they’re pretty simple – definitely dumbed down compared to the normal Bake Off technical challenges.
I’m in the midst of kneading my pastry dough when I see Rowan run in front of me like a gazelle. I watch him frantically searching around the tent for a very specific pan that he apparently needs for his pork pies, muttering to himself, completely in the zone. Noel starts running around with him.
I wander over to Jimmy’s table and lean on it, watching the scene unfold. Jimmy is also kneading his dough – but it looks kind of flaky and keeps breaking apart.
“What?” Jimmy asks, without looking up. He’s sweating. “You know I have zero arm muscles.”
I hold out my own skinny arms. “What, and I do?”
“Yours are longer. That’s got to count for something.”
Rowan has now located the specific pan he wanted and has returned to kneading his dough. He’s punching it, actually.
“I’m trying so hard,” said Jimmy.
“I can tell.”
“Why is nothing ever easy?”
“Can you do it for me?”
“Fuck off, then.”
“Love you too.”
I head back to my own table and resume kneading.
When Jimmy actually lays down on the floor in front of his oven, I start to feel slightly concerned.
“You okay down there, Jim?”
“Perfectly fine, thanks so much.”
I trot over to him and crouch down. He’s watching his oven, hands clasped over his torso.
I decide to lay down next to him.
“What’s going on here?” asks Sandi, staring down at us.
“I’m laying down due to stress and anxiety,” Jimmy says.
“I’m laying down with him for solidarity,” I explain.
“Right then,” says Sandi, nodding. “Glad we’ve cleared that up.”
I manage to slice open my palm, and then a mere two minutes after the first aid people patch me up, I burn my left forefinger and have to get another plaster put on.
When I accidentally cut my right middle finger fifteen minutes later, the first aid people actually look quite annoyed, and Rowan insists on doing the plaster for them.
“It’s like you’re cursed,” comments Noel, as I’m getting patched up again.
“I’m naturally accident-prone,” I say. “I’ve broken a bone nine times.”
“Yep. Two of them were toes, though.”
“Maybe don’t break any more bones today. Or, like, ever.”
“I’ll try my best.”
Jimmy leans over my table, watching Rowan wrap a plaster around my finger. “Is it okay? Are you dying?”
“I’m literally fine. I just can’t cut things properly.”
“There,” says Rowan, having finished putting my plaster on. “Be more careful.”
When I win the technical challenge, I hear Rowan make a soft ‘hm’ noise. A very disappointed Rowan hum.
I’m literally ecstatic. Who knew. I could fucking bake.
“It’s on,” Rowan says to me when we convene in the green room.
“Me vs. you. It is on.”
Rowan’s probably the most competitive person I’ve ever met in my life. I’m the exact opposite. But this isn’t the first time Rowan has decided that I’m his mortal enemy in regard to something extremely mundane, such as the time he decided that whoever took a piss on the tour bus first was the weaker man. I won, for the record.
I pat Rowan jovially on the shoulder. “Well, good luck, mate.”
Rowan just steps backwards from me, pointing two fingers at his eyes, and then pointing them at me.
I snort, turning around to see where Jimmy’s at – only to find him curled up on a sofa again, eating a pork pie with a very sad look on his face.
I slump onto the sofa next to him. “Cheer up.”
“It’s just Bake Off.”
Jimmy looks at me like I’ve just said God is dead.
“How are you so chill about this?” he asks.
I shrug. “I just don’t give a shit, really.”
Jimmy blinks, then takes another mouthful of pie and says, “God I wish that were me.”
The final challenge is the showstopper, where we have to build some sort of construction out of shortbread.
Cecily sent me several shortbread recipes for me to try and memorise. I skimmed them last night. So I’ll probably be fine.
My shortbread construction is going to be a drumkit. Not quite sure how I’m going to execute this – probably lots of icing as glue. Can you put icing on shortbread? I don’t fucking know. It’s got to taste nice, right?
About an hour in, I notice Jimmy slump onto his elbows on the table, putting his head in his hands. After he’s stayed in that position for a solid minute, I decide I’d better go and see what’s up. I grab my bag of icing sugar as a snack for my journey.
“Hi,” I say, leaning onto the table next to him.
“This is bad,” he mumbles, almost like he’s talking to himself.
“That’s fine,” I shrug, dipping a non-plastered finger into my icing sugar and licking it. “Literally who cares.”
“I care,” whispers Jimmy. “The fans care. They care if I’m good.”
“They’ll actually think you’re more adorable if you fuck up.” Or maybe that was just my opinion. Probably both.
“I don’t care about being adorable, I-”
We’re interrupted by a wail from our left.
