Nadiya Jamir Hussain’s win in The Great British Bake Off attracted a record audience of more than 13 million viewers, making it the most-watched TV show of the year.
The final of the baking show drew an average of 13.4 million and a five-minute peak of 14.5 million on Wednesday, beating last year’s audience and the final of Britain’s Got Talent as the biggest show of 2015 to date.
The mother of three from Leeds, who became the sixth and arguably most popular winner of the hit baking show, admitted that if it wasn’t for her husband she wouldn’t have applied to enter the contest.
“My husband [Abdul] tried to get me to apply two years ago and I said, ‘look, I don’t have the confidence to do something like this’, and this year he pretty much forced me and said, ‘you’re really good, you’re really clever, you should just do it, what’s the worst that will happen?’,” she said, speaking on BBC Breakfast.
“Those were famous last words. And I did it, and I went in and I applied and every stage of the process felt unlikely and like it wasn’t meant to happen. My confidence grew and then this happened.”
Hussain beat Ian Cumming and Tamal Ray in an emotional cook-off that smashed viewing records. Last year’s then-record final drew an average of 12.3 million viewers and a peak of 13.3 million.
The crown for biggest show this year had been held by ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, when an average of 11.7 million and peak of 13.4 million tuned in to watch Jules O’Dwyer controversially win the final.
The 30-year-old said that her victory had made her “a much stronger, confident person” and described how “surreal” it was to finally be able to openly talk about her win, which was pre-recorded weeks ago.
“It feels like I’m relieving that moment again. It was one of the best moments of my life,” she said.
Hussain, whose facial expressions made her a viewer favourite, said that she had “no idea that my face could do that” and hoped her baking, not her eyebrows, would leave a lasting impression on viewers.
Her final trophy-winning recipe was the wedding cake she missed out on at her own marriage in Bangladesh, which she decorated in a red, white and blue sari, the colours of the Union Jack.
Hussain, who has been praised as a role model for young British Muslims, had previously admitted that she was nervous that audiences would “look at me, a Muslim in a headscarf, and wonder if I could bake”.
However, after winning the competition she says she now feels a sense of self-belief.
“I went into the tent as the smallest baker at 4ft 11’’ but I walked out feeling a giant – almost as tall as my fellow baker, 6 footer Mat Riley,” she said.
Hussain, who was born in Luton, admitted that she “comes from a culture where there is no such concept of dessert after dinner” and she caught the bug for baking during home economics.
“Her participating in The Great British Bake Off has demonstrated the connection that young British Muslims have with British society,” said the Muslim Association of Britain. “The hijab that she wears has not deterred her from participating and winning the show. This demonstrates how Muslims have made great efforts in integrating into society; and how they are achieving that in many various aspects.”
BBC1 chief Charlotte Moore described the final as a showcase of the best event television.
“The dramatic and emotional final of The Great British Bake Off rose to the occasion and brought the nation together on BBC1 to become the most watched TV show of the year,” she said. “Event television at its best. Congratulations Nadiya and the Bake Off team.”
Great British Bake Off final average audiences
2015 – 13.4m
2014 – 12.3m
2013 – 8.4m
2012 – 6.5m
2011 – 4.6m
2010 – 2.5m