Whether your cake’s a calamity or your souffle’s supreme, Britain’s love affair with baking keeps on growing. National Baking Week’s bake sale challenge is the perfect excuse to get stuck in, says Andy Welch.
There’s a whole lot of baking going on. You’ve probably noticed, whether it’s work colleagues bringing in home-made treats every Friday, or Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry explaining to Great British Bake Off contestants about developing gluten or commenting on “good crumbs” as well as “soggy bottoms”.
The British have always loved a piece of cake - we even invented elevenses and afternoon tea so we could enjoy a couple more slices - while bread is one of our most-eaten foods, with around 12 million loaves being sold in the UK every day.
More than five million viewers regularly tune in to watch The Great British Bake Off since it arrived in a puff of icing sugar in 2010.
We’re copying what we’re watching, too. Waitrose recently reported that Bake Off had been ‘whipping up demand’ for baking products, such as butter, sugar and flour, following an episode which saw contestants tasked with baking biscuits.
Pastry was also being snapped up by shoppers, when any baker worth their salt should really be making their own.
The supermarket went as far as saying the rise in popularity of baking had helped contribute to a 12% increase in profits.
With National Baking Week on the horizon (October 14 to 20), it’s the perfect time to join the cake party, if you haven’t already.
The idea is to organise a bake sale in your workplace, college or school to help raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity (GOSH). It’s sponsored by baking stalwarts Billington’s, Just Milk, Stork, Kenwood, Jus Rol and Nielsen Massey, and organisers are hoping to stir up lots of interest, with thousands of budding bakers rising to the occasion.
If the surge in baking popularity seen in recent years is anything to go by, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
“Home baking had a resurgence with the recession, a time when we all wanted to be a bit more frugal,” says Rich Amon who, along with Eddie Lebeau, make up the Tattooed Bakers.
The duo are taking part in an elaborate pop-up shop in London to mark National Baking Week, helping to create a 100% edible ‘Baketopia’ - an idea cooked up by Miss Cakehead, famed for her creative, outlandish works of baked art.
Lebeau adds that baking can be less daunting for aspiring home cooks due to the scientific nature of the recipes, leaving out the ambiguity of ‘normal’ cooking instruction.
“If you’re not confident, it’s good knowing there’s an accurate way to follow a recipe, and knowing someone has done the hard work for you and written down all the measurements,” she says.
Does she have any tips for this year’s bake sales? “Bright-coloured icing. Works every time and will draw you loads of customers, so either eye-catching icing or buttercream. Whatever you do, make it look pretty.”