BAKING was once the domain of housewives and the ladies of the Women’s Institute.

Then came the Sex And The City-inspired cupcake obsession which inspired yummy mummies and urbanites to don their pinnies en masse.

But as viewers tuned in to last night's Great British Bake Off final there was not a woman competitor in sight.

Instead three men, John Whaite, 23, James Morton, 21, and Brendan Lynch, 63, saw off the women in the TV contest for home bakers — with John claiming the top prize last night.

The contest has grown in popularity during its three series, as has baking in the home.

And East Lancashire women proving it isn't just a man's game.

Aged just 18, Sophie Mitchell is already rising to the top of the cake stand. After qualifying from Nelson and Colne College in catering and management in September, she now works full-time running her business Love Sweet Things, which she set up alongside her studies.

Inspired to bake by her mum, the former Fisher More High School pupil’s business started to grow after she baked the cake for her sister’s 21st birthday.

“People just started ordering cakes from me for friends and family and more people started to find out about them,” she said.

“I’ve just had my first work experience girl, which is a bit crazy, but it was great fun and we got on so well because of our ages.”

Experimentation and the creativity of baking are part of the appeal to Sophie and she believes home bakers are being inspired to try out new flavours and combinations by the Great British Bake Off.

“I’ve been making cocktail cupcakes, and they’ve been popular, and I like to vary the recipes as much as I can — but there aren’t the hours in the day,” she said.

“At college, none of the boys wanted to do desserts; with desserts and baking you have to get the quantities just right, unlike mains where you can bung anything in.”

While experimenting with flavours and textures the hallmark of a GBBO creation, for Rose Dummer the creativity is focused on the decoration.

The mum-of-four from Clitheroe honed her talent after baking birthday and occasion cakes for her children, family and friends before launching Rosie Cake-Diva on Facebook. Now she’s developing her business, making the most of quirky designs which fuse clients’ character traits, hobbies and interests.

“It has been a case of making sure each of the children’s cakes was more spectacular than their last one — so they didn’t feel I loved them any less than the year before,” she said.

“My daughters’ birthdays are coming up, but this is the first time that my professional cake-making has been at a level where I might not be able to go all out on theirs.

“The internet has been great for inspiration and techniques; each time I’ve had an idea I didn’t know how to create, I've gone online and find out how to do it.

“Bit by bit I’ve built up my skills and my confidence and I’ve been able to turn it into something to make money from.

Joe and Janine Hargreaves have run Specialized Cakes in Burnley for the past six years, switching from their previous careers as pastry chefs — but sharing the baking and decorating skills equally. Joe said influences like TV shows The Ace Of Cakes and Great British Bake Off — judged by Paul Hollywood — had encouraged men to be proud of their baking prowess.

“Like what happened with cooking 10 years ago or so when TV chefs started to take off, the same thing’s happening with baking now,” he said.

“It’s not just seen as a WI thing and is getting a more professional edge.

“Also, with cakes getting more flamboyant and extravagant, men’s DIY skills come in handy to make bases and fit lights and smoke machines. I’m forever getting my jig-saw out now!”