When you see a baked item, be that a cake, cookie, biscuit, scone – you name it, what do you feel? Now, you’ve answered the why I bake poser. Right there we go a nice short blog!
Ha! It’s never that simple though is it? And I’ve a confession to make (hold back!), although I like to cook, I’m useless at it. I like to bake, because most creations come out okay. At least there’s a higher success rate than at cooking meals…
In the beginning….
My baked goods schooling began on Sunday evenings in the early 70s. A beautifully iced and cherried, Victoria Sandwich would appear as a special treat for our visiting grandparents and great-grandparents. How I loved those visits! Though I’m not sure if it was more for the cake than seeing the grandparents. My sister and I learnt the art of a fluffy Victoria sponge from our Nan, a former NAAFI (Navy, Armed and Air Forces Institute) cook in the war. We learnt the art of beating with a spoon, the butter and sugar until it was pale. We blossomed and bloomed from the praise heaped on us by our Granddad at the delivery of the light succulent sponge.
During a patchy teenage hood (didn’t we all have one of those?) baking fruit cake for Girl Guide camp with my best friend (where we included cola cubes and mayonnaise as key ingredients) gelled a lifelong friendship. Cake was what we lived on and for. What with Battenburg, iced buns and a Saturday job in a bakery, I was set for a life of baking.
In our home, birthdays meant homemade cake, though in the 70s, shop brought cakes were rare. Even today though with cake in abundance, we still bake a birthday cake. They’re haphazard affairs, castles, Land Rovers in lakes, penguin parties, trains and wolves! They aren’t made to look fantastic, but for enjoyment. Their gift is one of love and time.
And when I look deeper and analyse, which I know is never good, I see I bake on a deeper level and for profound reasons. Call me a feeder, a praise ‘hoarder’ or a glutton if you wish. But I see that I pick up the wooden spoon when I want to switch off. Mindfully baking when I need a mental lift, blue days can become black ones very fast. At the first signs of my mild depressive tendencies, mixing a cake lifts my spirits. Indeed, Paul Hollywood of GBBO fame has himself commented that baking is therapy. He also said: ‘I think baking’s far easier than cooking, and because of that, it’s more approachable’ which makes me feel tons better about my lamentable luncheons and disastrous dinners!
Sometimes I find I need a way to challenge myself, other than through work. On those days I scour the cut-out magazine recipes, looking for a new way with cake and creating a new tradition. Or returning to old childhood recipes and finding new ways – such as with our Soda Bread. As children, my sister and I enjoyed this hot from the oven, in deepest South West Ireland – amidst the rain and fog!
From Cake to Biscuit
But when it comes down to it, when my creation comes out of the oven and it’s time to present it, the sin of pride looms large. Ultimately, as a self-employed small business owner, you don’t always know your own worth. Put a handmade cake in front of the recipient – and well – don’t burst my bubble … this quotation from Anna Olson sums it up for me I reckon: ‘Baking may be regarded as a science, but it’s the chemistry between the ingredients and the cook that gives desserts life. Baking is done out of love, to share with family and friends, to see them smile.’
It’s odd though, that although I’ve baked cookies in the past and enjoyed a biccie or three, biscuit baking hasn’t been my first love. Cake, bread and pies – yes! But baking cookies and biscuits languished in the farthest corners of my baking leanings.
That was until last year when I realised not all biscuits must be round. As you no doubt know, we test all our biscuit cutters before we unleash them on the British baking public. Which means there’s cookies (is it any wonder I can’t lose weight – ah whatever!) lying around the house all the time.
It’s dawned on me that creating new designs for others to fulfil their biscuit baking habit, gives me the kick I miss from making cookies myself – if that makes any sense? I’ll always love baking, and it will always be a part of me. The creation, the enjoyment, and the feeder in me will ever be present.
Come let me gather you in, I’m sure I’ve got a little chocolate cake with your name on it…….