If you had the dubious pleasure of witnessing my festive return to the Bake Off tent, then let me firstly apologise. I had every good intention of doing better.
A week before filming, I awoke early to carefully check my timings in an impressively organised spreadsheet. Adding up the time to produce twelve miniature trifles with cranberry compote and crème anglaise, a dozen gingerbread biscuit houses with baked cheesecake gardens and the same number of little stollen, I suddenly felt a wave of anxiety, akin to a bout of Bake Off morning sickness. I pushed my bowl of porridge away, unable to stomach another mouthful. Even if I did away with those individual pots of clementine curd, the candied grapefruit slices, white chocolate snow-capped roofs and gilded pistachios, I'd still be cutting it fine. And by 'cutting it fine', I really mean, 'I actually can't do this in time'. I joked to the production team about needing a Christmas miracle, hoping that someone would say, "Don't worry Howard - these are Christmas specials - you can actually take as long as you need". Nobody said anything so comforting.
On the day of filming, I abandoned the clementine curd, only half-candied my grapefruit and got as far as melting some white chocolate. Still whisking my ten-minute custard after half an hour, my dream of gilding something (anything) in the Bake Off tent remained unfulfilled and the poor pistachios flaunted their disappointment. (Warning - naked nuts may cause bakers to choke back the tears.)
Nevertheless, a little TV exposure - however embarrassing - has drawn an impressive flurry of interest, so it looks like I'll be back on the road again, demoing in my own inimitable way. My perfectly simple Summer Swiss Roll will be making an appearance, but I'm thinking of zhooshing it up with some hand-carved strawberry roses and a little cherry ladybird. I'm sure I can do it in time.