Crazy for cake!

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Home baking has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years with more people opting to bake their own cakes and biscuits. Features editor Joni Ager finds out more about the rise of flour power.

My friends and family have been reaping the benefits of my new hobby.

Until recently, Rice Krispie cakes were as technical as I got when it came to cake making but I’ve begun to stretch myself a little.

So far, this has amounted to vanilla cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, pink-coloured cupcakes... you get the idea. But there is definitely something about this baking lark that’s addictive.

I’ve made them for my parents, as a house-warming gift for a friend and, I confess, just because I fancied something sweet one Tuesday afternoon.

Top of my shopping list at the moment is a cake tin (I vow to move beyond fairycakes) and an icing bag so that my cakes can look as good as I’m told they taste.

My sister has got the baking bug, too. She’s made her own gingerbread men and even mastered the whoopie pie.

There’s no doubt home baking is enjoying a surge in popularity. Once a hobby associated with the Women’s Institute and your gran, people up and down the country are ditching shop-bought cakes and biscuits and having a go at making their own.

This is due, in part, to the recession and our need to cut spending on treats. But TV shows such as The Great British Bake-Off – the final of which was watched by five million viewers – have also added to the hype.

Department store John Lewis reported a 40 per cent rise in sales of mixing bowls last year, while research from Mintel shows 28 per cent of Brits are baking from scratch using raw ingredients at least once a week.

Vivianne Ihekweazu, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, said: “A great deal of the baking revival can be attributed to consumers becoming increasingly frugal and baking in a bid to save money, but the recent media exposure for the industry in making baking fashionable again has also been a key driver.

“The popularity of cupcakes has spready beyond the traditional children’s market and they are now one of the most popular items baked by consumers, but it seems the traditional large cake still reigns supreme.”

In 1985 The Pudding Club was founded at the Three Ways House Hotel in Gloucestershire to prevent the demise of the great British pudding, at a time when restaurants seemed to offer only tiny portions of frozen cheesecake and tasteless gateaux.

Since then the original Pudding Club has picked up members all over the country and has helped to re-establish favourites such as jam roly poly, syrup sponge, spotted dick and bread and butter pudding.

The Friends of St Mary’s Church in Rushden launched its own pudding club three years ago.

Run by the ‘Pudding Master’ John Allen and his wife Carole, a retired chef, they hold monthly meetings where people can come along and try seven different puddings – five hot and two cold – prepared by Carole.

John said: “Carole came up with this idea for the Friends of St Mary’s and it just took off. We get up to 70 people to each event.

“My wife cooks the puddings and in the three years we’ve been running she has never doubled a pudding.

“I am the Pudding Master and each pudding is clapped and cheered in, then everyone gets a taste. It has become a social evening and there is usually some form of demonstration or a quiz or game.

“We have also done a recipe book with the support of Waitrose which was very successful and it sold 250 copies in eight weeks.”

Carole said: “The Pudding Club has gone from strength to strength.

“We vote for a pudding of the month at each event and people seem to love the stodgy ones like jam roly poly and sticky toffee pudding, as well as creamy cheesecakes and pies.”