Great British Bake Off Star Kim-Joy On Living In Leeds And Loving Cat Bakes


It’s been five years since Kim-Joy won the heart of the nation with her animal-themed creation on Great British Bake-Off. Here, the Leeds newlywed talks to Rebecca Pitcairn about house renovations, Elvis and her love of cats

Life has been rather hectic of late for Kim-Joy, the fun-loving baker who captured the hearts of the nation with her beautifully decorated cakes, calmness and vibrant positivity during the ninth series of Channel 4’s Great British Bake-Off (GBBO) five years ago.  

While she narrowly missed out on the 2018 baking crown to Rahul Mandul, she says the experience was ‘the best thing that’s ever happened to me’ and has opened up doors, including the chance to compete in the Bake-Off tent a second time during last year’s Great New Year Bake-Off. The special saw her compete for another crack at victory against other Bake-Off series finalists Hermine Dossou, Jon Jenkins and Rowan Williams – and this time, she won. 

Kim Joy Copy

“Despite having been in the tent before, I was really, really nervous and quite stressed about it initially but then, when I won, it was like the best feeling ever. I completed my Bake-Off journey on a huge high,” grins Kim-Joy. 

It kick-started a year of exciting milestones for the 31-year-old, including getting hitched to her partner of nine years, Nabil Homsi, in Las Vegas last summer. The couple met back in 2014 and bonded over a mutual love of board games – Nabil owns a collection of independent comic book and games stores called Travelling Man and was influential in Kim-Joy launching her own card game, Kim-Joy’s Magic Bakery, in 2021. 

“We were in California for the San Diego Comic Con and decided to have a little holiday in Vegas, so just thought we’d get married and make it really fun,” says Kim-Joy of the wedding. “We just had two friends there and Elvis, of course, because you have to have Elvis when you get married in Vegas.” 

The couple plan on having a celebratory party in the UK ‘at some point’, but with Kim-Joy’s fourth cookbook launch on the horizon and the final touches of a mammoth renovation project at the home they share in Ilkley, there’s been little time. “I didn’t even celebrate my birthday last year, we’ve been so busy,” says Kim-Joy, who just happens to have been born on World Baking Day, a happy coincidence that she says is a sure-fire sign she was ‘born to bake’. 

Calico Cat Cookies
Calico Cat Cookies

Fans of GBBO will remember Kim-Joy’s animal-themed creations, such as her iced woodland creatures and space turtles, which put a smile on the faces of judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood time and time again. 

The experience has led to her writing three international bestselling cookbooks – Baking with Kim-Joy, Christmas with Kim-Joy and Celebrate with Kim-Joy – and a fourth, Bake me a Cat, which focuses solely on her loveable feline friends. 

Bake Me a Cat features over 50 recipes for cat-themed bakes from Tiger Buns and Meow Baos, to Kit-tea Scones and a Happy Purrrrthday Cake. “It’s been living in my unconscious brain and now it’s here – I opened a copy for the first time the other day and I’m so happy with the way it’s turned out,” says Kim-Joy, who chose the title of the book to sound like the nursery rhyme, ‘Pat-a-cake’. “For the cover, I wanted to use a pavlova specifically because on social media anything that has cream and fresh fruit in it, people seem to like the most. And then I wanted the illustrations to interact with the cake, so I worked with an artist called Linda van den Burg, who’s actually worked on all my books, to bring that to life.” 

Each recipe has a Paw Rating to indicate its difficulty, although Kim-Joy is a real advocate for making mistakes. “Cats are loved for their weird behaviour, like sleeping in bizarre positions, tongue bleps and staring blankly,” she says in the forward to the book. “It’s the same with baking: the weirder and less uniform the decoration, the more loved it will be. Have fun with it. Make ‘mistakes’. Focus on enjoying the process, not on how it turns out.” 

The book is inspired, in part, by her own cats Mochi and Inki, who she got from Leeds Cat Rescue as kittens three years ago and now have their own Instagram account with over 12,000 followers. “They’re really sweet and keep me company when writing my cookbooks,” she says of the pair. “People love cats and I think there’s a crossover between people who love cats and people who love baking. They’re both comforting and calming.”

Despite her name now being synonymous with baking, Kim-Joy, who was born in Belgium to an English father and Malaysian–Chinese mother before moving to London, says none of her family baked when she was growing up. “My earliest memory of baking was that my dad was very traditional and so when it came to making the mince pies at Christmas, it was down to me, not my two brothers, to make the pastry,” explains Kim-Joy, who ended up settling in Leeds after attending university there. “I hated mince pies and I used to have to make tonnes of them, but what I did love about the whole thing was the feeling I got when I gave those mince pies to people and the smiles on their faces, it made me feel so much better about myself.”  

Kim-Joy has spoken openly about her and her family’s mental health – she had severe social anxiety as a child and throughout her teenage years, and took up baking while she was at university, initially in Bristol, to try and make more friends. 


Kim-Joy’s eagerness to please people is perhaps one of the reasons that prior to GBBO she worked in various care roles, including as a care home assistant, a support worker for people with learning disabilities and, after studying for a Masters in Psychology at Leeds, a psychological wellbeing officer. 

“I’ve always been super interested in what makes people tick and what motivates them,” she says. While she no longer works in clinical psychology, Kim-Joy is an ambassador for the Wren Bakery, a Leeds-based social enterprise that helps provide opportunities to women who experience disadvantage through baking. 

“I see the women a couple of times a year, usually at the beginning of their journey and at the end and the difference is incredible,” she explains. “Learning a new skill, like baking, is so beneficial to your mental health because it brings back that sense of purpose and your confidence grows. I think a lot of people with depression feel like they have no impact, but through helping other people it’s so powerful in helping yourself. 

“Baking overlaps with that because giving someone else a bake makes you feel happy too. It reconnects you, it says, ‘I’ve done something good, I’ve achieved something and made someone happier’.”

And Kim-Joy has certainly managed to do that, thousands if not millions of times over.

Bake Me a Cat by Kim-Joy (Quadrille, £16.99) is out on 8 March

(Photography: Ellis Parrinder)

Spreading Joy

Kim-Joy picks out her favourite foodie spots in Yorkshire

“I love to eat cake made by other people. Nabil and I actually had our first date, on my birthday, at Betty’s in Ilkley. For me you can’t beat it for the whole traditional cake experience, it’s a real institution.” 

“I just love being at home, baking and playing board games so we don’t get out much, but Nabil and I do love going out to eat. Some of my favourite restaurants are Tharavadu, near Leeds train station, they make the most amazing parathas, and Bundobust next door, which does great Indian street food. I’m a pescatarian, but mainly eat vegetarian and Red Chilli Chinese restaurant in Leeds is great for veggie options.” 

“We love York, Nabil has a shop there and it’s such a great place for a day out. York Maze is amazing and I’ve also done the York Cat Trail, which is so much fun – you can pick up a map with clues on where to find all the cat statues which are dotted around the city.”

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