Great British Bake Off sparks cake making increase

Pink Bake Off organiser Lea Harris and Matthew Halsall of Manna House bakery. Picture: Neil Hanna
Pink Bake Off organiser Lea Harris and Matthew Halsall of Manna House bakery. Picture: Neil Hanna
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MOST of us cannot walk down a supermarket cake aisle without being lured to a shelf by the temptation of a brightly coloured sponge cake.

It is not the case for keen baker Lea Harris, though. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

“If you pick up a Mr Kipling’s Victoria sandwich, you’ll see there are 32 ingredients in it,” she says. “Really there should only be six. Making it yourself ensures you have control over what’s going in, rather than buying something off the shelf that tastes of nothing.”

She should know, she did, after all, make a cake on national TV as part of her ­challenge on the first series of The Great British Bake Off.

And it seems more people are ­sharing her opinion that making your own at home is a much better option than buying off the shelf.

Home baking has never been so popular in fact. Shows such as The Great British Bake Off have seen to that, and next week will see another baking frenzy as the UK celebrates National Baking Week.

“Baking has been really popular since the first series of Bake Off – it has certainly piqued people’s curiosity,” explains Lea, 55, from Danderhall. “People are thinking ‘actually, I could do that’ and want to get back to basics. ­Parents in particular are concerned about what children are eating and want to be able to control that.

“Baking clubs are popping up all over the place and The Great British Bake Off has become a huge hit. When it first started, I wonder how many people had heard of Paul ­Hollywood? I certainly hadn’t. The show has put him and Mary Berry to the forefront of baking.”

Although Lea “only” bakes once or twice a week these days, she firmly believes the quick fix of fast food is on its way out.

“In the 80s and 90s, everything you wanted was accessible because you had disposable income back then,” she explains. “You wouldn’t think twice about just nipping for a takeaway or to the supermarket to buy something to throw into the oven. Nowadays people don’t have that and really need to think about what they are doing, which is why things like home baking are on the increase. ”

The upsurge in people dabbling with home baking goes hand-in-hand with the ever-increasing popularity of bake sales and decadent afternoon teas.

And Lea, pictured below with Matthew Halsall of the Manna House bakery, is cashing in on the phenomenon – all in the name of charity. Along with Leila Kean, events manager for Innis & Gunn, and part-time food writer and blogger, she has ­organised an afternoon tea with a difference to raise funds for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

The Edinburgh contribution to the nation-wide Great Pink Bake Off will take place on October 20, at The Royal Scots Club, on Abercromby Place. The pair have enlisted the help of some of Edinburgh’s top chefs and bakers to form an ­impressive line-up for the cake-tastic event.

The likes of Mark Greenaway, Neil Forbes from Cafe St Honore and Craig Sandle of The Pompadour by Galvin will join forces with top bakeries including The Manna House, to provide hundreds of tasty treats for hungry guests.

“We have some pink fizz for guests on arrival and it will just be a nice relaxing afternoon with a huge collection of cakes on offer,” Leila says. “It’s such a social thing to do, that’s what’s so lovely about it. We have been bowled over by the generosity of people. It’s always nice to be able to have some fun like this, even if there is a serious message behind the afternoon. There will be a lot to eat so we really want to sell a lot of tickets!”

Model and actress Eunice Olumide, one of Breakthrough Scotland’s ambassadors, will be hosting the Great Pink Bake Off event on October 20 and will compere the raffle and auction. Tickets cost £15 and must be pre-booked