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Kitchen Disasters from Britain’s Top Bakers

From burnt biscuits to wedding cake worries and undercooked bread, some of the UK’s top bakers reveal their worst kitchen nightmares, ahead of appearing at The Cake & Bake Show 2019 next month. Plus, they have some reassuring words of wisdom to share…

Eric Lanlard, Master Pâtissier and chef

My worst baking disaster happened back in the early days of making wedding cakes. A top personality from the world of fashion ordered a wedding cake from me, and she was adamant that it had to be made from milk chocolate, which I knew would be too soft to ice. She would not take no for an answer! Being one of my first celebrity orders, I went ahead with it and, of course, disaster struck during its delivery… all of the icing slid off the cake! Luckily, I always take a cake repair kit with me when delivering cake, and I managed to save the day when I finally arrived at the venue. I learnt that day that – celebrity or not – you should be able to say “no!” to someone, especially when you know you’re right!” 

Rosemary Shrager, chef

I have had a fair few baking disasters in my time – typically they involve me burning something or other, twill biscuits or brandy snaps usually being the culprits – but that’s OK! The main thing is to have fun and not worry about perfection; just enjoy what you’re doing. Get to know some basic techniques and recipes first, then you can adapt them for different tastes and occasions. Also, you should bake a lot – that way, you’ll get better and better, and your skills will improve so quickly. Even if you’re already an experienced baker, there’s always more to learn!” 

Candice Brown, GBBO winner 2016

My biggest baking disaster has to be the one that was viewed by over ten million people on The Great British Bake Off – aka bread week, when my bread didn’t cook! I’m still not sure what happened; I made my recipe exactly how I had at home, but it just did not bake! I ended up serving up raw bread to Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood and I cried my eyes out – I was so embarrassed! I still have regular disasters, but I just tell people that it’s supposed to look that way, or to just eat it with their eyes closed!” 

Selasi Gbormittah, GBBO contestant, 2016

I have had a fair few baking disasters. I fondly recall my first attempt at making soufflé, which I’m happy to say I’ve since mastered. I remember it ending up solid – not how anyone envisages a soufflé! My most embarrassing baking misfortune would be my attempt at the ‘technical’ bake during Great British Bake Off’s biscuit week in 2016. Prior to the show, I’d made my recipe countless of times with ease, but I came last in that particular challenge. Fast forward to today and I’d like to think I’m more organised than I was before, and I always plan ahead – this means that there are now rarely any mishaps, however you do have some days where nothing works for you, even with the simplest of bakes. If that’s the case, start again!” 

Briony May, GBBO semi-finalist, 2018

I make wedding cakes for friends and family, and one time I transported the three tiers for the cake I’d made down to Devon in separate boxes. When I got to the marquee to assemble the cake, I opened the bottom tier box to find all the icing (piped buttercream roses) had melted off on the way there! I had to scrape it all off and redo it… such a nightmare!” 

Paul Jagger, GBBO quarter-finalist, 2015

I’ve had a few baking disasters along the way, normally when experimenting with new ideas and flavours. I think the worst has to be the dreaded Genoise sponge which saw me leave Great British Bake Off in week 8 in 2015. I make a lot of wedding and novelty cakes, but you tend to not use a Genoise sponge, because they tend to be too light and would therefore collapse. It was all down to my lack of preparation on that occasion.”

Karen Wright, GBBO contestant, 2018

As far as disasters go, my biggest were on the Great British Bake Off; it’s not like baking in your own kitchen at all, and anything that can go wrong pretty much does! My chic collar cake was very well received; little did they know that the back of the bottom tier collar was smashed in! I had put the cake in the fridge when I had finished it, but I had pushed it too far and it smashed! Fortunately, I always have bits and bobs with me in case of emergency and I used lots of red curling ribbon and skewered it in to hide the damage – nobody suspected a thing! The other big problem – the one that saw me leave the Bake Off tent – was because I was too enthusiastic with the brandy bottle when making my ginger cake during week 5!” 

Catch Eric Lanlard, Rosemary Shrager, Candice Brown and more at The Cake & Bake Show 2019, 4th-6th October 2019, ExCeL London. For more show information, theatre and demonstration timetables and to purchase tickets in advance, visit cakeandbakeshow.co.uk

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