OVER the summer, the ongoing battle between amateur cooks on The Great British Bake Off has been compulsive viewing.

For real life cook Sonnda Catto the reality is finding the perfect combination of flavours and then hoping other people enjoy the result.

The tantalising tastes and titles trip off Sonnda's tongue as she runs through some of the elegant concoctions which helped her win Scotland's Best Baker from Home at the prestigious Scottish Baking Awards.

"I was trained by the French and love everything about Scottish produce, so it's a marrying of the two," she smiles, recovering at home in Hyndland from the whirlwind of interest which followed her awards triumph.

"I feel really honoured to have won the title.

"The awards are a fantastic opportunity for new businesses to raise their profiles."

Sonnda, 41, set up her own bakery and patisserie business, HauteCake, earlier this year, but food has always fascinated her.

Growing up in the Highlands, where her B&B-owning granny was famous for her homebaking and her uncle ran a collection of upmarket delis, she was surrounded by cooking and chefs, but her own skills developed at a young age out of necessity.

"My mum was very ill when I was young," she explains.

"She had a rare liver disease and it meant she was often confined to bed, so I would make the dinner.

"And I did enjoy it. I moved to Glasgow when I was 18 to study nutrition and got pleasantly stuck. I really love the city."

After graduating, Sonnda completed a Masters degree in Public Health and spent the next 15 years working for the NHS researching diet, physical activity and health.

"I liked my job but eventually I decided that life was too short not to do what you are passionate about," smiles Sonnda.

"So I went to London, retrained in pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu and got a job at the double Michelin-starred Sketch restaurant."

Of course, Sonnda admits with a laugh, that makes it sound much easier than it actually was.

"I staged - fancy chef word for interning - with a few people first, including William Curley, who won Britain's Best Chocolatier four times, and at One Devonshire Gardens," she says.

"I was dipping my toe in, I suppose, to work out if it was really what I wanted to do."

The long hours in London, and being far from friends and family, took its toll, however, and after eight months Sonnda returned to Glasgow, where she joined the pastry team at the Blythswood Square Hotel, responsible for afternoon tea.

And earlier this year, she decided to finally go it alone.

"I made a couple of wedding cakes for friends, started doing little boxes of cakes as one-offs, and people seemed to like what I was doing," she smiles.

"So I decided to set up the business and it's been fantastic.

"I have questioned my sanity a few times but when you hand over a finished cake, for example, to a couple on their wedding day, and see their faces and hear their compliments once they have tasted it - that's what makes it all worthwhile."

Sonnda is heading to Washington in the new year, to work with acclaimed US cake designer Maggie Austin.

Sonnda's brother is already in the States, working as a macrobiotic chef (he advised Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow) and she is looking forward to her visit

"I have admired Maggie for years so to get this opportunity is very, very exciting," says Sonnda.

"I really try to learn from the best, and push myself to do my best. It will be amazing, and fun."

For now, though, Sonnda is concentrating on developing a range of Christmas cakes for HauteCake.

"Macaroons, in festive flavours like cinnamon perhaps?" she muses. "Chestnut liqueur-flavoured chocolate financiers - I'm thinking up some ideas just now."

She adds with a laugh: "But I'm lucky - there are always people queueing up to be my guinea pigs."