Cooking the books: John Whaite Bakes


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The Independent Culture

Week number two of this column and The Great British Bake Off rears its head. I know, how did it take so long, you're thinking, given the way the baking-contest-cum-lifestyle-phenomenon has colonised our schedules, supplements and national psyche.

But, while Berry and Hollywood lap up the national-treasure epithets, what of their contestant-lings? Just as X Factor singers stalk Butlins, it's surely only a matter of time before WI coffee mornings are filled with rictus-grinned GBBO graduates eking out their 15 minutes while forever dreaming of that Week 7 pithivier triumph.

In any case, remember John Whaite, last year's winner? He was the law-student hottie as opposed to James with the tank tops and Brendan with the megalomaniac gingerbread house. All of which holds him in good career stead – as does this book, its deathly semi-rhyme of a title compensated for by sleek, un-twee design, enticing chapters reflective of emotional states, and Whaite's introductory admission that "I am a moody person" – an inspiring reminder that baking is not the preserve of the smugly serene.

I plumped to make the White Chocolate and Raspberry Melting Cake, promising as it did to be "a perfect stress-buster", and verily cruised through the first two stages – preheating the oven and melting butter and chocolate together, that is. At which point I realised I hadn't bought the scales that had been my only waking thought all week, and briefly considered whipping up a White Chocolate and Raspberry Meltdown before taking my chances with measuring cups.

Another hitch came with the initially too-liquid ganache, which, thanks to my lame beating, oozed out of the cake like nothing so much as the possessed slime from Ghostbusters II.

But the post-fridge result? What looked like an Escher drawing tasted like a dream, a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness. John Whaite Bakes, and makes me forsake my baking hate, or something.