Jimmy looks up too. We watch Rowan as he stares down at his desk, at a tray of shortbread batter. Or, at least, that’s what I assume it’s supposed to be. It looks more like soup.
We then watch as he picks up the tray and walks towards the bin.
“NO!” Jimmy literally screams, running towards Rowan as he approaches the bin. I wander over to join them.
Rowan looks up at us with a cold face of despair.
“Don’t chuck it,” says Jimmy, holding out his hands. “You can save it. You can add more flour.”
“I’m gonna chuck it,” says Rowan. “It’s the end.”
“NO.” Jimmy holds out his hands.
“I’m gonna do it.”
And then he’s tipping the whole fucking tray into the bin, and for some Godforsaken reason I stick out my arms, like I’m trying to catch the mixture, because my brain is just that dumb, and obviously the result is my sleeves just get absolutely covered in shortbread batter.
There’s a long pause as we all realise what has just happened.
Everyone else in the tent has turned around to look at us.
“Allister,” Rowan says, unnervingly calm, “why are you like this.”
“Why am I- this was YOUR FAULT!” I cry out, but in doing so I end up moving my arms too quickly and shortbread batter flies around me, much of it splattering over Jimmy’s jumper, despite him attempting to dive behind the open door of the oven.
“I would like to go home,” says Jimmy, crouching on the floor.
Stripped of my jacket, plasters all over my hands, and Rowan giving me evils from across the tent – I finish the showstopper challenge.
I knew I’d fuck something up.
It was pretty funny, though.
“And this week’s Star Baker is…”
I can feel Rowan tense up next to me.
He gasps like he’s genuinely surprised, even though Jimmy and I know he’s really not. His showstopper, despite the bin mishap, actually turned out amazing – it was a bass guitar, strings and all.
We let him soak up the glory in the form of congratulatory pats and hugs from the other contestants.
“You were actually good, though,” Jimmy says as we watch.
“Well I’m good at everything, so that makes sense.”
“You should make cakes at home.”
I laugh out loud. “I’m way too busy doing things that are actually fun.”
“What, like having sex and smoking?” Jimmy grumbles, and it throws me for a second, remembering that that’s what they actually think my favourite hobbies are.
I mean, they’re definitely up there in my top five, but, you know.
Six Months Later
The credits roll and then Rowan switches the TV off. He takes a deep breath and smiles.
“Star Baker,” he says, then nods. “I knew I was destined for greatness.”
We had a free evening and got to watch it live. Well, Jimmy didn’t actually watch it – he mostly peeked at it from behind a cushion – and I did get hungry halfway through because of the pork pies and went to the kitchen to heat up last night’s leftover Chinese.
“What’s Twitter saying?” I ask, knowing Jimmy’s already scrolling through.
He’s silent for a moment.
“Everyone’s obsessed with my jeans, for some reason,” he says, sounding a little confused. He shows me a tweet that simply reads ‘JIMMY IN BLUE JEANS!?!??? ALSKDJHGLSDKF BITCH’.
For such an overthinker, Jimmy can be extremely dumb sometimes, which I kind of love because it puts us more on equal footing.
“And you trying to catch the shortbread mixture is already a meme.”
He holds up his phone to me again. Someone’s posted a gif of it with the caption ‘when ur life’s a mess and u just trying to keep it together’. A couple of tweets after that, someone posted the same gif with the caption ‘When the depression hits’.
Rowan claps his hands and stands up from the sofa. “Right. Bake Off done, then. Dancing On Ice next?”
Jimmy looks up at him in alarm. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Can’t it at least be Strictly?” I ask. “Strictly’s way better.”
Me and Rowan swiftly get into an argument about whether Dancing on Ice or Strictly Come Dancing is the superior show, which I win by singing the Strictly Come Dancing theme tune until Rowan gets annoyed and storms off to get a drink.
“You know Rowan would probably win both of those,” Jimmy points out.
“Maybe, but I would win I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. I could easily eat all the bugs. And rats don’t scare me.”
“Rats are quite cute actually,” Jimmy says, scrolling through his Twitter notifications again.
“Aw,” I say, “you calling me cute?”
He shoves me lightly with one hand, still looking at his phone.
“Was I actually okay?” he asks, without looking up. “Like, was I really embarrassing?”
Normally I’d make a joke and say yes. I could say something about how his jeans sent the fans into a frenzy and us laying down on the floor together was a metaphor for our friendship, or the fact that there’d be a thousand fanfics written about the way he ran over to Rowan by the bin.
But instead I say, “No. No, you were good.”
Jimmy finally glances up at me, surprised. Then he looks away with a small, muffled, “Fuck off.”