For my first blog post I thought I’d tell you a little bit about how my love of baking began…..
Okay, so I grew up baking. My amazing Nana baked, taught my Mum to bake and it was just something that happened in our house. All the time. Pudding (I’m from Yorkshire), wasn't just for weekends, it was every night. I know, in today’s clean eating society, how incredibly unlikely but also amazing does that sound? I must be clear here that it wasn’t always a fabulous home-baked dessert - I’m a child of the 80’s after all so full disclosure here, sometimes it was tinned fruit and vanilla ice cream from a huge plastic tub, or a slice of mandarin cheesecake from Iceland - most times still a little bit rock hard and frozen in the middle but as someone who has a major sweet tooth, I was never one to complain!
But, when baking happened, I loved every part of it. My Dad is Irish and also has a sweet tooth, loved anything with apple in it, lemon flavoured things, rhubarb and ice cream. My Mum’s staple bakes were as follows;
Victoria sponge (because, obviously)
Apple Crumble/pie/charlotte - my Dad insisted these be with home-made custard
Pavlova - a dinner party favourite
Christmas pudding - still the best I ever tasted (sorry Heston but you don’t even come close!)
Fairy cakes/chocolate cornflake cakes/chocolate rice krispie cakes
Rock buns - I think these were meant to be scones but went wrong?
Australian crunch - made frequently at the request of my older brother
TRIFLE, all kinds of different flavoured trifle!!!!!
Writing that list just made me smile! It’s worth explaining here that whilst my Mum was great at being able to whip things up at a moments notice, she’s not one for doing fancy things! Playing it a little bit fast and loose with the measurements, never too worried about making things look perfect and as a mum of three, let’s face it sometimes things may have been left in the oven longer than they should. But, and it’s a really significant but, they always tasted delicious and were very much devoured by anyone and everyone who was around.
It’s no surprise that growing up in that environment and having a major sweet tooth, I would love baking too. I actually remember spending Saturday afternoons baking but pretending I was Delia on a TV show. Everything got weighed out into nice little bowls beforehand and I would pretend I was talking to a camera - I created A LOT of unnecessary washing up and this was before the days when my parents had a dishwasher!
I have two brothers and we always, always had birthday cakes, often themed to our various requests and demands. I learnt early on how lovely it was to have friends and family come to together to celebrate a special occasion over a delicious home-baked cake and that’s still how I feel when I design and create each and every cake.
Here are just a few from over the years, and yes, I did have a Wonder Woman party and my brother got in a massive sulk because he had to wear a Wonder Woman crown, also made by my Mum!!
As we got older and had landmark birthdays (16th, 18th etc) a lovely lady across the road called Anne who was actually a nurse at our local hospital made some of our birthday cakes including the last one above, which was for my 18th and had a little sugar model of me playing my cello!
I honestly do feel like growing up in an environment where cake was really a central point of every celebration, and baking was just part of every day life, it really opened up the joy of baking for me from a very young age. Making something from scratch, experimenting with flavours and sitting around with loved ones to share and savour the experience of eating it really is one of those small joys in life that is just good for the soul.
As we enter into the Autumn, and the craziness of the Spring/Summer wedding season is behind me, I’m excited to have a little more time to do some home-baking, simply for the sheer pleasure of it!
Watch this space over the coming months as I experiment with some new recipes and most certainly return to some firm favourites.