IT used to be seen as the preserve of church groups, village fetes and the Women’s Rural Institute, but baking is making a massive comeback in amateur and professional kitchens across the Capital.
The third series of The Great British Bake Off may have just left our screens but the surprise hit TV show has inspired a renaissance in artisan cookery among foodies and fans who want to satisfy their tastebuds as much as their intrigue.
Cakes and pastries filled with exotic flavours and adorned with delectable decorations are now invading what was once the territory of the empire biscuit and the Tunnock’s Tea Cake and – as anyone with a sweet tooth will testify – resistance really is futile.
Inbal Badihi, 43, who along with husband Mir, 45, owns cupcake bakery Dough Re Mi on Gilmore Place, told the Evening News: “On a good day we can sell up to 60 cupcakes, and that’s not counting the ones we have made to order for outside events.
“I never expected to end up baking for a living! My husband set up the shop when we came to Scotland from Israel so I could do a PhD in animal welfare, but once I’d worked in research for a couple of years I simply found it too depressing. But my job now is very relaxing, especially making the little decorations for our cakes. At the moment we have an autumn theme, so we’re making lots of little leaves and flowers in autumn colours of yellow, orange and red, but I can make all sorts of things – butterflies, fairies, hedgehogs, squirrels and foxes to name a few. When we first opened last July I would also sometimes put little bits of fresh fruit on tops of the cakes, but people seem to prefer the cakes with icing shaped like fruit instead, so now I hide the real fruit inside.”
Inbal, who has lived in the Capital for ten years, believes the secret to her businesses success is very simple. “We only use the best ingredients – how else can you expect to get the best results? Our flour is organic, our butter is French, and we avoid artificial colouring and preservatives. Recently I have noticed more people taking an interest in how our cakes and bread are actually made and sometimes people ask why their homebaking doesn’t taste as good as what we make here. It’s always the simple fact that they’re using cheap ingredients: if you want real quality you have to be prepared to spend.”
While Dough Re Mi has plenty of the standard favourites beloved by all, Inbal also isn’t afraid to branch out into more unexpected flavours.
“We can make a courgette cupcake with a cream cheese topping that tastes very similar to carrot cake, but people seemed a bit scared to try them. In Israel people are always very eager to try new things, but here they seem a little more cautious. My favourite cake is plum crumble with custard icing, and for ages no one bought them. Then one day one woman bought some and since then everyone wants them.”
Also tantalising tastebuds is Allison Jupp, manager of The Square, which has premises on Dublin Street and North St Andrews Street. Allison, who sometimes starts work at 4am to ensure all the cakes are made freshly for the day ahead, has been baking since the age of eight.
She said: “I’ve always loved making cakes, so I never miss Great British Bake Off and I’m so pleased to see the effect it’s had, especially in getting young children interested in making things. I’ve noticed more men taking an interest in recipes too and lots of customers ask how they can make our cakes at home now. I’m happy to give them advice... most of the time! I’ll take my chocolate brownie and my carrot cake recipe to the grave – they took me too long to develop to just give them away! Thursdays and Fridays are usually our busiest days for cake sales. I think people like to give themselves a little treat at the end of the week.”
Though Allison has built up her skills over 20 years, she insists anyone can try their hand at baking, saying: “It’s not difficult, all that’s needed is a bit of practice and patience.”
Inbal agrees, adding: “People often ask if we do cupcake-making classes, but as I’ve already mentioned we try to do everything to the highest standard possible. I know a lot of people would just see it as a bit of fun, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable charging people for lessons – I don’t see myself as a professional. I learned just about everything I know from YouTube videos.”
Recent retail figures would suggest plenty of people are doing just that, with John Lewis reporting that sales of bakeware products up 126 per cent year on year. So what better time to air out that apron, get out the greaseproof paper and join the rolling pin revolution?