Whether they’re on our television screens or preferably in our mouths, home-baked cakes have made a comeback.
The cupcake trend rolls on and fondant fans have graduated from snapping up the treats at trendy bakeries to making them in their own kitchens.
And programmes like the BBC’s The Great British Bake-off have been inspiring viewers to dig out their mixing bowls and have a go themselves.
‘People are going into supermarkets and finding there are more and more exciting things to put on cupcakes. You can actually make them look amazing and it’s not that difficult,’ says Barbara Crick, who runs Emsworth Cookery School.
Barbara, who teaches the skills of the kitchen in her own home, has just been working on a bake-off competition with pupils at Portsmouth High School, where she teaches part-time.
The contest for National Baking Week is inspired by The Great British Bake-off. ‘Programmes like that have a really important role,’ says Barbara.
‘They let people know what they can create from scratch and give them the confidence to have a go.’
But whether they’re making traditional family cakes, cookies or pies, home cooks should heed the warning that baking recipes are among the hardest to master.
Emily Davenport, managing editor of classic recipe books the Dairy Diary and the Dairy Book of Home Cookery, says: ‘With most forms of cooking you can get away with putting a few ingredients together without propensity for disaster. With baking, however, it really is a scientific art and without the right ratios of ingredients, it simply doesn’t work.’
Barbara agrees that the key is attention to detail.
‘You must use the scales and if it says you need a 20cm round tin then that is what you should use. You could quite quickly go wrong by not using quite the right size.
‘Another tip is to get all the ingredients to room temperature, so they’re easy to work with.’
But she adds that it’s all about confidence. Once the budding baker has built up their skills with something like the classic Victoria sponge or fairy cakes, they shouldn’t be too daunted by the more difficult recipes.
Barbara admits that home baking is generally more expensive than shop-bought sweet treats.
But she says: ‘If you keep things simple and steer clear of ingredients that you’re going to put in the cupboard and never use again, it’s not that expensive.
‘And anyway it’s far better to know what’s going into your food than stand there looking at a list of chemicals on a packet. And of course you have the enjoyment of making something fresh and lovely for family and friends.’
Chocolate layer cake from the Dairy Book of Home Cookery
110g (4oz) self-raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
110g (4oz) butter
110g (4oz) caster sugar
25g (1oz) golden syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 tsp milk
200ml (7floz) double cream, whipped
Grated chocolate to decorate
1. Grease and line a deep 20.5cm (8in) round cake tin.
2. Sift flour twice with cocoa.
3. Cream butter, sugar, syrup and vanilla together until very pale in colour, light in texture and fluffy.
4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tbsp of sifted dry ingredients with each one.
5. Fold in milk and remaining dry ingredients with a metal spoon.
6. Transfer to prepared tin and smooth top with a knife.
7. Bake at 180°C (350°F) Mark 4 for 35-40 minutes, or until a wooden cocktail stick, inserted into centre of cake, comes out clean.
8. Turn out on to a wire rack, strip off paper and leave until cool.
9. Cut cake into two or three layers.
10. Fill and cover top with double cream, whipped until thick, or butter cream.
· Recipe from the Dairy Book of Home Cookery. Visit dairydiary.co.uk or call 0845 0948 128. Suitable for freezing/ vegetarians