Baking is my first love. Although I didn’t quite realise it when as a teenager, I baked a cake for my sister’s pre-wedding party. It was a simple sponge, sandwiched together with sticky jam and groaning under the sheer weight of thick white fondant with a hideous fondant groom on top. I also didn’t see it when I did my GCSE in Food Studies a few years later and designed an entire Pokémon cake, with marbled red-and-white sponge, sandwiched with jam and covered in a coloured fondant.
We had an oven at home, but it was full of pans. It wasn’t used for baking, just for storing greasy deep-frying equipment and I never really saw it any other way. Life happened around all of that – then I got married and we got our own house with our own oven. Still nothing, not an urge, not a spark, not a thought to bake. Until my husband asked me to make a cake, so I gave it a try. It started with a wonky sponge, and he ate the whole thing. So I saved up for an oven thermometer to make sure the oven temperature was regulated. The next cake was less wonky. Still delicious and he ate it again. Then some strawberry and cream muffins. A whole dozen. A little chewy, not very cake-like, tasty though, and he ate them all. I saved a few strawberries out of sight in the back of the fridge and tried again. There was a definite improvement. They were eaten even faster than the ones that came before.
Before I knew it, I was baking bread, enriching doughs, making pastry and laminating. I was baking every day, all because I had someone to eat it. Baking became a part of life, like cooking, like laundry, hoovering and breathing. It was just natural, it was normal. Baking has become such a massive part of who I am that there is no denying it. Baking doesn’t have to be your first love, or indeed anywhere in a long list of loves like mine, but perhaps it’s waiting to become one of yours. The recipes below are just some of the ideas that have flown around in my head and things my family eat over and over again.