Baking bug is eating up the city

Seven Hills Bakery ......Laura Bullock
Seven Hills Bakery ......Laura Bullock

AS the Great British Bake Off attracts ever-increasing audiences with its diet of cooking and entertainment, the baking bug is also on the rise in Sheffield.

The TV programme and others like it have tempted a whole new generation of home cooks into the kitchen – and clubs and events promoting the hobby are springing up across the area.

Seven Hills WI reports a big interest in more traditional pursuits, including baking, over the last three years.

“I think the resurgence can be attributed to a number of things. Obviously money is tight for many people and baking offers a way to make something great and share it with friends without spending a lot of money,” says president Lindsay Garfitt, 27.

Sheffield’s Clandestine Cake Club was set up earlier this year to feed the growing interest, with members meeting at a different location each month to show off their baking skills, taste each other’s cakes and swap recipes.

Vanessa Charles, of Sothall, discovered the group on Twitter and has been a member from the outset.

“It’s the kind of activity that everyone enjoys,” she says. “Our youngest baker is eight and we have men and women members. Some like the scientific side of it, others prefer the artistic bits.”

Sheffield’s new Pop-Up Pudding Club is another product of the new age of baking.

“There’s been a huge surge of interest,” agrees co-founder Blanche Spataro. “I think it started with cupcakes becoming fashionable through Sex and the City, but the Great British Bake Off has widened the interest.

“The success of the pudding club was probably due to the popularity of baking… many guests see the event as a chance to get ideas as well as to enjoy eating the puddings.”

Tideswell School of Food – set up as a result of the BBC’s Village SOS series – reports increasing demand for its baking courses following the new series of Bake Off.

“I think it’s a fantastic programme because it shows that anyone can have a go at baking,” says spokeswoman Kim Wathall. “Programmes like this have a real influence on young people and are helping to change people’s attitude towards home cooking.

“Our bread courses are by far our most popular – we have at least one a month. Cake and biscuit baking appeals more to women, but we’ve found baking bread is popular among the men. And many parents are asking if their children can come along to courses with them too.”

Another business cashing in on the trend is Seven Hills Bakery, set up a year ago by three graduates of the School of Artisan Food at Welbeck. The Devonshire Green bakery has flourished, now supporting a shop in Sharrow Vale Road and plans for a café too.

Co-director Matina Mitchell agrees that the TV show has given them a boost: “It gets the word out and people start to know the difference between real food and things manufactured with all sorts of additives,” she says.

“The Real Bread Campaign has done a good job of helping the artisan bakers too. A couple of years ago there were no jobs in the industry, but there are more people setting up now.”

In Bakewell, the town’s Mayor, Coun Paul Morgans, is hoping that the current vogue will be enough to launch a whole new identity for the town – as host to the world’s first Festival of Baking in June 2013.

“When I became Mayor I decided to hold a baking festival, so that’s my vocation for the year,” says Paul, a keen bread-maker.

“I aim to make Bakewell the international centre for baking. It’s got a fantastic name, the heritage of Bakewell puddings and a fantastic location. It’s all falling into place.”

The festival will have a vintage feel, including a traditional market, bunting and events in local village halls.

In addition to demonstrations there will ‘Question Time’ sessions. And the festival will end with a Laurel and Hardy-style custard pie fight!

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