'The Great British Baking Show' Breakout Lizzie Acker Talks Her Viral Fame: 'It Blows My Mind'

Keira Knightly "bawled" seeing Lizzie Acker's cake on The Great British Baking Show. Now the reality star is balancing baking with fame and a brand new collaboration with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla

Lizzie Acker
Photo: Abbie Cooper

Lizzie Acker continues to make life sweeter for all of us!

The former Great British Baking Show competitor became a breakout star on the UK series thanks to her colorful outfits, ambitious bakes, and eternal mission to achieve Paul Hollywood's definition of "finesse." And while she didn't ultimately win the show's coveted ice cake stand, Acker did win the hearts of viewers everywhere — something she's still wrapping her head around.

"It blows my mind," Acker tells PEOPLE exclusively, while discussing her new collaboration with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas. "Why do people want to know about me? All I've done is bake a cake on the telly!"

Acker did a lot more than that just that. The orange-haired baker had the world talking after her Week 8 showstopper challenge, in which she made a "brain fuzz cake" that celebrated all the "extraordinary" things that make her who she is — including her battle with dyslexia and ADHD.

It was a unique cake that earned the praise of the judging panel and immediately went viral, with viewers suffering from similar ailments praising Acker for getting candid about her struggles and thanking her for representing them. Keira Knightley later confessed she "bawled" at the episode, revealing her own issues with dyslexia!

"I didn't actually think it would have the outcome that it did," recalls Acker. "It was amazing. I took a week off work afterwards and replied to about 500 messages because they were so personal and I felt like you could not reply to them."

"Baking with neurodiversity gives me that space where my thoughts can go quiet and I can concentrate on something and it comes out with a beautiful outcome," she adds. "I never imagined it would have an impact on other people the way it has."

Lizzie Acker
Abbie Cooper

Acker is from Liverpool and feel in love with baking early on.

"I started baking when I was young, probably in like primary school," she says. "I just used to have loads of hobbies. I feel like it's a bit do my ADHD brain like I used to pick stuff up and then a month later abandon it, but with baking my mom just never threw away the pans because they were expensive."

Though she continued this on-and-off relationship with baking ever since, the COVID-19 pandemic changed it all. "During lockdown, there was nothing else do to do but bake," Acker explains. "I was living with six other people at the time so I had six people to bake for, and then I ended up baking for [my neighbors]," she said.

After some dedicated practice, friends and family started asking Acker to apply to The Great British Baking Show (known as The Great British Bake Off in England), but she admits she kept telling herself "I'm not good enough."

On the day the application was due, a friend who happened to be a professional patisserie chef told her, "if you don't apply, I'm applying for you." That wound up motivating Acker to take the leap of faith and send in her application.

After multiple rounds of interviews, Acker finally got the call telling her she had been cast. She was driving her car at the time. "I must have looked like a family member died at the lights," she teases. "I was in hysterics and there was this poor man in the car next to me like looking at me in utter fear!"

The Great British Bake Off S5 Lizzie
Mark Bourdillon/Netflix

Regarding the show itself, Acker can't say enough good things about her experience. "I feel like the best part is like the people you meet," she says. "Sometimes there's a fear that if you share knowledge then that you're you haven't got that special element, but not on Bake Off – everyone wants to share with each other so everyone grows."

Those connections Acker made in the show are very much a part of her life today. "We're always WhatsApp-ing each other," she says, adding that her bond with vegan baker Freya Cox is especially strong. "Me and Freya are super close, we see each other like every two weeks because she lives two and a half hours away, but she's actually gonna move in with me in two months.

"I've adopted another little sister," Acker adds. "I know all her family, she knows all of mine, it's like the best thing ever."

The two have already been documenting their adventures together online, in a series of sweet and silly videos on social media. One even showed the two celebrating Pancake Day by participating in Scarborough's local festivities.

Lizzie Acker
Amie MacGregor

They'll surely be together for Easter, too, though Acker's got that handled. She's collaborated with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas to create the ultimate Easter bunny cake.

"It's meant to be the Easter rabbit going back down his little bunny hole back to Easter Island, he's done with all the easter eggs, he's fed up and he's going home, and all you can see is just see his little legs, and there's a little tale poking out," Acker says of the creation.

The recipe is based off a lemon cake with a vanilla merengue. For Acker, those two opposing flavors are "best friends."

"You can take as much as the body as you want to sweeten up the cake as much as you want, she adds. "And it's just a lovely little Easter centerpiece for your house."

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And as for the media's attention on Acker, she tells PEOPLE she's learning how to make the best of it by giving back. Among her recent efforts, she's partnered with Steps at Strawberry Field, an organization that helps people with neurodiversity who struggled to get jobs between 19 and 25 to taught them kitchen skills. She also organized a bake sale with best friend Cox, raising over 1,000 pounds for the Dogs Trust Merseyside.

Like her viral cake, Acker hopes to "lift up the amazing people in the community that aren't seen."

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