A look at how the Great British Bake Off, the BBC’s popular TV programme, impacts on cake makers
The whole nation has been gripped by Great British Bake Off fever and with the final so close you can almost taste it, we wanted to see how the popular show impacts on cake makers.
Rachel Shaw, of Shaw’s the Bakers and Creative Cake Makers, said if you are interested in getting into baking, an attempt at decorating would be a great first step.
“It doesn’t matter if you can’t bake the cake, buy a plain one and just experiment with what you can do.”
Since the BBC show hit the screens in August 2010, everyone dreads a soggy bottom and wants their cake to be a show stopper and this trend has filtered through to customers who turn up at cake shops across the land with a vision for their party masterpiece.
“The recession meant that people didn’t have the spare money to spend on exotic holidays but they still wanted nice things and having a fancy cake is a one-off treat that people can justify spending a little more on.”
The 41-year-old has been at the bakery on Albion Road, New Mills, since 2004 and baking since the age of 17.
She said: “Bake Off is so popular because it is an accessible feel-good show that gets people talking.”
Last year’s Bake Off final was watched by 12.3 million people, compared with 12.1 million people who tuned in to watch last summer’s World Cup final on BBC1.
“People are wanting to learn new skills and it is taking baking back to basics - maybe not on all of the shows but it is giving people an education and making people want to do something,” said Rachel.
Bake Off was born because Anna Beattie, its creator, thought there was something about village fete baking competitions that could work on TV.
Rachel said: “Baking and being crafty is in now and attracting a younger generation. Nanas are passing on their wisdom, knowledge and family secrets, and children and teenagers are lapping it up.
“Although as Bake Off proves it doesn’t matter what your age is, and anyone can take it up.”
Bakers are not permitted to have achieved any professional catering qualifications within the last ten years, worked as a chef, or received their main source of income from commercial baking in a professional environment, so even if Rachel wanted to she couldn’t enter the culinary contest.
Lucy’s icing challenge
I donned an apron and was put through my paces to ice a biscuit. I was meant to attempt meringues but time got the better of me. Rachel neatly whizzed around her shortbread bear with a thicker icing so it could act as a wall for when we coloured it in.
Mine, however, looked like I had been on the cooking sherry all morning!
I was reassured it didn’t matter if I lacked hand-eye co-ordination, it is just about having a go.
As the kitchen got covered in icing sugar I found out more tips and tricks on baking. I did not know that when it is thundering you should not make meringues as the nitrogen in the air interferes with the eggs.
While I tried valiantly to keep up with Rachel’s nimble fingers, it was clear I am not cut out to be a baker.
As I was flooding my bear (that’s a technical term by the way) my walls weren’t good enough and icing went everywhere.
Then once my bear was brown I had to give him a face. Remember the cooking sherry from earlier? Well there was something about my bear that made him look rather peculiar, his eyes were wonky, his buttons were weird. I thought it would be a good idea to keep going and give him a scarf and some shoes. It wasn’t by the way - he looked worse for wear by the time we had finished. He was tasty though.
Overall, I didn’t rise to the occasion but Rachel gave me a 7/10 (I think she was just being nice). She said to make it as a baker I need to take my time and not rush, or just leave it to the professionals!
About baker and confectioner Rachel
She is the only baker and confectioner worldwide to have been awarded The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust which enabled her to study at the Prestigious Richemont School in Switzerland.
“Decorating cakes is the part of the part of the job I enjoy the most,” said Rachel. “I’m very creative and I get inspired from colours or patterns and the different things in the garden.
“So designing biscuits or wedding cakes is where having that flair comes in handy.”
Her cakes do have royal approval when she has baked cupcakes for the Queen Mother after she won her award to study abroad.
“She was tiny, I mean I’m short but she barely came up to my shoulders, she made me feel tall,” she joked.
Rachel was also asked to make cakes for a summer garden party at Buckingham Palace where she saw Prince Charles admiring the flowers and also saw the Queen.
The mum-of-one says work in a bakery is a long day, with the early morning shifts taken by either her or her husband.
However, when she gets home there is no cake or biscuits in the house as she craves something different after working with it all day.