'Homemade? I've had my fill of cupcake fetishism, twee polka-dot aprons and smug TV bakers'

Enough already, says Rebecca Armstrong – get me to a Greggs

Until last week, I had no idea that something called a Pie Shield existed. I was flicking through a Lakeland catalogue I found on a colleague's desk when I spotted a cherry-red segmented silicone ring. "New product!" exclaimed the accompanying text. "The crust is always the first part of your pie to burn," it went on to explain. "So instead of spending time fashioning foil to try and protect it, place one of these reusable silicone Pie Shields around the edge of your pastry before baking and you'll have beautiful golden-brown results with no sign of scorching."

Having never made a pie, I can't tell how troubling a scorched crust might be. But to someone out there, it must be quite a trial – the smallest sized Perfect Crust Pie Shield costs £7.99. And given that you could buy two short-crust steak pies in Sainsbury's for £3, each with a perfectly golden unsinged pastry margin around the outside, why on earth would you need to go and buy a dedicated crust protector?

But then, I would say that. Because, between you and me, I don't really believe in baking. I'll eat the fruits of other people's ovens and I'm very fond of bread, buns and baps – but making them myself? When there are at least seven perfectly good shops that sell baked goods within a two-minute walk from my front door? No, thank you.

No thank you to the trolley dash that every occasional baker will know, where you can't remember the difference between baking powder and bicarb, buy both, plus all the extras you've forgotten you have at home (alive with weevils, mind), some muffin cases, a sheaf of greaseproof paper and end up spending £40 on eight leaden fairy cakes. No thank you to the zero-tolerance "science" of baking. Screw up a tsp or tbsp and you end up with an inedible bread Frisbee that even the birds (and those other denizens of the back garden, rats) won't touch.

And I'd also like to politely decline the invitations from every TV channel and bookshop to give baking a bash. Having managed to dodge both series of The Great British Bake Off, I now feel as though I'm under siege. In January, the photogenic Herbert siblings took to TV screens with a series devoted to baking accompanied by a cookbook, The Fabulous Baking Boys. A 13-part series recently started on the Good Food Channel featuring "young, sexy" (no, Food Channel, they really, really aren't) chefs Paul Hollywood and James Martin "delving into the world of speciality breads and the food that goes with them", while later this month, The Big Book of Baking by the Hairy Bikers hits shelves and screens, followed by the second series of Baking Mad on Channel 4.

The promotional material informing me about the latter needlessly points out that British baking is booming. With all this TV evangelising, is there any wonder? Caster sugar sales are up by 7 per cent, icing sugar by 14 per cent and vanilla extract by 20 per cent. The market intelligence wonks at Mintel saw all this coming in a 2006 report, which predicted (warned?) that sales of home-baking products would reach £550m by 2011. By 2010 it had actually reached £576m, no doubt because of the 28 per cent of us baking from scratch using raw ingredients at least once a week.

Cooking anything from scratch is, of course, a good thing. Well done that 28 per cent. But might now be a good time to take a small step away from the butter cream? I don't mind what anyone gets up to in their own kitchens, but I do mind the baking-is-a-virtue mindset. A pile of homemade cakes is every bit as obesity-causing as a stack of shop-bought ones. Yes, they will have fewer mystery ingredients (mmm, corn syrup) and they will taste lovely fresh from the oven, but come on, we have spent hundreds of years trying to escape from the tyranny of being chained to the stove. It feels a bit Marie Antoinette-ish, this playing at baking. Or maybe it reminds me of Valium-numbed1950s' housewives baking endlessly because there was nothing else they could do.

It's the Fifties' housewife vibe that also bothers me about all the pastel-hued, labour-saving baking devices that sit alongside things like the Pie Shield in kitchenware shops (you wouldn't need to labour-save if you just went to Greggs, after all). It's the cake-levelling doo-dah that gives you an even surface for your icing. It's the terminally twee stamps for home bakers that imprint the message "homemade" on any biscuits they craft, even though everyone can tell they're homemade because they look rubbish. It's the unnerving feel of silicone baking moulds in the shape of rabbits. It's polka-dotted aprons and retro-style mixers and all the other lifestyle baking tat that manufacturers and marketeers are pushing. Every time I see a cupcake stand, a part of me dies inside.

Baking doesn't have to be this way. Even a flour-dodger like me has a great deal of admiration for those who are pushing the boundaries of what you can do with a bit of Battenberg. I watch the Food Channel show Charm City Cakes and marvel at what can be done with icing sugar, imagination, some sponge and a few wooden struts. Then there's the evil genius of British creative Miss Cakehead, a PR and events expert turned Dr Frankenstein offondant. She provides cakes for big-name clients that are more Nightmare on Elm Street than I Dream of Jeannie. "I want to challenge the medium – with cake you can get away with anything," she says, while telling me about how to decorate a cake to make it look blood-spattered, as well as the edible beach she's working on for this year's Cake and Bake Show in September. "We made an edible autopsy out of cake and got a pathologist to come in and dissect it." That's my kind of cake making. She is also no fan of the all-conquering cupcake, either. "There was a horrendous outbreak of cupcakes suddenly becoming so trendy – about five years ago. They're the equivalent of painting by numbers compared with Peter Blake." See her work at staypuft.cc or follow her antics on Twitter @miss_cakehead.

But if you love baking, you won't care what I think about it. For many people baking is useful, joyful, relaxing, fun. For some, it's life-saving: the chick-lit writer Marian Keyes published Saved by Cake: Over 80 Ways to Bake Yourself Happy last month, a very personal cookbook in which she reveals that in the throes of a nervous breakdown, she turned to cake-making: "Baking... gets me through. To be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is, I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes."

She also understands that there will always be unbelievers. "I need to make something clear: baking may not be for you". Marian, it's not. But I'm glad that it can be about more than showing off perfect pie crusts and buying spotted aprons, even if you're more likely to find me buying my bread and bagels rather than up to my elbows in flour.

News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Jose Mourinho, Chelsea players celebrate Demba Ba's goal and Gus Poyet
sportLive coverage of today's final game between Chelsea and Sunderland
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit