I’m about to utter something quite shocking. I’ve never been a fan of The Great British Bake Off. It’s worse than that. I’ve never been a fan of baking full stop. I know. I’m a chick-lit writer. Isn’t my life supposed to be an endless round of cupcakes and Chardonnay? OK. I’ll cop to the chardonnay, though only if it’s a nice flinty Chablis. Cakes though. I just can’t get on with them. If there’s a cookery equivalent of green fingers, I definitely have the brown thumb.
My sister Kate, in sharp contrast, is a wonderful baker. For her son Lukas’s eleventh birthday, she made a cake in the shape of a burger, complete with a portion of fries on the side. She’s made Minion cakes, Star Wars cakes, a beachscape cake, even a cake in the shape of Manhattan. With Kate to be relied upon for all those special family occasions, I’ve never had to make so much as a rock bun and I’m ashamed to say that as a result, I’ve never taken much interest in how Kate and her fellow baking fans perform their edible magic.
However, just a couple of weeks ago something changed. Flicking through the channels, I paused on a close-up of Noel Fielding. I’d completely forgotten he was one of the new Bake Off presenters, even though my Facebook feed was filled with nothing but Bake Off outrage for what seemed like six months after his appointment was announced. May as well see what all the fuss is about, I thought.
Well, it turned out that Fielding and Toksvig were the ingredients GBBO had been missing for me. The salt in the caramel topping. I’ve always been a fan of Toksvig and Fielding is still my number one weird crush. With their offbeat humour at the helm, at last I could watch the show without getting toothache. And boy it was worth it.
With Toksvig and Fielding running the show, I watched for long enough to appreciate the contestants’ impressive skills for once. Those illusion cakes in episode one were spectacular. The champagne bucket! That BLT sandwich cake that won the day! Even the bread cake with the broken knife that cost poor Peter his spot in the competition was a revelation to me.
I was inspired. I actually watched An Extra Slice to find out more about GBBO behind the scenes. Maybe baking wasn’t boring after all.
Long story short, my sister’s birthday is coming up at the end of September and this time I’d like to be the one who makes the cake. Kate deserves a special treat. I knew I’d need practice so last week I got out the cake tin and made a trial illusion cake of my own. In some ways it turned out to be a spectacular success.
It looked like a Frisbee. It even flew like a Frisbee. Who cares if it was supposed to be a classic Victoria sponge?
Chrissie Manby’s new novel, The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club is out now in ebook and released in paperback on September 21st.